Warning of a hazard is great, but eliminating it is far better. A well-known mutual insurer, priding itself on its ability to manage customers’ risks, runs a television advertisement that demonstrates how tricky this can be. I thought about their ad while preparing a class entitled, “The Ethics of Risk” for Emory University this spring. How do we ethically deal with risks of loss, hazards, and perils? In the television ad, we are shown a banana peel on the sidewalk — a definite hazard. Then along comes the risk manager, who places an orange cone in front of it. He has warned of the hazard, certainly a good risk practice, but in this case, the wrong practice. What if a blind person tripped over the orange cone? A good risk manager would have eliminated the hazard by simply picking up the banana peel and throwing it away.

There are many ways of dealing with risks. Most of us think in terms of taking action — do something, NOW! But that may not always be the best risk plan. A comedian many years ago (I’ve forgotten his name, but perhaps some reader may recall it and let us know. I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism!) did a routine called, “It’s in the Book,” a spoof on illogical nursery rhymes. One went something like this:

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