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A Triple, Venti, No Foam Latte... and Managing Risk

September 12, 2017
Risk Management

It’s the time of year when the season changes and we all get excited for cool, crisp Fall weather. We break out our collection of sweaters and the grocery stores begin stocking pumpkin-spiced everything.

In my house the excitement centers around the start of football season – we love football. Fall can never come fast enough. My wife and I share our love of the game with our three kids. We hope football becomes as big of a tradition in our home, as it was for us growing up. 

As a safety professional, I’m often asked if my knowledge of the risks and injuries involved would prevent me from allowing my kids to play the game. I don’t know that I’m prepared to answer that question just yet, but it got me thinking about our aversion to risk and what it is that my profession is supposed to do.

There’s a myth about the safety profession that has been around for years; we are here to eliminate hazards and remove risk from people’s lives. I’ve come to realize that safety is not about eliminating hazards, but simply managing them.

I know, I can hear the collective groan... but let’s think about it for a minute; do we really want to live and work in a world devoid of risk?

Are we never going to drive a car again or ride a bike? Or better yet, never going to order a piping-hot Triple, Venti, No Foam Latte (yep, that’s a real thing) at the local coffee place drive-thru?

Are these undesirable hazards? Yes. Are safety professionals really advocating to eliminate modes of transportation and hot coffee? Obviously not. We manage these and about 1,000 other risks a day.

It’s no different on a jobsite. Elimination of a hazard can in fact be the best hazard management technique, but sometimes it’s best to identify and work with the hazards that are presented.

Are we ever going to eliminate the hazards associated with an excavation? Probably not, but the solution is not to eliminate ever digging a hole again; it’s to manage the process, deploy best practices and be conscious of the hazards.

As far as my kids and football are concerned, I’m aware of the hazards. Only time will tell if I can live with managing them.

Josh Densberger

Josh began his career as a Firefighter for the Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida. He taught the principles of fire science and safety at Seminole State College. He held the position of Corporate Safety Director at Waste Pro, and is currently Corporate Safety Manager at MSE Group. Josh earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The University of Wyoming and a Master’s degree in Fire and Emergency Management from Oklahoma State University.

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