Risk Management in FM – A Deeper Dive by Stephen Brown

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Businessman Stepping on Banana Peel --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisRisk Management is a critical role of Facility Managers, whether you realize it or not. you can’t leave it up to other functions within your company.

Managing any facility carries risk, whether to the facility, occupants or the corporation as a whole through action or inaction.

It may seem strange, but risk management is important even in my leisure activity of SCUBA diving and it reminds me of what we need to do in FM.

For relaxation, I SCUBA dive. The crystal blue waters warmed by the tropical sun are an escape from the electronic tethers (smart devices) that affect our lives.

For instance, this was a busy week… Discussions with prospective clients and new business opportunities, presentations being ‘fine tuned’, plus the business operation matters…. Invoices sent, bills to be paid, phone calls, e-mails, travel arrangements, research and responding to queries… Working in FM – whether as consultant, operator, or any of the myriad of other titles one can consider – is diverse. And this week was busier than most.

So far, no one has delivered a commercially viable means to transmit voice and data under water. For that, I am so very grateful. Saturday, I spent a total of 1 hour 56 minutes under water. The gauges gave indication (confirmed by the dive computer) that the first dive maximum depth was 32.6m / 107’ and the second dive maximum depth was 16.2m / 53’. The water temp was 29⁰C / 84⁰F. After the dives with the amazing sea life, the stresses had evaporated.

Risk and risk management

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that Life Insurance companies do not like SCUBA diving as an activity. Each year, there are incidents and injuries. Many of the instances involve persons who only dive when on holiday, perhaps using rental equipment, or worse, their own equipment that hasn’t been well maintained. These are tragic accidents that should have been avoided. A responsible diver does not engage in behavior that increases risks.

One of the basic tenants is to never dive alone. Data supports that having a second person check your equipment, judge conditions, have a back-up air source, etc., reduces the risks significantly. A responsible diver performs maintenance checks on the air delivery systems and the other kit.

Finally, a responsible diver understands there are limits of endurance, physical effects from exposure to higher pressures at depth and how the human body reacts to the dive environment.

I have a friend who has completed more than 5,500 successful dives around the globe. His exploits have included some locations that increased risk (diving into a shipwreck, diving under ice, and cave exploring) that were completed with absolutely no problems.

These good results are linked to his awareness and properly managing the details. Even with all the planning, organizing, and proper actions, accidents can and do occur. But investigations prove the frequency and the impacts are reduced when persons act responsibly, follow the industry standards, and know when to raise a question before taking an action.

3 Ways to deal with Risk Management

Organizations have three general options with regard to how they deal with threats and perils:

  1. Ignore the risk.
  2. Control the risk.
  3. Insure against the risk.

Consider these direct correlations to how you can address risks in the Facility Management arena and practice real Risk Management for your company.

You engage experienced professionals to execute the activity.

You certainly would not ask the plumber to perform electrical transformer maintenance. It would be unwise to ignore the risk. You also probably wouldn’t want the high-voltage electrician to only pick up specialist tools once or twice each year, would you? They would not have all of the proper procedures and safety techniques available in their memory.

Confucius stated it well with “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” The persons who are familiar and who execute the tasks regularly have greatest awareness. To control the risk, an experienced crew will be tasked and will follow safe practices.

You review the risk and the value of the mitigation.

Akin to the Life Insurance company that will only consider cover for a person who limits their dive depths, the responsible FM will understand the site and where/when hazards begin to increase.

For example, when the organization undertakes maintenance on the fire sprinkler system and interrupts water flow, the accepted standard required by insurance carriers is to implement a ‘Fire Watch’ to overcome the increased risk. Another important aspect to be considered is that Building Codes are, in reality minimum standards.

The responsible FM will be vigilant to understand how the activities and occupants might introduce practices that increase the risk.

You ensure a pro-active maintenance scheme is in play.

It is easily understood that organizations that experience interruptions in business will lose income. But many do not consider that the scale of the interruption can be catastrophic. The FM has a responsibility to institute controls that help deliver ultra reliability in the building systems.

Planning and documenting is paramount, but it needs to also include robust inspections, preventive and predictive maintenance, and reactive repairs to service all the components.

You confirm (validate) the conditions and the actions.

Similar to the buddy system for divers and the ‘doubled checks’ to confirm readiness, FM should establish appropriate quality assurance / quality control for best practices. This will vary from a representative sampling for standard items all the way to extreme redundancies – again depending on the risk and the hazard.

Use a simple matrix to help make the judgment on likelihood and impact. It will help you analyze and appreciate the impact of contributing factors.

You recognize that “accidents happen”.

For all the planning and organizing one will attempt, there are exceptional circumstances that we cannot foresee. This is where the professional FM will have drills, discussions, and operational management reviews to consider scenarios.

This is certainly a place where group ideation (brainstorming) can be valuable. It is often beneficial to include a diverse group to participate even if some unusual ideas come forth. The variations in perspectives and the predisposition they bring may well originate an alternate concept of immense value.


Many organizations place executive responsibility for Risk Management and insurance with the CFO. But the facility operations are a common thread for all manner of risks to the site, the structures, operations, occupants, etc.

The FM participation in review of risks to support the CFO will pay dividends to the organization. If you’re not already involved, volunteer to contribute. These successful contributions will help incorporate controls that will reduce stress… Maybe not as much as a good dive, but it will surely be an improvement.

Bloggers Bio:

Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown, CFM, FMP, SFP, CPE, CBCP, CESCO, REM CEO, FM-adviso, Ltd.

After a successful career in stateside facilities management, Stephen Brown assumed a position with an international portfolio. Since that time, Brown has held senior posts in the Caribbean, UK/Europe, and the Middle East. After more than 20 years managing the built environment for both private and public sector organizations, Brown founded FM-adviso to support organizations with specialist and credentials training in addition to consulting on operational efficiencies, outsourcing, policies and procedures, contract management, environmental matters, and emergency response / business continuity.

Brown earned an MBA after undergraduate work that combined studies in Architectural Technology and Business Management. Qualified as a trainer for IFMA and DRII credentials programs, he has been published and has been an instructor for other environmental, emergency response and disaster preparedness training programs.

For more than eight years, exceptional studies have been applied to refining two key facility assessments – IAQ (indoor air quality) and Business Continuity Management.

Active in IFMA program development activities, Brown has earned IFMA Certified Facility Manager®, Facility Management Professional®, and Sustainable Facilities Professional® credentials. He also holds Certified Plant Engineer, Certified Business Continuity Professional, Registered Environmental Manager, and Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer credentials.

With more than 25 years managing and advising on the built environment for corporate, public, and academic settings in the US, Europe, Caribbean and Middle East, he has a diverse background of successes to draw from.

Recognized as a Subject Matter Expert in the field of Facilities Management, he has contributed broadly to professional credentials and certification programs.

In parallel, Brown has devoted efforts toward Disaster Planning, Emergency Response, and Business Continuity activities as well as keen attention to environmental matters, energy conservation, and to maximize efficiency in all aspects of the delivery of Facility Management services.

Credentials and Certifications held include:
- Certified Facility Manager
- Facilities Management Professional
- Sustainable Facilities Professional
from International Facilities Management Association

- Certified Plant Engineer
from Association for Facilities Engineering

- Certified Business Continuity Professional
from Disaster Recovery Institute

- Registered Environmental Manager
- Certified Environmental & Safety Compliance Officer
from National Registry of Environmental Professionals


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