Continuing with our columns on operational risk management, we will now discuss operational risk area 3 – Safety and Security. Everyone is generally familiar with what safety and security are and how they help protect businesses, nonprofits, medical, and dental practices. However, being generally familiar with these terms and how they generally help protect businesses is a far cry from understanding the application of these items in actually protecting each specific organizational operational need. Businesses, nonprofits, medical, and dental practices all have different nuances applicable to their individual facility, service, and products but all are at jeopardy of suffering a financial loss due to an unexpected safety and/or security operational risk event.
When you talk about safety measures to some owners you may get things like, we have a fire extinguisher, first aid kits, marked exits signs, etc., and we are good. All that may be fine, and those things are certainly part of proper safety measures, however, they are only the basics or starting point. Adequate safety measures need to include items that protect the client/customers, the employees, and the facility from hazards and dangerous conditions. Things to look for are tripping hazards, blocked or cluttered exits, updated fire inspections, clearly marked emergency exits, machinery or electrical hazards, proper warning signage, e.g., “wet floor,” “low ceiling,” “watch your step,” “hazardous materials,” high voltage,” “hearing protection required,” etc. In addition, determine if you have an active safety program and an individual appointed as a safety officer/manager who maintains inspection and training safety records. Depending on the type of business you have you may be subject to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) compliance inspections. Generally, businesses with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from OSHA’s injury and incident reporting, as well as programmed inspections by OSHA. Businesses with more than 10 employees may also be exempt from programmed inspections if they are “low-hazard industries” identified by OSHA. That said, even if your business is exempt from OSHA reporting and programmed inspections, you are not exempt from any liabilities associated with legal actions initiated by employees, customers, or visitors claiming injuries caused by a safety hazard or improper safety measures on the part of the business owner. Take the time to walk or have someone walk the facility to be-on-the-lookout for potential safety hazards or unsafe conditions.
Most businesses have security alarms, cameras, and door/window locks, yet they are still subject to security related events, such as break-ins, shoplifting, employee theft, and even robbery. It is important to make sure that you have a proper alarm system setup with associated internal policies for normal use, opening/closing, after-hour use, duress codes, panic button, and live person contact. Think about installing glass sensors, strong perimeter lighting, and bright interior lighting. There are many different types of alarm companies and setups so be sure that you get the one that meets your needs and offers the best protection you can afford. Insurance companies usually will give you reduced premiums based on the type of security system you have installed.
Surveillance cameras are important and should be configured so that the video recorded is stored at a location away from where the cameras are located. Also, the cameras should, at a minimum, be HD quality so that they capture the best quality image of events, individuals, and license plate numbers. Ideally, you should have a combination of visible and concealed cameras so that if the visible cameras are damaged by individuals, video is still being recorded by the concealed cameras. Surveillance cameras are also good, what I call liability cameras that may capture an event in which an individual may make a claim that he/she was injured because of negligence on your part. Example: A doctor’s office does not have any cameras covering the reception/lobby area of the practice office. An individual enters the office while no one is at the reception desk. The staff hears an individual scream, “help” several times and they go to the reception area to find an individual on the floor. They administer aid to the individual and call 911 for an ambulance and the individual is taken to the hospital. The next day the practice gets notice that the individual is suing the practice for injuries suffered by the individual. The individual states that there was a liquid on the floor that wasn’t cleaned up that caused the fall. The individual also related that there was no warning sign that there was liquid on the floor. The staff states that there was nothing on the floor at that time but because the practice does not have a surveillance/liability camera for that area, the practice does not have any physical evidence to dispute the individual’s claim. Long story short, the individual is awarded $150,000.00 because in this type of case with no video recordings, it boils down in court to who tells the best story, or in legal terms, the preponderance of evidence.
Door and window locks are also important and the better the lock the greater the protection, notwithstanding, that there are no locks that are impenetrable. Do some research on the best door/window locks for your type of business and ensure that all your windows and doors have adequate locks that are rated for industrial use. Remember you can always reach out to the local police department for assistance in determining which locks are best.
Safety and security are the most high-risk areas and businesses cannot be completely protected from these risks no matter what you do. However, the best option is to make it harder for a risk event to happen and to make the bad actors find a less protected or vulnerable business. As the old saying goes, “Always take the path of least resistance,” which most criminals abide by when choosing their targets.