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  • Risk Tolerance: A Personal Perception to Staying Safe

    “It’s going to take 2 minutes. I’ll be fine; I don’t need to waste more time and go to the trailer to get my harness to tie off. I just don’t have time for that. We’re already way behind schedule today…”

    Whether you’re at home or work, this or a similar statement is far too familiar for a lot of us.

    A better question you should ask yourself in a position like this is “Would I be okay if my daughter or son did this?”

    We all know we should take the extra 5 minutes to not only save our company from potential citations but, more importantly, for our own safety! We all have someone who loves us and wants us to be with them at the next holiday or BBQ, so why do we continually proceed to put ourselves in potentially risky situations? The term for this human phenomenon is called “Risk Tolerance.”

    What Is Risk Tolerance?

    Risk tolerance is the act of accepting the potential consequence that follows after weighing the risk vs. reward during a task.

    If you identify the risk, don’t mitigate that risk, and proceed with the action anyway, you have a high risk tolerance.

    If you stop what you’re doing and mitigate the risk prior to proceeding, then you have a low risk tolerance.

    Both parties — the employee and the employer — have a risk tolerance. This means they both have an amount of risk they’re willing to accept to do a job or a project.

    Why Accept the Risk?

    There are endless contributing factors and excuses that could sway the decision process of accepting a risk. I’ve outlined some of the bigger ones below:

    • Time crunches and production deadlines
    • “Old-school” mindsets
    • No previous issues with the risk (“I’ve done this so many times this way, and I have never gotten hurt before.”)
    • Inexperienced workers

    The problem is that we all vary in the level of risk tolerance we have based on our past experiences and personality.

    What Can Be Done to Lower Risk Tolerance?

    So how do we get better? The solution is easier said than done; everyone from leadership to the lowest person on the totem pole needs to buy into the change to share a risk tolerance as a company. Some simple ways to start the process are as follows.

    A Stop Work Program

    These programs let anyone stop a task if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe with a situation — without the fear of retaliation. After the task is stopped, they will identify the concerns with supervision and will not proceed until the situation is deemed safe to proceed.

    Peer Observations

    It’s a timeless fact that people assimilate to their surroundings. When all employees get comfortable with expectations of the company’s tolerance, they can help coach each other from a coworker or team approach. The culture and knowledge will start to grow at the field level, which is where many injuries occur.

    What Are the Benefits of NOT Accepting the Risk?

    People always worry about compliance and the production side of things, but the truth of the matter is this — if we lower our risk tolerance level and refuse to accept frivolous and unnecessary risks as individuals and companies, we’ll be able to change the culture for the better. This will result in:

    • An improved employee morale
    • Lower rates (EMR, DART, TRIR)
    • Increased production

    Plus, your company will be able to meet compliance without compliance being the focus!

    Remember, no one should ever have to get injured or put themselves in harm’s way to support themselves or their families.

    If you’re interested in learning more about risk tolerance and culture-based safety, please reach out to your Holmes Murphy Loss Control Consultant or through the Holmes Murphy website and we will gladly provide some guidance. It’s your life; no one else has as much control of your safety as you do.

    Published on: 03.08.21

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Risk Tolerance: A Personal Perception to Staying Safe