Risk management

My experience in the risk management business — revealed at last!!

By chance, a summer job setting up a reference library catalog for the Institute for Risk Research in 1993 while studing at the University of Waterloo started a long career in risk management. More specifically, health, safety and environmental management (or HSE for short).

It was very interesting to be in this field when it was basically brand new — bit by bit, progressive laws protecting workers began to get passed in the 1970s and 1980s, and by the 1990s most major corporations were beginning to set up internal health, safety and environmental management departments to make sure they were complying with these new laws.

I had studied and worked in architecture for several years by the time I settled into a career in HSE in 1995. I was part of a tiny team tasked with developing and enforcing corporate HSE policies and procedures for a corporation that had a lot of very risky business going on — heavy industrial and mining sectors, nuclear power, hydro dams, military contracting and so on.

From the very beginning, a major part of the job was figuring out how to convince heads of divisions and company Vice-Presidents to start paying attention to safety and environmental concerns at all. They were never happy to be told to put money and resources into something that would not generate a profit back. There was an actual struggle involved in making sure this new department survived its first few years.

New laws are being passed all the time, I would explain, and if we didn’t get more responsible and become pro-active in identifying and avoiding major risks, there would be more and more severe legal and financial consequences the next time a major incident occurred.

I learned fairly quickly that proper communications were key to convincing anyone about the merits of being pro-active about safety.

The fact that I considered myself a “writer” since my teenage years writing for local music magazines and the High School Newspaper very much helped me get rolling in this nascent career. The right choice of words, turn of phrase or friendly tone can make all the difference when communicating risks or safety requirements to workers, management or the general public.

Fast forward from the mid 1990s to the year 2020, after more than two decades of experience in safety, preparedness and crisis management, I’m flabbergasted at how badly the management of the COVID-19 pandemic has been. It’s enough to make me want to re-start my blog! So here we go! Welcome!