Risk is a tricky thing that we humans have trouble thinking rationally about. We overestimate some risks, hesitating to board an airplane yet blithely driving a far more dangerous car to the corner store. We ignore serious risks if we’re excited about fun yet dangerous activities (yes, cave diving is thrilling but life-threatening). And it’s built into our DNA to take more risks when we’re young.

For commercial property owners, risk should be approached regularly and logically. “It’s not as difficult as owners think to conduct a risk assessment. Further, we’re happy to help you through the process,” says Ross Kollenberg, Chief Operating Officer at Paul Davis, who says that failing to address known risks could leave owners legally liable. “It doesn’t have to be labourious or expensive. But risk assessments enable owners to prevent problems completely in some cases, prepare if the risks are inevitable and reduce damage if risks become actual problems.”

Paul Davis advocates a six-step risk assessment process:

  1. Identify the hazards: Which processes, activities and situations on your property could cause damage to people or valuable infrastructure? How likely is it that the risks will occur? How severe would they be? Possible threats may be as minor as a slip, trip and fall hazard, or as significant as being located in a flood plain or hurricane zone.
  2. Determine who or what is at risk and how frequently risk occurs: Who or what could be damaged? If personnel use a break room and the gas stove is malfunctioning, many people are at risk daily. Further, the stove could cause a fire on the property.
  3. Identify precautions: Can you mitigate the risk or remove it entirely? Repairing a malfunctioning garage door opener, for instance, eliminates risk to employees and vehicles. If your property is in a flood zone, precautions will likely be longer term and aimed to reduce damage if a flood occurs. You may research what types of protective modifications you can make to the property to lessen likely damage from a flood. You may identify a mitigation and restoration contractor long before floods threaten.
  4. Document risks, precautions and action plans: List all hazards, who and what are at risk of harm, which precautions can be implemented now, and which are longer-term investments requiring time, assistance, permitting or capital.
  5. Act: Take mitigation steps now to address hazards that are easily addressed. For longer-term mitigation of more serious risks, consider planning for action.
  6. Regularly review your risk assessment: Risks change over time. Your risk assessment will, too.

Performing risk assessments is a smart step for commercial property owners. It’s also a healthy step that protects personnel and occupants on the premises. “Risk is a part of life and we can’t avoid every hazard,” Kollenberg concludes. “But we certainly can reduce the risks we face.”