Volume 41, Issue 9 - September 2006


A Risky Kinda Business?
by Lyle R. Hill

“This is Bob and how may I help you today?” the ever-friendly customer service rep stated after answering his phone mid-way through its second ring. 

“Hey Bob, it’s Pete, and am I ever glad I got through to you right away because I’m in a bit of a pickle and I need your help.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Bob responded, “now what can I do for you?”

“I’m out on a jobsite and I need to get a small piece of glass cut and edged as soon as possible. It’s the last item on this big project that I’m trying to finish. So let me just give you the info real quick and then I’ll swing by in an hour or two and pick it up.”

“OK, Pete, just let me pull out the appropriate forms and we’ll get this thing going for you.”

“You don’t need any forms, Bob. I just need one little piece of plate glass with a little bit of edge work. It couldn’t be simpler. And listen, my cell phone battery is beeping at me, which means it’s running out of juice so can we hurry this up a bit?”

“I’m going to do everything I can to hurry this along for you, Pete, but I gotta follow procedures. So let’s get started. First we need to fill out an RAF.”

“What’s an RAF, Bob?”

“Well, Pete, RAF stands for risk analysis form. I have to ask you a few questions to determine the risk factor for the glass you want. It’s only 15 questions, but it’s not a big deal because the answers you provide are instantly scored and if you get a high enough score on the RAF, then I can go to the next procedure, which is the LRQ.”

“Bob! What the blazes are you talking about?”

“Calm down there, little buddy. Even if you don’t pass the LRQ, I’ll probably still be able to get the glass for you as long as you’re willing to sign an LLW.”

“Please Bob! What are you talking about?”

“OK, let me explain a bit. The LRQ is the liability risk quotient, which we use to determine how much risk we have by actually providing this piece of glass … you know you can never be too careful about these things. Danger is lurking everywhere. But even if your ‘quotient’ score is a little high … say above 35 percent ... we can overcome it by having you sign an LLW.”

“And what, pray tell, is an LLW?”

“That would be your standard limited liability waiver, which very simply states that you assume full responsibility for the measuring, thickness determination and final use of the product being provided and that under no set of circumstances would you ever state that I or those I represent had any influence over you at the time you made your decision as to what product to use or how to use it. Further, you agree to defend and hold me and the firm that employs me harmless from any damages, claims or issues of liability that may arise from the use of the product you have requested. Lastly, in the event that some form of action is taken directly or indirectly against me or the firm, you will defend us and do so in a manner acceptable to us and provide such affirmative defensive actions as we deem appropriate for as long as we both shall live.”

“Bob … it’s a small piece of ¼-inch plate glass with a little grinding on one edge. This is not a big deal, believe me!”

“Maybe it’s not a big deal today, but what if something happens in the future and this glass is somehow tied in to whatever disaster occurs? Do you realize the potential risk here? Do you not understand the importance of building a preemptive defensive barrier to protect yourself from unknown hazards, either real or imaginary?” 

“Bob, I’ve known you for a long time and this has never come up before. For years now, I’ve relied on you for help and assistance when I needed something. What happened?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked, Pete. You see, I just completed the company’s new “Risk Management and Loss Control Training Program” and I’m a new and better man for it. I never fully appreciated just how much of a chance we take every time we take an order or provide a product or service. And if you don’t do everything possible to insulate and protect yourself from all possible risk and harm, who’s going to? It’s downright scary I tell ya! Ultimately, of course, everyone in the organization will be programmed … I mean trained … but I was lucky enough to be in the very first class and I’m simply putting to use that which I have learned and now enthusiastically embrace. Although I gotta tell you that I haven’t had a sound night’s sleep since I took the class.”

“Who taught the class … some ambulance-chasing lawyer?” 

“No, Bob. It was taught by a team of risk mitigation consultants and they really knew their stuff. Before we started the class they even had us sign a waiver that absolved them and their heirs and associates from anything that any of us ever do for the rest of our lives that may be the direct or indirect result of anything we heard or thought we heard during our time with them. Were these guys great or what?”

“Personally, I think this is ridiculous, but I can tell from the tone of your voice, Bob, that you’re serious about this. So if I sign your silly LLW can I get the glass?”

“As soon as we complete a PPI and a DRW.”

“I hesitate to ask, Bob, but my guess is you’re going to tell me anyway so go ahead … what is a PPI and a DRW?”

“Indeed, Pete, not only do I want to tell you … I have to tell you. This is important stuff. The PPI is the probability of a problem index and the DRW is your basic denial of responsibility waiver, which is really just a back-up form to the LLW but you can never be too safe now, can you?”

“This just all seems so silly to me, Bob. Has the whole world lost its mind? I mean … what could possibly happen to you, even if the order did get messed up?”

“Well, what if you complain to my supervisor and get me in trouble even though I did nothing wrong? Or what if you take legal action against me or the company? I could lose my job. I could lose my home. I could go to jail. I could lose everything! Now that I think about it, maybe you should talk to somebody else about this glass. I’m going to hang up now.”

“But Bob, we work for the same company … we’re on the same team. Remember?”

“Hmmm … you have a point there. OK, I’ll waive the LRQ and the DRW … but just this once!”

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