Ask any productivity guru, and you’ll find that effective prioritization is key to getting stuff done. Whether it’s focusing on the one most important thing you must get done today or using a tiered system to sort your to-do list, being able to separate less pressing items from mission-critical tasks is a hallmark of effective and efficient work.
In terms of safety and quality, risk can be an especially useful metric for prioritizing action. In this post, we’ll look at how using risk assessments throughout your quality process can help you better prioritize your activities.
- Risk-Based Filtering
One of the most useful ways risk assessments can help you prioritize your work is with risk-based filtering. Your Quality, EHS or Compliance Management Software should let you drop a risk matrix into any application, so you can calculate risk for items such as:
- Corrective action requests.
- Regulatory compliance gaps.
- Audit noncompliances.
- Customer complaints.
By assigning a risk level for these types of events, you can quickly pull out the high-risk items that need your attention now. This ensures that problems don’t get buried and snowball into larger issues while you’re busy dealing with items in the order they were entered in the system.
- Verification Checks
Another important way to prioritize your work through risk assessments is by performing a final risk-based verification step before closing out issues such as customer complaints or corrective actions.
This step becomes the critical “check” factor in the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach for your internal quality processes. It ensures you aren’t just going through the motions, instead taking time to analyze whether or not the action taken was actually effective in terms of reducing risk.
- Supplier Management
Suppliers introduce a significant amount of risk into any quality or compliance management process. Using risk assessments within Supplier Quality Management activities can help you see which suppliers need improvement and where you’re most likely to see problems.
For example, you can calculate the risk of individual supplier quality issues and corrective actions, or you can calculate a roll-up risk ranking for each individual supplier for a high-level view of supplier risks.
- Materials and Chemicals
One area where companies can reduce their environmental and safety risks is by finding substitutions for hazardous materials and chemicals. Using risk assessments as part of your materials profile can help you prioritize which materials and chemicals should be at the top of your list when looking for substitutions.
- Job Safety Analysis
Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is a process used in EHS management to break down a job procedure into discrete steps and analyze how to mitigate hazards. Risk assessment can make this a more robust process by assigning a risk level to each individual step, as well as providing a roll-up risk ranking for the entire job.
With these metrics in hand, you can better prioritize which job procedures need to be reworked due to the level of risk they introduce. It also helps flag individual steps and procedures for employees who review the JSA before starting a procedure.
Risk is especially useful in reporting and management reviews, because it acts as a common language that many different groups can understand. Risk also provides an objective yardstick for making decisions. Centralized Reporting on risk, including Enterprise Risk Management for all areas of the organization, gives you a high-level view of where your greatest vulnerabilities lie. Just as important, it helps signal where your team needs to focus its efforts.
Across many management systems and methodologies, we’re seeing an increased focus on leveraging risk for better decision-making. On a practical level, this means incorporating risk assessments into more areas of your work, from corrective actions to supplier management to reporting.