Foundations for Risk Management – They Still Matter

Our everyday lives are fraught with elements of risk – driving our children to school or ourselves to work, walking on the sidewalk, or even the public places we frequent. As practicing structural engineers, we deal with risk every day. The nature of our profession is to utilize our understanding of risk and mitigate it based on our experience, knowledge, and mastery of science and engineering principles. We design structures and structural systems that provide for the public welfare (safety) as well as achieving the functional and financial goals of our clients.

Our engineering practices are inherent with risks that are part of the nature of our profession. When the risks are recognized and understood, methods to reduce risk can be employed. Over ten years ago, the Coalition of American Structural Engineers (CASE) recognized the need for additional tools that engineers could use to reduce risk. The CASE Risk Management Program was established to develop those tools, guidelines, and other activities. The Foundations for Risk Management were established and presented as a basis upon which to build useful tools. In an article published in STRUCTURE magazine (August 2005), Doug Ashcraft from CASE outlined and detailed the Foundations for Risk Management and the basis for their implementation. The published Foundations for Risk Management are described in the attached sidebar.

As stated in 2005, “Structural Engineers have the highest claims-to-revenue ratio among practitioners in the Architectural/Engineering field.” The 2015 Professional Liability Insurance Survey of member firms conducted by ACEC reinforces that this is still the case, with mean premiums for structural engineering firms double that of any other engineering discipline. Premiums reflect the claims losses covered by insurance. Recent insurance claim information shows that 48% of claims against structural engineers are due to design errors of some type and 21% are due to construction defects (Risk Drivers, XL Catlin, 2013). The disproportionate claim amounts for SE’s and increased premiums for structural engineering firms indicates we still have work to do in reducing risk exposure.

Recently, the CASE Executive Committee has reviewed the Foundations for Risk Management (10 Foundations) to determine if they are all still relevant considering the ever-changing nature of engineering practice. Engineering principles may not change, but practices do as knowledge and technology advance. The Executive Committee determined that the 10 Foundations are as relevant today as when they were established. A few minor adjustments have been made to sub-headings, but they still form the basis for the tools and products that CASE has and will develop.

Since the Foundations for Risk Management were introduced, CASE has added to its existing library by providing additional contracts, guidelines, and tools to assist firms in reducing risk. All additional works continue to be based on the 10 Foundations. Currently, the CASE library contains 15 contracts, 16 guidelines and white papers, and 28 tools, all of which are available to CASE members for free and to all engineering firms for purchase. Recently added guidelines include Guidelines for International Building Code-Mandated Special Inspections and Tests and Quality Assurance (Foundations 6 – Scope, and 10 – Construction Phase) and Self-Study Guide for the Performance of Site Visits During Construction (5 – Education, and 10 – Construction Phase). Tool 10 – 1 Site Visit Cards (10 – Construction Phase) was recently updated to by adding additional content to assist the engineer during site observation visits.

The contracts, guidelines, and tools vary in topic and content, but all are based on the risk management foundations. National Practice Guidelines for the Structural Engineer of Record is one of the first guidelines developed and published, and remains one of the most popular publications. This guideline has been updated multiple times to stay current and is very valuable as a reference when developing scopes of service. A Guide to the Practice of Structural Engineering is an interactive tool that is very helpful in developing young engineering talent. An Agreement for the Provision of Limited Professional Services is a basic form of agreement that can be extremely useful for small projects with a very limited scope of service. These documents are just three examples of popular publications that would likely be of use to most structural engineering firms.

For success in any endeavor, a clear foundation and direction are essential. CASE believes that the Foundations for Risk Management can provide support for our firms as we identify, evaluate, and mitigate risk in our engineering practices.

For more details regarding each foundation and a downloadable pdf of the Foundation for Risk Management, go to

For further information regarding membership or to participate in CASE, please refer to the CASE website or contact Heather Talbert.▪

Foundations for Risk Management

  1. Culture
    Create A Culture Of Managing Risks & Preventing Claims
  2. Prevention & Proactivity
    Be Proactive with Preventive Techniques, Don’t Just React
  3. Planning
    Plan To Be Claims Free
  4. Communication
    Communicate to match expectations with perceptions.
  5. Education
    Educate all of the Players in the Process
  6. Scope
    Develop and Manage a Clearly Defined Scope of Services
  7. Compensation
    Prepare & Negotiate Fees that Allow for Quality and Profit
  8. Contracts
    Negotiate Clear & Fair Agreements
  9. Contract Documents
    Produce Quality Contract Documents
  10. Construction Phase
    Provide Services to Complete the Risk Management Process

The full detail for each foundation can be found at

About the author  ⁄ Brent White, P.E., S.E., SECB

Brent White, P.E., S.E., SECB (, is president of ARW Engineers in Ogden, Utah. He serves as the chair of the CASE Toolkit Committee and is a past-president of the Structural Engineers Association of Utah.

Comments posted to STRUCTURE website do not constitute endorsement by NCSEA, CASE, SEI, C3 Ink, or the Editorial Board.

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