Latest IRM News
1 August 2013
Risk averse approaches ‘all too common’
Health and safety laws should never be used as an excuse for the ‘all too common’ risk aversion of individuals and organisations, the chief executive of IRM has said.
Speaking on LBC Radio earlier this month, Steve Fowler FIRM said that risk averse approaches ‘are all too common in parts of the public sector’ in the UK, with health and safety legislation often being blamed for inaction by individuals and organisations.
Fowler was speaking to host Nick Ferrari in relation to the death of Michael Thornton, 30, of east Brent, Somerset, who drowned after a car crash when two paramedics refused to jump into a ditch where he lay. A police officer later pulled Thornton to safety but the paramedics were unable to revive him.
Coroner Michael Rose, recording a verdict of accidental death, said: ‘I will not say what I think of health and safety regulations. I was brought up in a country where men risked their own lives to save the lives of others.’ The paramedics were not asked to attend the inquest nor to provide any information to the coroner, and there is no suggestion that they were guilty of any wrongdoing.
Commenting on risk assessments in general rather than the specific case, Fowler said: ‘There’s no law that says you can’t jump into a ditch to save someone’s life… saving a life is a natural human reaction and it’s something that all of us would want to do in the circumstances.
‘Sadly, risk adverse approaches are too common in parts of the public sector in this country. We are human beings and human beings make mistakes. So health and safety should never be used as an excuse for someone choosing not to do something.’
Fowler later added that health and safety legislation does have its place when used sensibly, and that paramedics and other emergency service workers selflessly risk their lives every day.
Fowler concluded that he would have been surprised if paramedics did not always carry a rope or something similar for safely lowering rescuers into the water, something which host Nick Ferrari said was ‘an interesting point’.
30 July 2013
Santiago rail tragedy prompts questions
A statue of Atlas, the mythological Greek god doomed to support the sky on his shoulders, stands outside the University of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-west Spain.
After last week’s train crash in the region which claimed 79 lives and injured scores more, 52-year-old train driver Francisco Garzón must surely feel a similar weight upon him as speculation mounts as to whether Spain’s worst rail disaster in almost 70 years was down to human or technical error.
CCTV footage of the moment the train derailed suggested that it was travelling at more than twice the 49mph limit, with survivors from the incident claiming the train was travelling at 130mph. Findings from the train’s black box footage are yet to be released.
Garzón has reportedly been freed on bail with his passport confiscated while the authorities decide whether or not to charge him.
While the national period of mourning is over, the grief will linger for a lifetime. In the meantime it makes sense to seek potential causes and asks what lessons can be learned.
After the 1975 Moorgate tube crash on the London Underground, when a train failed to stop at a dead end and crashed into a tunnel, a system was introduced where a tube train automatically stops if the driver fails to brake.
Similarly, after the 1952 Harrow and Wealdstone rail crash, which killed 112, British Rail decided to implement the automatic warning system for drivers who passed an adverse signal. Then, after the 1999 Ladbroke Grove crash where 31 died, transmitters where installed in 20,000 locations for trains to automatically brake when going too fast.
The high-speed line on which the Santiago train was travelling had, according to the Spanish media, an older warning and automatic braking system that only operates on certain track sections
But if this incident has more in common with the 1915 Quintishill rail disaster in Scotland – which killed over 200 due to the criminal actions of two signalmen – then justice will need to be served.
In the meantime, IRM chief executive Steve Fowler FIRM says it would be imprudent to draw any conclusions until a full and thorough investigation has taken place.
Says Fowler: ‘Rail remains one of the safest forms of travel, particularly in the UK. Travel by rail is significantly safer than car travel and the UK has the lowest fatality rate of 27 national operators over a decade. While incidents such as the Santiago de Compostela crash remind us of the devastating potential impact of a crash or derailment, the likelihood is statistically low in comparison to other modes of transport.’
25 June 2013
Whistleblower study: firms still shooting the messenger
Organisations are getting better at addressing wrongdoing but are still ‘shooting the messenger’ when staff raise concerns, according to a study by Public Concern at Work (PCaW) and the University of Greenwich.
Entitled Whistleblowing: the inside story – a study of the experience of 1,000 whistleblowers, the study found that ‘the vast majority of individuals only ever raise their concern internally’ and that 85 per cent still either do not received feedback, are unhappy with the investigation, continue to receive detrimental treatment at work or lose their jobs.
‘We remain at risk of a culture of silence existing in too many workplaces where only the tenacious few will be willing to pursue their concern to a degree that stops or prevents harm’, the report stated. It found that organisations have limited opportunities to listen to their staff as a concern will only be raised once or twice at most.
Cathy James, chief executive of PCaW and a speaker at IRM’s forthcoming Risk Leaders Conference on 4 November, commented that a whistleblower’s journey ‘is often fraught with threats, fears and contradictions, and can be incredibly stressful for the individual involved’.
The study found that the top five concerns of 1,000 surveyed whistleblowers are: ethical (19%), financial malpractice (19%), work safety (16%), public safety (11%), and patient safety (8%).
Health, care, education, charities, local government, and financial services were the top six industries for whistleblowers raising concerns.
A typical whistleblower was found to be a skilled worker or professional working for the organisation for less than two years, who is concerned about a wrongdoing that is ongoing, affects wider society and has been occurring for less than six months.
The study called on organisations to train frontline managers on how to be proactive, identify whistleblowing concerns, handle problems well and support whistleblowers.
27 February 2013
Horse meat scandal highlights online brand battle
Tesco’s brand perception was weakened when almost half of UK Twitter users were exposed to commentary linking the firm with the horse meat scandal, market research agency YouGov has found.
According to YouGov’s BrandIndex brand perception measure, 46% of users saw on the social media site that horse meat was found in Tesco’s spaghetti Bolognese, weakening the perception of its brand from a year-high ranking of +24 to just +9.
Tesco’s lowest ranking during the supply chain saga – when it was “dragged back by association” with food manufacturer Findus, who were found to supply frozen meals with horsemeat – has been +8.
The issue was, if anything, only exacerbated when a bright spark from Tesco’s customer care department decided to tweet that they were tired and ‘off to hit the hay’ – a colloquial term for going to sleep. The company later apologised, claiming that the tweet had been pre-scheduled before the scandal emerged.
YouGov commented: “Tesco responded quickly to the first crisis and looked like it would shore-up perceptions of the brand. However, the past [mid-February] days have shown that Tesco is becoming the face of the horsemeat scandal and they need to react just as fast to deal with that perception, even if it is one that they have gained somewhat unfairly.”
These issues and similar will be tackled by a range of expert speakers and workshops at the IRM Forum on 20-21 May in Ashford, Kent.
Asking if you dare risk your brand reputation, Forum will examine why brand protection is now the big issue for every organisation, and how firms can protect their reputation in an age where facts, misinformation and gossip can quickly spread across the globe in minutes.
For further details visit www.irmforum.org.
26 February 2013
Oxfam report highlights brand reputation fears
Social pressure and environmental changes are forcing some of the world’s biggest brands to take steps to protect their reputation, a charity warned today (26 February).
Oxfam’s Behind the brands report said that some of the top ten food and beverage manufacturers believe “doing well by doing good” makes good business sense and helps to protect their brands.
“Consumers, investors and governments are increasingly demanding better sustainability and social responsibility and are pushing companies to implement significant and far-reaching reforms”, the report said.
It scrutinised the efforts of the big ten food and beverage companies as they attempt to increase supply chain transparency and reassure consumers that they are acting ethically.
Oxfam produced a scorecard rating the brands on how they handled several issues: women, small-scale farmers, farm workers, water, land, climate change, and transparency.
But Oxfam found that the big ten “have neglected to use their enormous power to help create a more just food system”. Policy gaps were said to include:
• being overly secretive about their supply chains
• failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions
• not addressing the exploitation of women small-scale farmers and workers
The charity warned that organisations should respond to these concerns to safeguard their brands, adding: “Shifts in both social technology and consumer behaviour mean that companies are increasingly vulnerable to consumer opinion and must respond to consumer pressure faster than ever.”
Reputation and brand will be the theme of IRM’s forthcoming Forum on 20-21 May in Ashford, Kent, UK. The Forum will bring together leading experts on branding, including former chair of Interbrand, Rita Clifton.
For further details on IRM’s forum visit www.irmforum.org
To view the Oxfam report in more detail, click here.
05 December 2012
UK government ‘made volcanic ash mistakes’
The UK government’s approach to the risk of volcanic ash was “partly wrong”, the chief scientific adviser to the government and head of the Government Office for Science has said.
Prof Sir John Beddington, giving the keynote speech at IRM’s Annual Lecture on 5 December in London, UK, admitted that the government “could have predicted” the risk of volcanic ash causing disruption to flights before Eyjafjallajoekull erupted in Iceland in April 2010. Thousands of flights were grounded and passengers left stranded when the volcano erupted.
Approximately 200 risk professionals were told: “If you looked back at it [Iceland’s volcanic history] a couple of 100 years it was about once in every four years that you would have a volcanic eruption. So in a sense we should have known that. But the increase was the vulnerability due to the enormous increase in air traffic.”
Sir John also claimed that the Civil Aviation Authority’s regulations preventing flight if there was any ash in the air were “daft”. He said: “This was completely against science. The very fact that you maybe have the presence of volcanic ash in an air cloud is not going to constitute a danger to aircraft. The danger would be flying through a concentration for a duration.” The regulations have since been revised.
05 December 2012
Future influenza ‘global within a month’
A new influenza strain could be expected to spread worldwide within the space of a month, Sir John told delegates at IRM’s Annual Lecture.
Discussing the UK national risk register, Sir John predicted that a similar speed of spread could be expected for a new strain as that of the swine flu H1N1 influenza in 2009.
Demonstrating how the virus spread from an isolated part of north-eastern Mexico on 24 April 2009 to become a pandemic with 12,515 cases within one month in “essentially, most countries in the world”, Sir John said of a reasonable worst-case new virus: “We would have to suspect it would be worldwide within a month or less.”
Sir John also claimed that the world had been “lucky” with swine flu, adding: “We found that for every person showing symptoms, eight people had actually had the virus. So its effect, really, was quite tiny. There were a very large number of people who were largely immune to this virus.”
Contrasting the less-than 0.1 per cent mortality rate for swine flu with the 60 per cent ratio for bird flu, Sir John told the audience: “There were tragic deaths but they were very tiny compared to the number of people who had the virus.”
12 November 2012
The man who exposed Olympus (taken from The Sunday Times)
Michael Woodford blew the whistle on a $1.7 billion fraud at one of the world’s biggest electronics companies. He was fired and fled Tokyo, fearing for his life. But he fought back – and won. Now Hollywood is knocking on his door. Read the full article. (PDF 121 Kb)
26 October 2012
New European risk management accreditation
IRM has met with the Federation of European Risk Management Associations (FERMA) and Ernst & Young to discuss FERMA's plans for a pan-European certification or accreditation for risk managers.
Ferma hopes to deliver a professional qualification that can augment existing national qualifications and provide individual risk managers with a proof of professional competence and practical experience that is recognised across Europe.