Has your organisation got a large number of employees? If so, video programmes may be effective in getting the risk management message across, says Ray Williams.

Has your organisation got a large number of employees? If so, video programmes may be effective in getting the risk management message across, says Ray Williams.

The sustained economic growth currently enjoyed by the USA has been driven by technology, and increased operating efficiency is the dividend. Now Europe is seeing those same benefits. For risk managers, technology provides a wealth of opportunities for enhanced collection and analysis of data, resulting in improved decision making and control. Video technology is helping organisations improve the management of "people risks" by actively integrating employees into control systems. It is particularly appropriate for offices, shopping centres, industrial plant, leisure centres, and the growing number of call centres. The common denominator is a large number of employees.

Risk managers, together with colleagues in health and safety, security and facilities management, are responsible for safeguarding their organisations' physical and human assets, protecting corporate reputation and providing for business continuity. Both health and safety legislation and the Turnbull guidelines on corporate governance make these activities obligatory. Failure to meet them can result in prosecution and damage shareholder confidence.

However, organising and preparing staff induction and refresher training is an expensive process. It also diverts management and employees from primary roles. The situation is further exacerbated by the employer's desire for a flexible work force and employees' ambitions evinced by career moves. A recent US survey revealed that 25% of major corporations were experiencing a 100% turn over in staff each year. While staff turnover is most noticeable in the unskilled areas of retail and service industries, today's young professionals will expect to make several career moves during their working lifetimes. Outsourcing will only add to the burden as outsourced functions often involve high volume, high turnover unskilled labour. However, this does not negate the responsibility for, nor the wisdom of, fully incorporating outsourced staff into your risk control strategy.

You need to address a a large number of diverse issues. In respect of health and safety, you must explain risk avoidance, together with reporting systems for both incidents and potential hazards. You must fully describe fire alarm procedures, the roles of fire wardens and evacuation points. Prudent organisations will also take the opportunity to advise staff on security issues, such as theft and protection of sensitive information.

Terrorism is still at the forefront of catastrophic risks. This is not just overt terrorism, as perpetrated by Irish dissident groups or religious extremists. The criminal use of terrorist methods is of growing concern. Recently, an individual set off bombs in Brixton and Soho, whilst criminal extortionists attacked Sainsbury's supermarkets. This summer, plastic bottles containing steel nuts and detonators were discovered in rural Oxfordshire. And, if we need a reminder from the big league players, yet another bomb has been set off under Hammersmith Bridge and a rocket propelled grenade fired at the MI6 building in London this year.

Various strategies have been designed to prevent, manage and recover from such threats. In order to ensure success, you need to communicate those strategies to the people who will implement them. Essentially, risk management in this context is about using staff to best effect.

Improving information retention
Video is an ideal communications tool. It has the ability to improve efficiency substantially. Skilfully and powerfully combining images, sounds and words can ensure that the target audience retains key information. The use made of television commercials illustrates the effectiveness of the medium.

You can deliver such programmes by vhs player, cd-rom and the intranet. Careful scripting ensures that key information is incorporated and presented in a style that the audience will relate to. Likewise, subsequent editing gives you the opportunity to ensure accuracy. The training manager and staff members can view the finished programme, say with a running time of seven to ten minutes, at times that suit them. However and whenever it is watched, a video programme ensures accurate information is consistently delivered, time is saved and risk management improved.

You can also use video in respect of contingency plans. Such plans do not stand in isolation. You will have made them in partnership with the emergency services, local authority and neighbouring businesses. Supplying a vhs copy of the plans to these partners will increase their understanding and improve effectiveness.

Organisations using an intranet have even greater risk management opportunities. Converting a video for intranet viewing is both technically simple and inexpensive. "Push technology" results in the programme being shown to every member staff as they log on to their workstation. By seeing actual examples of good practice, evacuation routes and designated assembly areas, staff will in effect benefit from '"virtual reality" training. This is particularly useful as part of a reassuring induction process for new employees who are unfamiliar with the site. If required, you can check employees' understanding, using a list of key questions, and if necessary re-run the programme.

Using video technology allows staff to be properly trained and assists employers in meeting their legal responsibilities. And, whether delivered by vhs player or intranet, video can also provide a record of viewing, removing the opportunity for an individual to claim that they had not been informed of the correct procedures. While protecting life and physical assts are the priorities, insurance companies should welcome, and even reward, any strategy that reduces their financial exposure. All in all, a positive return on investment!
Ray Williams, who was recently invited by the Health and Safety Executive to chair a working pan on public safety, is managing director of Williams Management Communication, Tel: 020 8663 0100, e-mail admin@williamscommunication.co.uk

Safety videos
The UK Health & Safety Executive has produced a range of training and safety videos for specific industries and small firms.

  • Specialist:

    Offshore work
    Safety in the transport industry
    Fairground safety
    Safety in construction
    Manual handling in the news sector
    Tyre and exhaust fitters safety
    Reducing ill health in print shops
    Safe use of printing chemicals: COSHH

  • For small firms:
    Electrical safety
    Fork lift trucks
    Dust hazards
    Guarding machines

    Additional HSE products include Escaping the Maze of Health and Safety Information and a CD ROM on managing the risks from hand arm vibration.

    Training videos may be bought, loaned or hired in the UK. Most programmes are available overseas for purchase only.e-mail: euroview@compuserve.com