Key Takeaways

- In the world of enterprise risk management, are OSH professionals too narrowly focused on just the hazard risk? For an organization to successfully achieve its objectives, some level of risk in pursuit of opportunities must be taken. Being too risk averse can cause an organization to miss opportunities that would allow it to successfully compete and innovate.

- When accepting a level of risk to achieve an objective, the desired performance must be factored in. Defining needed performance objectives and ensuring their accomplishment as part of the decision-making process must come together in such a way that public and worker safety are always a paramount consideration.

- For organizations to succeed, an optimal balance between risk and opportunity is required. Achieving a risk level considered as low as reasonably practicable along with expected performance capabilities and benefits of the opportunity can be considered the art of managing risk to an acceptable level.

- To help organizations achieve and maintain an optimal opportunity or risk balance, OSH professionals can consider applying the principles from the risk-informed and performance-based model formulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Risk is found in all aspects of life. For OSH professionals, risks from workplace hazards are the primary focus. Since the emergence of the OSH Act of 1970, safety practitioners in the U.S. have been educated and trained, rightfully, to identify and correct workplace hazards and manage regulatory compliance.

However, for organizations to be successful and achieve their objectives, they must manage all risks encountered—hazard risks, operational risks, financial risks and strategic risks— while they pursue potential opportunities. OSH professionals require a wider lens that looks beyond just hazard risks and sees the aggregated risks and how they can impact the organization as well as society. Equally important is for OSH professionals to understand the need for organizations to pursue potential opportunities. This requires recognition that some risk usually accompanies any such pursuit. For an organization to successfully achieve its objectives, calculated risk must sometimes be taken. Being too risk averse can be a risk if it causes an organization to miss opportunities that would allow it to successfully compete, innovate and benefit society. Taking some risk is often necessary to achieve objectives, advance technologies and navigate through the increasingly complex world.

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