How to Make Your Risk Management Process More Employee-Centric 

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Drive better workplace safety with risk assessments that include individual factors. 

When it comes to improving workplace safety, many organizations struggle with their approach to risk management. They conduct their risk assessments and check all the boxes required for EHS compliance, but they rarely make the process relevant to employees—the very people risk management is supposed to protect. 

This leads to workers who may look at risk assessments as just another hoop they have to jump through. Uninterested and disengaged in the process, they’re unlikely to derive significant value from the results. 

And that creates a big problem for employers: When the people you’ve hired don’t believe in the systems you’ve put in place to mitigate on-the-job hazards, this work can become an uphill battle. If you don’t have buy-in from your employees, effective risk management can start to feel impossible. 

So how can a company improve its approach to risk management to drive better worker engagement and better safety results? The solution is to incorporate individual factors into your risk assessment process to ensure risk data is more employee-centric. 

Here, we’ll explain what these individual factors are, how they impact risk exposure, and why they’re so critical in driving higher levels of worker engagement in risk management. If advancing workplace safety is your goal, read on for some thoughts on a good place to start. 

How Individual Factors Influence Risk

It’s probably intuitive that individual factors play a role in people’s interactions with their workplace environments. A tall person, for example, might easily reach a box perched high atop a shelf, while someone who’s shorter will likely need a ladder to perform the same task. 

Less obvious, however, is how these personal difference influence each person’s individual risk exposure. That taller worker might be more susceptible to injuring their back while placing the box on the floor, while the shorter employee could risk an accident if the ladder they’re using isn’t positioned correctly. 

Generally speaking, in the context of risk management, individual factors can be grouped into six categories: physical differences, mental differences, age, gender, personal health, and personal choice. 

Certain individuals, for example, will be stronger or more coordinated than others. One employee might find it easier to understand a long list of detailed directions, while another could find the same list overwhelming. Older workers, on average, take longer to recover from physical injuries, while men are more likely than women to have colorblindness, a condition that could impact their ability to read directional signals. A person with vertigo or a similar medical condition might be at higher risk for a fall, while someone who’s made safety a top priority (personal choice) might identify lurking hazards others have missed. 

Integrating Individual Factors into Risk Assessment Practices

For organizations focused on improving workplace safety, there may be no better way to go about it than by raising awareness of individual risk susceptibility. Show your employees why they’re at greater risk for certain types of workplace injuries and chances are they’ll be more amenable to the measures they have available to mitigate those risks. 

You can do this by integrating individual factors into your risk assessment processes. That could involve introducing a risk assessment process that allows employees to evaluate for themselves the applicable individual factors that might affect their personal risk exposure. 

These individual factors could then be used to determine which controls best apply to each worker’s unique situation, with recommendations offered to guide the employee on the intervention they can take to mitigate those risks. 

When you raise employees’ awareness of the risks that truly apply to them, and then give them the ability to address and mitigate those risks through guidance tailored to their needs, you help them become more invested in the process—to take greater ownership of their personal risk profile. 

Using Technology to Advance Risk Management

Unfortunately, most risk assessment tools treat every workplace as if they are identical. Differences are usually glossed over, and individual factors are largely ignored. 

But how could we create tool that integrates the idea of individual factors in how risk assessments are performed? How would we design it?  What would we include? 

Firstly, we’d want the ability to configure the tool to allow the business to select the individual factors most applicable to their workforce.  This is critical to ensure that the risk assessment is applicable to the people we are trying to engage and influence. Next, we would want our tool to make it easy to visualize the results of our completed risk assessment, and allows employees to see how their individual differences either increase or decrease their risk exposure. From start to finish in the risk assessment process, everything about it would be customizable. 

The solution would also provide frontline employees with autonomy over the risk-mitigation process. It would allow individuals to control the risks they face by helping them access the resources they needed to address various risks in a timely manner. A solution that workers could access with a mobile device, for example, would give them access to resources in real-time: Wherever they were at any given moment, answers to their risk-related questions would only be a click or two away. 

Finally, for the solution to make a measurable impact it would have to be supported by organizational leadership, from department managers to the C-suite. There would need to be acknowledgement across the organization that consideration of individual factors is critical to risk-management success, and there would have to be consensus that the deployment of technology can help the organization achieve its workplace-safety goals. 

In the end, effective risk management not only requires an environment that actively encourages workers to get involved in risk assessment, but one where managing risk is fully integrated in the company culture. Show your people that you care for their safety, and are committed to helping them manage risk in their work, and you can bet that they’ll readily embrace new tools that help them get the job done safely.