You’re a New Risk Manager: Now What?

Maria E. Robinson
Risk Management Director, City of Flagstaff, AZ
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After almost two decades in the industry, I was presented with the opportunity of becoming a risk manager late last year. Until that point, much of my experience in risk management had been in the OccMed/Work Comp arena or the Safety world. I ultimately accepted this position knowing it would be the perfect way to hone my liability skill set. I still consider myself a new risk manager and I am continually learning, but there are a few things I learned right up front that I thought would be helpful shares for anyone new to this world, or new to an organization. These might also be good reminders for anyone who’s been doing the job for a while, because remember, attrition happens all the time.

  1. Be available! Be visible, be present. I cannot stress this enough. Answer the phone when you can, or return the call ASAP, and always respond to emails. Being available, responsive and accessible will go a long way. You can consider this “money in the bank."
  2. Build relationships. Not just relationships at your own level or within your peer group, but relationships with others up and down the rank and file alike. You should have a strong relationship with your Work Comp and Safety teams, and your legal team should be your BFF.
  3. Be approachable…this includes being visible and present. You don’t want the first time someone meets you to be when there’s a “negative” event. Attend other division/department weekly or monthly meetings and get out and visit them at their location.
  4. Pay attention! Pay special attention to your work comp and safety teams. If you aren’t on the front end of prevention, your plate will be full of reactionary type activity, and from the wise Ben Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
  5. Listen. Listen more than you talk, but when you do, ask the right questions: Will there be horses? Will there be alcohol? Will there be a helicopter? Will there be fireworks? Do they have insurance? Did we do it? If we did it, how much of it did we do?
  6. Learn from the boots on the ground. Again, trust me, no one is going to visit you in your office. If you want to know what’s going on, and you should, go spend time with and where your employees are. Go on ride-alongs, go out to the excavation site, go on a tour of the water treatment plant or the recycling plant, and yes, even get yourself out to the landfill. Get out of your office!
  7. Find out what’s “eating your lunch.” Is it backing up into fixed objects, is it needlesticks, is it use of force? If you don’t know, figure it out and then work with the right people to fix it.
  8. You can’t do it alone. Trust me when I tell you, it takes a village. If you try to go at this alone, you will not be successful.
  9. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask others in the industry what they’re doing (use association/group member list serves). Don’t be afraid to bring in a consultant, OSHA, insurance liaison, vendor, etc. You might just be amazed at their recommendations. A second set of eyes or ears never hurts.
  10. Wave that magic wand and dub everyone a safety manager or risk manager. Empower them to stop an unsafe act. People are our #1 resource. They are our eyes and ears, they are always the ones doing the task at hand, and they are always the ones at the incident.

    *The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

    By: Maria E. Robinson
    Risk Management Director, City of Flagstaff, AZ

    Summary of Qualifications

    Maria has more than 25 years in public sector, with more than 15 in the risk management industry. She currently holds the position of risk management director and has previously served as a safety and health loss control manager for the City of Tucson and occupational medical manager for Pima County, AZ. Maria's speaking engagements include: SWANA, (2019) AZPRIMA (2017 and 2018), ADEQ (2018) and NSC Southern AZ Congress & Expo (2016).


    Maria oversees liability, safety and workers' compensation programs for the City of Flagstaff. Service deliverables include: effectively managing the city's human, financial and physical assets and related liabilities, mitigating, minimizing and managing liability, managing workers compensation claims, training and development, OSHA compliance, risk assessments and site audits. She is also in charge of reviewing special events, certificates of insurance and contract language. Maria works with internal and external customers on a wholistic approach to ensure needs are met through established and best practices.

    Business Experience

    Maria has experience managing resources of varying sizes for municipal programs.

    ERM Experience

    Maria has completed PRIMAs four-day Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) training (ISO 31000).

    Professional Affiliations

    Member of PRIMA
    Board Member with Arizona PRIMA
    Member of National Safety Council
    Member of American Society for Safety Professionals


    B.S.B.A. - University of Arizona's Eller College of Management
    M.L.S. - University of Arizona's James E Roger College of Law

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