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Is risk keeping you up at night?


It’s the stuff that dreams are made of; you’re a security contractor and you’ve won a contract with arguably the world’s most famous football club. You’re keen to demonstrate your skills and professionalism, so you arrange a mock emergency incident. It’s a realistic exercise and everything goes smoothly, except for one small thing.


One of the training devices is left in place. That’s what happened at Old Trafford in May when a training device was found just before kick-off. Overnight, what was a high-profile, dream contract became the security contractor’s worst nightmare, costing Manchester United an estimated £3 million, and putting the contractor’s company at risk of liquidation.


We all have our own equivalent of that scenario; where we overlook one small thing despite painstaking preparation. That is what keeps us awake at night. Unless we confront that issue, and put measures in place to avoid, or at least reduce, the risk of the ‘nightmare’ occurring, then we will not be able to move on (or sleep). That is the basic tenet of the risk-based approach in the new versions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, among others; by analysing and anticipating risks (and opportunities), we are better able to deal with them and thereby improve the performance of our operations.

"We are confronted with risk in every aspect of our daily life; from personal online banking to safety in the workplace. A single ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not the solution."

Risk means different things to different people, but to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, it is as constant as death and taxes.


Over the last year, we have researched the international perception of risk. The results make interesting reading. It is clear that each country has its own concerns and priorities. Although there are significant variations from country to country, the top three risks in most countries related to quality, health and safety, and IT risks. Our research has enabled us to identify the principle areas seen as presenting risk to businesses, and to offer relevant certification and training to address these challenges.


But which standard to choose? It is easy to be daunted by the wide range of standards available. Some address specific risks (anti-bribery, cyber security, business continuity, compliance), but even the ’classic’ standards contain the requirement to identify and address the issues facing your organisation. Rather than dwelling on what is available, the key is to focus on your own activity, your own business and your own concerns. That should guide your choice of management system standard(s), which will hopefully provide a framework that truly works for you.


Risk is relative – we all have different concerns and different priorities. What is keeping you awake at night? Identify and focus on your own areas of risk and vulnerability, and you will genuinely improve your organisation’s resilience.


This article first appeared in Quality World (C), February 2017.


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