Doing a walk-through or brainstorming around a conference table can give you lots of insights about the risks your company might face. But sometimes, it’s not enough.
Risks get overlooked and turn into costly problems. People focus their efforts on the wrong issues. Hidden risks remain a ticking time bomb.
That’s why many companies are exploring new ways to identify EHS risks. As it turns out, there are quite a few that don’t take a lot of effort and can make your risk management program so much more effective. Here are seven risk identification ideas that we’ve observed.
7 ways to identify EHS risks
- Conduct risk interviews
- Collect employee observations
- Look at your historical data
- Use industry benchmarks
- Read the news
- Create a risk assessment checklist
- Leverage risk management software
1. Conduct risk interviews
Your employees are an immensely valuable source of risk information. So if you want to know more about the risks your organization faces, just ask them!
As the name implies, a risk interview involves asking open-ended questions about your company's risks and documenting the answers. The advantage of risk interviews is that you get first-hand feedback, straight from employees. Not only that, but hearing their voice and tone can provide valuable insight that would be missed on a standard survey.
To get the most out of risk interviews, interview employees at all levels — from top executives to shop floor workers. This will give you a broader picture of your organization's risk profile.
How you conduct these interviews is up to you. You can interview employees face-to-face or over the phone. Depending on your resources, you might choose to bring in third-party experts to conduct the interviews.
2. Collect employee observations
By nature, risks change quickly — sometimes even from one minute to the next. So it makes sense that some of the best risk information is captured in the moment.
Make sure there’s an easy way for employees to share their observations as they come across new risks. Many organizations use a simple suggestion box to collect these kinds of observations. Or, you can use a mobile app to capture employee observations in real-time.
For example, let’s say an employee notices some loose rugs or mats that present a trip hazard. Using Perillon’s Workspace XPress app, they can access a simple, 6-10 field input form from their mobile device, tablet, or kiosk and report the risk immediately. They can even add an image or video to supplement their observation. The advantage of this method is that need-to-know staff will be alerted to issues immediately, rather than having it sit in a suggestion box.
3. Look at your historical data
Ever heard the saying, "If you want to see the future, look to the past"? In other words, past events from your company's history can tell you a lot about future risks — if you know where to look.
Chances are you already have a wealth of risk information at your fingertips. Information like:
- Nonconformance events
- Accident reports
- Near miss and good catch observations
- Findings from audits and inspections
- Quality checks
By carefully analyzing this information and looking for root causes, trends, and patterns, you can get an idea of future risks you might face and how likely they are to occur.
4. Use industry benchmarks
Astute risk managers have been doing this for a while.
It's the whole concept of “learning from others’ mistakes”: by comparing your organization to others in your industry, you can gain valuable insights about the risks you can expect to face.
What risks have other companies identified? What are they doing to manage these risks? And how does your organization compare?
Some good sources of benchmarking data include:
- Trade magazines
- Industry research, like NAEM or ASSP
- Conferences and networking events
- Case studies
- Insurance statistics
- Fact-finding agencies like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Regulatory bodies like OSHA and the EPA
5. Read the news
If it seems like the news is all ‘doom and gloom’ lately, you’re right — and that's good news for risk managers. How so?
Because it can alert you to potential risks you might not otherwise have thought of. Let’s say, for example, you read a story about a company that failed due to climate change. That might get your gears turning about similar risks your company could face.
News articles can be especially useful when it comes to understanding complex issues like climate or political risks that aren’t easily observed first-hand.
6. Create a risk assessment checklist
It’s worth remembering that risks aren’t always new and novel. If your workers perform the same tasks frequently — say, climbing a tower or operating an aircraft — there are some common hazards they may encounter.
A risk assessment checklist can be useful for identifying common hazards during routine tasks or activities. For example, a construction risk checklist might include hazards like:
- working at heights
- confined spaces
- slip, trip and fall hazards
- manual handling
...and so on.
It’s worth mentioning here that a checklist shouldn’t be your only source of risk information, but it can be a great jumping-off point.
7. Leverage risk management software
It’s hard to overstate the importance of having the right tools to identify risks.
Risk management software helps you identify, measure, and analyze risks. It simplifies data collection so you can spend less time managing your data and more time using it. Not only that, but modern software adds a layer of intelligence to your risk management program that simply isn’t possible with spreadsheets.
For example, Perillon allows you to perform risk assessments using any mobile device and sync the information to your centralized database, where the software performs calculations like risk scoring and triggers tasks or actions based on that information. You can learn more about EHS risk management software features here.
Your next steps
Identifying risks is the first step in protecting your employees and your company. For more information, check out five of the most common reasons risk assessments fall short, or visit our full EHS risk management guide.