Proactive incident management: More insights, fewer issues

Is it time to review your approach to incident management? Being proactive can help reduce risk in the first place – and lower costs overall.

Evelyn Chuang

by Evelyn Chuang

Let’s talk about incident management. Issues happen – and you must resolve them. That’s just the way it is. Or is it? While this reality will never go away – it doesn’t have to be the only way to address problems in your facilities. What if you could cut the number of problems by cutting them off at the pass? Read how a proactive approach brings more reward by reducing risk overall 

Incident management is always important

We can all agree: mitigating damage is mandatory. But too often this high priority takes precedence over the game-changing factor of reducing risk ahead of time. For too many companies, what makes for successful incident management gets lost in the (understandable) rush to resolve urgent issues. 

At the minimum, environmental, health, and safety (EHS or SHE) incidents add a short-term cost and time-consuming impact to the business operation. Any facilities manager, EHS team, or quality professional knows these all too well. Costly damages mitigation, medical expenses, worker’s compensation. Not to mention pricy investigations, reports, and penalties.  

It makes sense that any manager would want to tackle these problems as quickly as possible, by mitigating as much damage as possible. First comes the response plan to deal with any present concerns, then reviewing processes to fill gaps or fix defects so that the same thing won’t happen again. However, even the most well-planned response won’t be enough to fully protect your company. 

Even the most well-planned response won’t be enough to fully protect your company.

Why only reacting to problems becomes a problem

Sometimes with incident management, today’s problems become tomorrow’s catastrophes. That is, once issues are resolved, their impact can stick around. Some issues are symptoms of bigger concerns with your facilities, like the need for an environmental remediation program or fundamental changes to production lines. Still other issues can take longer to overcome, such as mistakes or missed steps that translate into long-lasting damage to your corporate reputation and post-market product liabilities. 

In addition, while a reactive approach stops existing issues from getting worse and/or from coming back, it often isn’t expansive enough to give you the whole story. involve all the necessary stakeholders or technology in its assessment and decision-making processes. This narrows your perspective to the here and now, which can leave you high and dry in the future.  

Stopping issues begins before incident management

There will always be issues to resolve – no magic spell will change that. Yet, there is a way to reduce them by being ahead of the game. A proactive approach to incident management protect your business by identifying emerging risks and eliminating them before they become problems.  

On one hand, the reactive management style solves problems, mitigates damages, and reflects on what’s happened. On the other, a proactive style looks at what could happen to avoid dangers, reduce damages, and even open new business opportunities. Certainly, you’ll need both strategies to some extent in your business. However, only one of them can reduce the need for the other.  

Unlike a reactive approach that looks at the past to improve in the future, proactive incident management looks to the future for steps you can take towards success – today. The sooner in the process you implement that perspective, the less backtracking you’ll do later on. 

The pros of a proactive approach

You’re on the path to progress 

Because being proactive goes beyond following existing rules and provisions, it sets you apart with the ability to forecast. This focus on the future keeps your company ahead of the curve (and the competition) with an eye to what’s coming up. Enterprises eager to keep up with regulatory developments find themselves ahead of the game when new concerns come down the pipeline. 


You’re also on investors’ radars 

Not only will a proactive approach reduce the cost of issue resolution, it also gives you a leg up on what investors are looking for. Namely: sustainability. 

Environmental, social, and government (ESG criteria) consider a company’s capabilities to integrate ecological sustainability, social relation on providing better working conditions, and corporate self-governance into the core of the business operation. Having a proactive incident management strategy is persuasive to investors. They see your company’s dedication to surmounting challenges, tendency to support sustainable development, and the competence to continue growing your business come what may. 

How to be proactive in your incident management

Make ongoing compliance a priority 

The first step to enhancing your incident management system is devising a robust EHS compliance strategy. It’s not news that EHS regulations continue to evolve with global trends and emerging issues. So must your strategy to manage that risk. Ensure that 1) you have a comprehensive outlook on what’s changing in EHS across the world, 2) you’re clear on how you’ll need to meet upcoming requirements, and 3) compliance is part of your company’s overarching culture. 

Examine all possible hazards 

Keep in mind that being proactive is not only following existing rules and provisions. It’s also the ability to forecast. Specifically, as you keep on top of global regulatory trends, you’ll need to predict which could impact your business and already start to prepare for them. This requires key information ahead of time. Make sure that your source for regulatory updates includes explanations about proposals, policies, guidance, and other items that could become requirements in the future. 

Leverage new technologies 

Once you have a full view of what regulatory issues could impact your business, you need a constant eye on how well you’re prepared for them. Your technology plays a big part. Adopting an auditing system and tools to track and review your organization’s compliance status is key to keeping an eye out – and keeping the number of incidents down. 

Involve more stakeholders 

A proactive approach not only involves the management staff but requires them to take the lead on incident management and risk reduction. For yours to be effective, you need that full perspective on how to prevent accidents or other issues. Make sure you have a transparent system in place that’s accessible to employees of all levels – and that they feel empowered to speak up and provide input.

Proactive incident management: Your reward in risk reduction

Risk strategy and incident management are both critical to your company’s success. The more proactive you can be in them, the more it will pay off in the future. A forward-looking compliance strategy is your first step to better foresee, control, and eliminate EHS issues overall. In the end, you can see significant savings in damages, compensation, and law enforcement costs – not to mention opportunity for grow. So, is the majority of your management time spent on responding after incidents take place? Now is the time to turn the way you review compliance risks into real reward.

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