Why This Risk Manager Dedicated Her Career to Employee Safety

Shannon Hojnowski of Anne Arundel County, Md. shares her risk management story and how her career has made her a dedicated advocate of employee safety.
By: | February 18, 2021
Topics: The Profession

R&I: What was your first job? 

My first job was working for a large grocery chain. I started at 17 as a cashier. It was then that I realized I love meeting and working with interesting people. I was promoted to a corporate management position within that company, where I conducted safety audits, provided training and worked with regulatory agencies.

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R&I: How did you come to your current position? 

Prior to my current position, I served as a safety coordinator for Anne Arundel County, and some of the responsibilities were creating and providing training, completing inspections and consultations throughout the county. From there, I was promoted to this position.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in risk management since you’ve been in it? 

I have seen the industry shift from a focus on identification and response to incidents to implementation of training and strategies to promote a safety culture. This has been achieved through interdepartmental collaboration.

This approach affords branches of the organization to provide input and feedback regarding workplace conditions. Safety plays a fundamental role in managing claims and has become a part of the conversation when mitigating loss.

Injuries become less severe and employees communicate about potential areas of improvement. In Anne Arundel County, our departments work as a team and it’s a direct benefit to all employees.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?  

The biggest challenge is getting the message out to all employees that safety and managing risks is the top priority. This job really is all about taking care of people. Understanding the needs of a team and working with them to develop a safety program can be challenging, but when it is done right, accidents decrease and morale improves.

R&I: How has your experience in your current position informed your approach to risk management?

Being able to get out in the field and work with people, learning their jobs and challenges, affects the way that I go about program development and training. I develop programs and create training that’s customized to exactly what they do.

Developing programs and creating training that is customized, interactive and personal establishes trust and creates buy-in, affording the opportunity to implement awareness and counteract worker injuries.

When safety programs and training are implemented properly, safety is seen as a culture, not as a directive.

R&I: Who has been your mentor(s) and why? 

I have a few mentors in my life, my grandmother and my mother, my former supervisor, and my current supervisors. Each of these women share the same qualities that I respect and admire: determination, positivity and compassion for all people. I look to each one of them to inspire me.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right? 

Through communication and training, the risk management community is leveraging its relationships and looking to the experts in all areas of the business to express the need to work together to create a safety culture.

This strategy also allows for customizing the approach to safety, so departments can address their unique challenges.

It’s nice to have the comradery, partnerships and respect from our colleagues in Anne Arundel County, so as a team we strive together for a safe work environment.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of? 

Thinking back on this past year, I would say we were certainly faced with challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reinventing ways to continue to support employees and execute quality training while taking in consideration of their health and safety during a pandemic proved to be great task.

There is always opportunity, so as a risk management community we continue to re-evaluate and plan. Having a proactive approach is key in keeping employees safe.

R&I: How would you say technology has impacted the risk management profession?

Technology allows the profession and us in it to drill down on areas of opportunity and to drive safety protocols in those areas with specific needs. Utilizing available technological resources, risk management professionals have the ability to spend more time working with employees to fix the issues.

Technology is allowing us to gather the information and identify areas of opportunity faster, and ultimately prioritize our objectives impacting safety results for employees.

R&I: What’s your favorite book or movie? 

My favorite movie is “Shawshank Redemption,” because the acting is phenomenal and because it portrays themes of hope and friendship in the midst of despair.

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R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of? 

The main thing that I’m proudest of is working for this organization that allows us to encourage the safety program and continue to move forward. We have the freedom to offer in-depth and innovative training programs, which advances safety awareness and reduces accidents. Ultimately, we’re able to provide the safe work environment that employees are entitled to. I think that’s what I’m most proud of.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you’ve ever engaged in? 

I would say riskiest activity I’ve engaged in would be snorkeling. Since I can’t swim, I have to rely on the life jacket. &

Courtney DuChene is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]