Back to Blog

Things I Have Learned About Risk Management and Safety

Posted by Jennifer Mannix on May 31, 2016 at 9:28 AM

I am fairly new to risk management – just started in this position 2 ½ years ago – but I am not new to the public sector. I have been working for the City & Borough of Juneau, Alaska for most of my adult life, more than 25 years. My previous experience with our risk manager was limited to review of contract insurance terms. I felt very confident in that area, so how much more could there be?

Then came the realization that I didn’t know all that I needed to. That’s a scary place to be, and it translates to a really steep learning curve! Juneau is a community of about 33,000 residents, and because of our geographic isolation (you cannot drive to Juneau – you must fly or take a ferry), our community and local government need to be self-sustaining.  What this means is that risk management is involved in a broad range of operations, including the city government, hospital, school district, airport, port/harbors, and the ski area. In a small organization like ours, my duties range from claims adjusting to contract insurance review to advocating for risk and safety engagement at all levels, just to name a few.  I have learned so much in a relatively short time, so I wanted to share some insights – from a newbie’s perspective.

  • Risk management and safety management are dependent on each other. You cannot focus on just one. While we work towards implementing an enterprise risk management framework, I see enterprise safety management as an integral piece of that.
  • The law department is my friend! Communicating with our attorneys early and often when dealing with a challenging claim is a really great way to go.
  • Change can’t happen overnight. We have a lot of employees who have worked here for a long time. With that comes great institutional knowledge, but it sometimes means resistance to change. The burden is on risk management to identify areas that need improvement and then work hard to make the case for that change – sell it to those who like “the way it’s always been done”.
  • Visit worksites as frequently as possible. I know I don’t get out in the field enough, but when I do, there is a genuine appreciation from work groups. It is one thing to express an interest over email or by phone, but showing up in person demonstrates a commitment to learning about operations, and it builds relationships in the process. I must give credit to Marilyn Rivers for emphasizing this at my first PRIMA Institute when I was in my first week on the job!
  • PRIMA Talk is our friend! I know I said the law department is our friend, but, really, the more friends the better. Learning how others do things and finding common practices is extremely helpful. Also it’s a good way to find out new, better ways of doing things. It is a great support for our efforts to change and improve our approach to risk and safety.
  • Finally, what I’ve realized over and over is that just when I think I know how to handle a certain situation, something comes up that is different and new and unlike anything I’ve ever had to deal with. It keeps my days interesting, and I continue to learn new things all the time!

Looking forward to learning more from everyone at the PRIMA Conference!


Kate Wood

June 1, 2016 at 5:28 PM

Sounds like you are well on your way to be a well-rounded Risk Manager. Safety, Risk, Legal, HR, Benefits all need to work together to help an organization manage risk. It's not a turf war. There's plenty of risk to go around. So best of luck and keep on learning!


June 2, 2016 at 9:07 AM

Jennifer sounds like you've got both feet on the ground. Stay planted and focused!