About Justin Smulison

Justin Smulison is the business content writer at RIMS.

Zombie Risk Management 101

An emerging risk over the past 10 years has been the rise of undead walkers, or “zombies” and their influence on supply chains, natural resources and mortality rates. These once-alive individuals thrive on human flesh and spread deadly diseases; their exploits have been well documented in California and Georgia for years on basic cable television.

Renegade armies have made significant gains in controlling the risks of these attacks and uprisings using makeshift weapons, but sadly, the supply chain is limited due to an outbreak that has been wiping out Americans.

To avoid these risks, on Halloween, encourage employees to travel in pairs in case the undead appear out of the shadows, as they often do. Their bites are infectious and pose the risk of death or even worse—you could become one of them. Should you sustain a bite, consider whether you will want to:

  • “Live on” and become a flesh-eater
  • Be placed under special quarantine
  • Be terminated on-the-spot to prevent future outbreaks and harm

As previously reported in Risk Management magazine, when considering risk management techniques for zombie encounters, such as fight or flee, it pays to plan ahead: Consider objects around you that could be used as weapons, wear shoes that can accommodate speed if fleeing is necessary and always be aware of your surroundings.

The undead do not need oxygen or blood to function, as detailed in the Zombie Survival Guide. They can thrive on land and even under water, so be sure to account for both scenarios when designing your contingency plans. If you are preparing to defend yourself or your company, it’s suggested you use a long blade or propulsion weapon and be sure to aim for the head. It is commonly believed that once its brain is pierced, a zombie should perish for good. Visit the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness page for more survival techniques and tips on how to best handle an encounter with the undead.

Keeping Halloween Parties Safe in the Workplace


This year, Halloween is expected to be celebrated by a frightening number of Americans – 179 million. According to the National Retail Federation, 48% of adults plan to celebrate in-costume. These 18-year-olds-and-older are not just chaperoning young trick-or-treaters, many are also employees with their own collective sweet tooth. If you plan to indulge these kids-at-heart with a voluntary workplace celebration, here are some tips to consider:

Dress Code Updates

Your company’s dress code policy will obviously need some flexibility for the day, but one can still be enforced in an effort to limit costumes or themes that are too polarizing, provocative or offensive. It’s good practice to inform employees that certain dress code policies will be enforced.

“Provide examples of inappropriate costumes, such as costumes that are too revealing or are ethnic-, religious- or race-based costumes,” Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP, an employment and discrimination law firm, said on its blog. “Request that employees avoid political costumes that could be offensive. If an employee shows up in an offensive costume, send the employee home to change into appropriate clothes.”

Safety Hazards

Even when preparing your company’s party, safety should come first. Be sure that anyone involved in decorating and preparations uses proper equipment. It may seem basic, but related workplace accidents can lead to lawsuits and fines. For example, a preschool teacher broke her arm in 2010 while standing on a child’s seat to hang some decorations, and the school incurred a $5,000 penalty for violating OSHA’s safety terms. Decorations should not put any worker in harm’s way or prohibit their ability to do their job.

Fire risks increase during Halloween parties, often due to the combination of candles and the flammability of the decorations and costumes. PropertyCasualty360.com encourages holiday staples like jack-o-lanterns, but suggests using flameless LED candles that are bright enough to illuminate your carving but don’t pose the risks of a real flame. Due to their flammability, the site also dissuades the use of:

  • Dried flowers or floral arrangements.
  • Corn husks or dried corn stalks.
  • Crepe paper garland or other paper decorations.
  • Homemade paper-towel ghosts.
  • Driveway lanterns with real candles.

Food and Drink

It’s not just employees’ sensibilities that are delicate. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 million Americans suffer from an allergy each year. Be sure to have employees report any food allergies to the party planner in advance to ensure no one suffers a physical reaction.

If your business has a liquor license and continues serving a visibly intoxicated person, you may be liable for any accidents they cause. In many states, expanding employer liability is a gray area. Some state laws dictate that an employee’s conduct – even after he or she has left a company-hosted party – can still be traced back to the employer. That means that if, for example, an employee is caught driving while intoxicated and/or causes an accident afterward, an injured party can file a lawsuit against the company. When examining such a scenario based on a 2013 court case, Law360 noted:

Since liability is no longer confined to activities conducted on company property, employers may feel the need to police employees before they leave the premises.

Overall Appropriateness

If you’re still up in the air about hosting a party, then that in itself might be an indication to pass on it in the classic sense. The Society for Human Resource Management suggests reflecting on prior Halloween activities and the feedback received from employees or customers:

If most workers did not participate, this practice might not fit with the company culture. Consider alternative ways to celebrate, such as a company potluck or luncheon.

By following these tips, your company can reduce safety hazards and the risks of harassment, lawsuits and outbreaks. October is also Fair Trade Month. Check out Ben & Jerry’s sweet ways to have a “Fair Trade Halloween.”

Recovery Plans Critical Following Active Shooter Incidents

October has been mired by mass shootings in the United States. Incidents in which four or more people were shot—the criteria for a mass shooting—have occurred 15 times in the last 18 days. The Oct. 18 occurrence at a business park in Maryland, involving an employee who killed three co-workers on-site and injured two more, has increased the interest in workplace violence and active shooter preparedness plans. As previously reported, only 21% of U.S businesses surveyed felt they were prepared to manage an active shooter situation. And while preventative plans are priorities – and rightfully so – businesses should also consider how to appropriately handle their aftermath.

According to a recent white paper published by Everbridge, Active Shooter Incident Consequence Management and the Roadmap to Recovery, how a company manages the hours, days and weeks following such a crisis is vital for its operations and employees’ well-being. The study offers a four-phase approach for businesses to use following a violent incident:

Immediate Response/Pre-Recovery, which occurs in the minutes and hours following a crisis and when life safety and survival are the top priorities. Accountability, family reunification and media management are additional critical tasks once authorities have secured the workplace and crime scene.

Early Recovery, the most intensive phase, comprises the “hours-to-days along the incident timeline” that sees company managers liaising with hospitals, offering mental health support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), addressing human resources concerns and invoking the business continuity plan, among other important actions.

Mid-Recovery can be in the week-to-months following an active shooting incident, and is often when some sense of normalcy returns to the workplace and business operations. During this time, there may be some criminal or civil litigation underway and it is the “reasonable time frame” to create an After-Action Report (AAR) to reassess the incident and develop a corrective plan or update the current one. It is also the time to begin planning the one-year anniversary with a high level of employee involvement, which “is an important milestone in individual and organizational recovery, but can also be complicated and emotional.”

Long-Term Recovery is marked by the one-year anniversary and beyond, although “the physical and emotional impact of an active shooter incident can linger for decades, and sometimes an entire lifetime.” According to the report, mass shootings represent the greatest risk for acute traumatic stress disorders among the affected, compared against other types of critical incidents, like natural disasters.

In the report, author Steve Crimando says: “Crisis events are moments of truth: employees, the community, key stakeholders and the media will remember how you handled the incident for a very long time. It is important to prepare for the complex post-shooting environment well before the first shot is fired.”

Between 2014 and 2015, the U.S. experienced nearly six times as many active shooter incidents as it did between 2000 and 2001, according to the FBI.

For tips on developing an active shooter plan, visit Risk Management magazine.

New Voluntary Hot Air Balloon Safety Program Announced

The Balloon Federation of America (BFA) has instituted new safety accreditation for companies and pilots. The Envelope of Safety program was the result of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) year-long call to action from the commercial hot air balloon industry in response to last year’s mid-air accident in Lockhart, Texas which caused 16 fatalities.

The Envelope of Safety aims to enhance the standards for commercial balloon operators and reduce the risk of injury or death leading up to and during a flight. The program is voluntary and aims to reassure confidence by giving consumers the ability to select a ride company or pilot meeting the new flight worthiness certification. The Envelope of Safety’s missions it to insure that companies and pilots carrying four or more passengers:

  • Are commercially certificated for 18 months
  • Accumulate a specified amount of flight experience
  • Hold a second-class medical certificate from the FAA

Additionally, pilots are required to pass a drug and alcohol background check, attend a BFA-sanctioned safety seminar in the 12 months before takeoff and be enrolled in the FAA WINGS pilot proficiency program.

The program features three levels of safety accreditation—Silver, Gold and Platinum—which detail stringent safety requirements for companies of all sizes. That criteria includes meeting pilot requirements, holding valid aircraft and commercial vehicle insurance and hosting a forum for passengers to rate the company.

While the FAA is not connected to the new program in an official capacity, it did applaud the BFA’s announcement on its own website and promoted it via social media. Following last year’s deadly incident in Texas, the agency was criticized for having previously rejected the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendations for stricter safety oversight regarding commercial hot air balloon travel. That accident, in which a Heart Of Texas Hot Air Balloon Ride vessel crossed power lines, caught fire and plummeted 100 feet to the ground, is considered the worst of its kind in U.S. history.

The NTSB held a board meeting to examine the cause of the July 30, 2016 crash and found the accident attributable to the Heart Of Texas pilot’s pattern of poor decision making, which led to “the initial launch, continuing the flight in fog and above clouds and to dissent near clouds that decreased the pilot’s ability to see and avoid obstacles.” The board believed the operator’s bad judgment may have been exacerbated by the many prescription drugs found in his blood, according to a toxicology report. The board stressed, however, that it did not believe the medications impaired the pilot’s ability to operate the balloon.

The NTSB recommended that the FAA review its policies based on the findings and, in particular, close a loophole that exempts balloon operators from holding the same second-class medical certification that other aviators must possess.

“Today’s recommendations, if acted upon, will bring the safety standards and oversight of commercial passenger carrying balloon operators closer to those that apply to [general aviation] pilots,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.

According to the FAA, 413 people died in 219 general aviation accidents in 2016, with inflight loss of control—mainly stalls—accounting for the largest number of fatal accidents.

Visit the BFA’s site or the FAA’s endorsement for more information regarding the Envelope of Safety.