Chapter 6 – Risk Management

6.7. Ask An Expert — Nancy Wilding

Ask An Expert

Nancy Wilding

Canadian Registered Safety Professional


Nancy has worked in the field of Human Resources for over 30 years. She has been a Health & Safety Officer with the City of Orillia for 9 years.

City of Orillia

Question 1: Please tell me how you started in Human Resources?

I started about 30 years ago in an administrative role. I was also involved with recruiting and safety. The company was growing and needed help.

Question 2: What is your favourite part about your role?

I started out in my career working in all aspects of Human Resources, and now am entirely Health & Safety. In HR there are a lot of grey areas. I like H&S better because it is black and white; more definitive. I like that the rewards are tangible and immediate.

Question 3: Can you explain what your organizations’ vision, mission, and goals are?

The City of Orillia’s vision is to create a progressive, professional and proud culture. Health and Safety contributes to the culture. We react strongly if someone gets hurt and will do something to fix it.

Question 4: Why do you think Risk Management is important in project planning?

It’s important to health and safety because lives depend on it. It doesn’t get more important than that. Risk management saves lives, prevents injury, and prevents illness.

Question 5: Of the 5 steps: Risk management planning, Risk Identification, Risk Assessment, Risk Response Plan, and Monitoring and Control of Risk, which would you say is the most difficult and why?

Risk identification would be the most difficult. It requires you to think about things that haven’t happened yet and anticipate what might go wrong. It requires you to identify potential hazards, do research and determine best practices. Once the risks are identified, it is easier to then prepare a response and determine how to control the risk.

Question 6: Can you tell me about a time when you completed a Risk Management plan and how did it go? Was it successful and went as planned or did you need to make changes along the way?

The City’s Job Hazard Analysis Process is a risk management plan. It involves every manager in the City, using the tools I provide. I had to train every manager on how to complete it. It is also included in the health and safety orientations. It was a two-year process upon implementing. We have a spreadsheet that every manager has to fill out for every position that reports to them. It was successful, we got a report for every job. The biggest challenge is keeping it up to date. The plan is to update each position every 5 years.

Question 7: When do you most often use Risk Management plans, or what would they be best suited for in Human Resources?

I use Risk Management plans to identify and control hazards of the work for each position. The job hazard analysis is provided to each employee, which includes inventory of job hazards and controls the City has in place. The list of controls depends on the position. The Plan also helps us prove to Ministry of Labour that we have done our due diligence. It is given to every new employee and to any employees starting a new role.

Question 8: Which of the 5 steps previously mentioned do you find most useful in Risk Management planning?

Risk Identification is critical, but Control & Monitoring of Risk is most productive. That is the one that actually makes the workplace safer. It is good to identify what the risk are, but actually doing something about it is most effective.

Question 9: Provide an example of when your organization was faced with an unprecedented event during a recent project. Did your team avoid, accept, mitigate, or transfer the risk? Describe what happened.

The risk of COVID came out of the blue. When it first started, our Pandemic Plan procedure was not as extensive as it needed to be. Changes had to be made to it all the time. We mitigated the risk mainly by following the health care protocols from the professionals (Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, WHO), and did manage to avoid the risk. We followed all public health measures, implemented new measures as required and always stayed on top of it. We communicated with all staff constantly. Everybody who could, worked from home. Huge steps were taken to reduce the risk of work related COVID infections.

Question 10: Can you recall a time that a project in your organization failed because imposing risks were not prepared for? If so, please explain the events.

Whenever someone gets hurt its because we didn’t anticipate the risk. I keep an incident log to track all incidents within the City of Orillia staff. 2/3 of incidents are due to environmental factors that you can’t anticipate or plan for, like the weather. About 1/6 of the incidents are because of people not following procedures. Another 1/6 is because we didn’t anticipate the risk and therefore didn’t have a control in place. Steps are taken to resolve any incidents that happen.

Question 11: Does your workplace team have a specific guideline to measure the level of risk when planning and completing projects?

We do for job hazard analysis. It’s basically a big excel spreadsheet that identifies the risk, evaluate the risk, puts control in place, and any further controls if needed.