Risk Roundup for March and April 2018

Our second Risk Roundup of the year is notable for its tragedies and hope for a safer world. Over the last two months we’ve had a bridge collapse in Miami, a Facebook data privacy crisis, a family tragedy in Mexico, an airline’s worst accident, and we ended April with great hope for North and South Korea. All together, they represent our top risks for March and April.

Pedestrian bridge collapses in Miami
In mid-March, a newly built pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed, killing six people and injuring nine. How could such a thing happen? Contractors were certified. Processes were followed. Or were they? Two days before the collapse, a bridge project engineer called an official at the Florida Department of Transportation and left a voicemail warning about “some cracking.” The official was on assignment and didn’t receive the message. The risk management process associated with civil engineering projects should account for new incoming information that impacts worker and public safety.

Facebook under fire for data privacy and fake news
Facebook came under fire for mistakes made related to fake news and data privacy. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg issued a mea culpa on Capitol Hill. Facebook also created new policies and updated requirements to protect users’ data, as well as implemented a new authorization process for advertisers designed to prevent the spread of fake news. The market applauded, and there was little or no fallout in terms of user behavior and ad revenue. On the sidelines, any company should admire Facebook’s incident response.

Iowa family tragedy in Mexico
Spring Break is supposed to be fun. For one Iowa family, it was tragic. The family of four lost their lives in the middle of the night when the water heater in their rented condo leaked propane and asphyxiated all family members. According to the National Institutes of Health, “exposure to very high concentrations of propane can cause death by suffocation from lack of oxygen.” It makes Risk Roundup wonder what policies and safeguards are in place to protect people staying in hotels, resorts, and Airbnbs around the world?

Southwest Airlines’ worst accident ever
On a Southwest flight from New York to Dallas, a fan blade broke off from an engine, sending debris into the wing and fuselage. The damage blew out the window on Row 14 and fatally injured the passenger sitting in the window seat. The plane landed safely in Philadelphia, but it represented the worst accident in Southwest’s history. By all appearances, like the way passengers were taken care of and immediate inspection of engine fan blades on all its planes, the company clearly understands the importance of business continuity and disaster recovery planning.

Historic Korea summit
Geopolitical risk watchers didn’t see this coming. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in had a historic meeting at the Military Demarcation Line. Right there in the DMZ, both leaders signed a document that commits the two countries to a nuclear-free peninsula and sets into motion a formal end to the Korean War. That’s good news for companies with operations or supply chains in South Korea or aspirations for North Korea. A geopolitical risk has been mitigated for the time being.

That’s it for our May edition of Risk Roundup. We’ll be back in early July with a roundup of notable risks from May and June.

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