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5 Things That Strong Risk Management Programs Have in Common

May 16, 2022 Risk Solutions Staff

Lap screen that reads risk management plan

TASB Marketing Consultant Marissa Gonzales and Risk Solutions Consultant Charles Hueter bring a combined 45 years’ experience to their jobs. They know that preventing workplace injuries, property damage, cybercrime, and other incidents can help schools cut costs and boost productivity.

If that sounds like an investment your leadership team would get behind, set aside 60 minutes and watch our on-demand webinar: The A, B, Cs of Risk Management. Marissa and Charles break the process into its core components, uncover common roadblocks, and tell you how to overcome them. As a primer, here are five things that strong risk management programs have in common.

What makes a strong risk management program?

In broad strokes, a risk management program is a process of continuous improvement designed to prevent losses to your:

  • People
  • Assets
  • Mission

You’ll customize your risk management program to meet your schools’ unique needs, but make sure you include these core elements.

1. Leadership commitment

Schools have operational silos, just like other workplaces. Silos crush the collaborative efforts common in strong risk management programs. Leadership has the authority to elevate risk management as a districtwide value that never gets compromised.

Like most initiatives with staying power, risk management has to start at the top of the org chart. Superintendents, CFOs, directors, and other leaders have to demonstrate their commitment:

  • Put it in writing. Fund members with Workers’ Compensation coverage can download sample statements of management commitment (login required).
  • Allot funds for personnel, equipment, training, and other risk management resources.
  • Follow the same risk management procedures you expect employees to follow.

2. Districtwide accountability

If you needed help controlling workplace injuries, traffic accidents, or roof damage, you’d probably turn to a colleague whose title includes safety, transportation, or facilities—and that makes sense. But in strong risk management programs, everyone is accountable for preventing incidents.

Consider this common scenario.

  1. A teacher sees a wet spot on the cafeteria floor. She side-steps it and hurries to beat the morning bell. After all, she didn’t make the mess. Why should she wipe it up?
  2. A few minutes later, a co-worker slips on the wet floor, breaks her arm, and misses time from work. The district has to hire a substitute, which is increasingly difficult nowadays.
  3. The injury and its associated costs could have been avoided if the first teacher accepted accountability for safety and removed the hazard.

Here are a few tips for embedding accountability in your risk management program:

  • Assign responsibilities.
  • Set clear expectations.
  • Make sure everyone understands their role.
  • Consider whether risk management should be part of certain employees’ job descriptions.

3. Employee training

Employees can be your strongest defense against risk. That’s why training is a core element of risk management programs.

Training falls into two buckets:

  • General training, often delivered during new-employee orientation, includes topics that apply across the district. Examples include the safety handbook and emergency procedures.
  • Job-specific training addresses the equipment employees will use and the risks they’ll face. For example, finance professionals should understand their unique role in fighting cybercrime. Maintenance employees should know how to work with power tools, lift trucks, and hazardous chemicals.

Embrace teachable moments

Your TASB risk solutions consultant is here to deliver virtual or onsite training that addresses your loss trends. That’s the traditional one-way training format we’ve all lead or participated in. If you want to get the most value from your efforts, look for opportunities to train employees as they work.

Let’s say a supervisor sees a food service employee standing on a rolling chair to reach a top shelf. The supervisor should hit pause and stress the importance of taking time to get a proper ladder.

Teachable moments pop up every day between the first and final bells. By taking advantage of them, you keep risk management top of mind year-round.

4. Data-driven decisions

You could make reasonably accurate, educated guesses about which hazards your risk management program should target. For example, slips, trips, and falls consistently cause more workplace accidents in the education sector than any other hazard. And then there’s cybercrime against schools, which exploded by 235 percent between 2018 and 2020.

But strong risk management programs aren’t built on educated guesses. They’re built on data-driven decisions.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure without data. That’s why I encourage our members to be data curious.” Charles Hueter, TASB Risk Solutions Consultant

Data curiosity in context

Assume you’re a transportation director looking at three graphs that uncover trends between 2019 and 2021. The data shows:

  1. Your fleet grew by 25 percent.
  2. Miles driven dropped by 73 percent.
  3. Collisions dropped by 25 percent.

Now, a 25 percent drop in collisions is certainly worth celebrating. But here’s where your data curiosity should kick in.

Considering the colossal drop in miles driven, shouldn’t you expect an even bigger dip in crashes? So, what gives?

Maybe your drivers need more training. Maybe staffing gaps are driving employee fatigue. If you dig into the data and identify root causes, you can correct them and prevent similar accidents.

Pro tip: Use your loss history reports to identify and address incident trends.

5. Vendor management protocols

Your schools share risk with every vendor they collaborate with. If a vendor doesn’t take cybersecurity seriously, for example, their data—and yours—could be vulnerable. In fact, outside vendor and partner security practices caused 75 percent of school data breaches in 2020.

When it comes to choosing vendors, it pays to be picky. Here are a few traits to look for:

  • References from other schools
  • Financial transparency
  • Responsible with their data
  • Understands school operations and requirements

Not sure where to jump in?

An investment in risk management is an investment in your team, your productivity, and your bottom line. Building a program from the ground up can seem daunting, but you don’t have to tackle the whole process at once.

“Start by digging into your Fund coverage agreements and making sure you understand your limits and exclusions. Then, work with your legal counsel to cross-reference your policies and procedures and make sure they’re not activating those exclusions.” Marissa Gonzales, TASB Marketing Consultant

Most importantly, remember that the Fund is here to support you, just as it has been since 1974. Marissa, Charles, and their peers have the expertise to help you foster a culture of risk management across your organization.

About Marissa Gonzales

Marissa brings a holistic perspective to her relationships with Fund members. Before joining the marketing team, she worked as an auto claims adjuster and risk solutions consultant. If your district operates in Central Texas, make Marissa Gonzales your first call for questions about coverage and Fund services available exclusively to our members.

About Charles Hueter

As a boots-on-the-ground risk solutions consultant, Charles Hueter collaborates with Fund members from Central Texas all the way west to El Paso. Charles delivers training, hazard surveys, consultations, and tailored loss prevention service plans to members with Auto, Property, and Workers’ Compensation coverage.

Tagged: "best practices", "loss prevention"