Risk management engineers are engineers appointed by insurance companies to determine the risks associated with a particular facility. The engineers may be employees of the insurance company, or be consultants appointed by the insurer to look at a particular risk.

The background of risk engineers can vary enormously, and each insurance company has its own particular philosophy and method of choosing its engineers. Some of the largest insurance companies employ hundreds of risk engineers world-wide. In addition, some insurance companies value certain risk engineering skills above others. For example, one major world player in the insurance market favours engineers with a fire systems background, while others take a more general and holistic approach to risk identification and management. One company that I know of has a policy that all risk engineers require at least 20 years experience in major industrial companies, and at least 5 years executive experience at plant manager level or higher.

In general, the risk engineer appointed to look at a particular plant is a specialist in that industry. However, it does not always work out that way. Risk engineers are assigned to projects based not only on their experience and expertise, but also on logistical criteria, such as who is available at a particular place at a particular time. While this may seem counterproductive, it is often beneficial for someone from a different industry to look at your plant and asset management systems. In fact, insurance companies will routinely send different engineers to sites over a number of years to get a different set of eyes looking at the assets.

From a client’s point of view, it is important to know the background of the risk management engineer appointed by the insurer to look at your plant. Ask for the engineer’s resume and look closely at their work history and experience. Every engineer has a specialty area or two, and it is worth knowing what these areas are prior to the survey being undertaken. This will give you a good guide as to the particular interests of the engineer, and may prepare you for some of the more esoteric questions that will be raised during the survey.

Invariably, the risk engineer will be an experienced person. Risk engineers carry out somewhere between 30 to 40 risk surveys per year. If they have been working in the industry for a number of years, they will have seen hundreds of sites, ranging in risk quality from the best of the best to the disasters waiting to happen. They will have worked with companies who are fully cooperative, who view the risk survey as a benefit, and who actually value having an additional experienced person look at, and comment on, their systems. The engineer will have also worked with companies who give the risk survey a low priority, or worse still, companies who are overtly suspicious of the process. Whatever the reception, it is unlikely that the risk engineer will come across issues that he hasn’t seen before.

For the client’s staff who is assigned to be involved in the insurance engineering review, first impressions set the tone for the review. A positive attitude, and the ability to effectively interact with the risk engineer, are critical to the success of the process. Staff selected for the review should be both knowledgeable, and relatively senior, as the responses noted by the risk engineer may, in fact, become legal documents in the event of any future litigation.

Tip from Engineering Asset Management: An Insurance Perspective by Ian Barnard

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