101 Critical Days of Summer: Assessing risks first minimizes potential hazards later

  • Published
  • By Steve Serrette
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Safety Office
Risk Management is the process in which hazards to man, operations and missions are identified, associated risks assessed, control measures to reduce risks developed and put in place, and supervision provided to ensure that the task is performed within the boundaries developed.

RM is a five-step process that smoothly flows from the identification of potential hazards through risk assessment to control development, decisive control selection, implementation and review. Accomplishment of the RM process before taking action will result in the minimization of potential hazards to the worker, equipment and mission completion. The RM process can also be used to extend the capabilities of the equipment or people or mission without incurring additional risk.

The Risk Management process is composed of five distinct steps. When followed as designed these steps can adequately describe the potential risks involved in a task, as well as, the required actions to be taken to lessen the risk.

This is the most important step, as you cannot manage a hazard that has not been identified. Hazard identification consists of reviewing the task, listing the hazards and the possible causes for each hazard.

Risk assessment involves assessing the level of exposure, the severity of the worst possible event's outcome and the probability that the event will actually occur to determine the level of risk associated with a hazard. The Risk Assessment Index (on page 2a) can be used to qualify these risks so that prioritization can be accomplished allowing the allocation of time and resources to those risks deemed most deserving.

In this step, control measures (fixes) are identified for each hazard, their effectiveness is evaluated and the selection of the best control measures to be presented to the decision maker is determined. When developing control measures the following sequence should be used: change the process to eliminate the hazard; improve task design; limit exposure; provide additional training for personnel and finally, provide appropriate warnings or cautions. Effectiveness of control measures can be determined by assessing the residual risk remaining after control measures are in place using the Risk Assessment Index. Also inthis step, decisions are made as to what actions will be followed. Two main principles hold true about decision making in the RM process. Decisions should be made as late as possible, giving time for an improved risk assessment to be developed and/or the need to accept the risk may go away.

The controls decided upon in the previous step must be fully implemented by those performing the task. When adequate controls are defined and conscious implementation is employed to control risk the end result is a less hazardous process.

The control measures that are implemented should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are being followed correctly and that the measures actually provide the level of control that is expected. When it is noticed that the control measures do not adequately provide a required level of risk control at optimum cost, additional reviews should be performed using the RM process.

RM focuses on all areas of risk, it requires a systematic review of all steps in a process prior to mission start and it anticipates problems and determines possible solutions. The path to risk control may require several reviews of a single task using the RM assessment process steps or require additional analyses of related processes but the end result is worth the time and effort.

Further information on Risk Management is available in Air Force Instruction 90-802 "Risk Management", the 72nd ABW Safety Website and the Air Force Safety Center website.

On or off duty, think before you ac! Continue to enjoy a safe Critical Days of Summer.