Although people often want to eliminate risk, this is simply not possible.  Instead it is important we understand the risk we undertake, put sensible controls in place and then make a conscious decision about whether we are happy to accept the risks that remain.  This is what we call risk management.

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Managing risks is a continuous process.

Flow chart showing how risks are managedIt involves identifying what can cause you or your business harm (hazards), which can be through injury, ill health, major accidents, environmental damage, quality or production loss.

You then need to understand your greatest concerns by assessing the risks.

When you know what you need to be most concerned about you can identify what can be done to reduce or control the risks.

Having implemented controls you need to monitor performance to ensure risks actually being experienced in practice are in line with your aims and to identify options for further improvement.

Understanding your risks

In order to manage risks you really need to understand them.  This requires an appreciation of the hazards, how they are controlled, what happens when control is lost, mitigation and the potential consequences.

Bow Tie used for understanding risks

The Bow Tie method is a very useful way of representing all the critical information required to understand risks. Whilst it may not give a detailed analysis of risks it does give people a good overview of the issues allowing them to use their judgement and make decisions about what needs to be done in terms of hazard removal, additional risk controls and improved mitigation.

Managing risks

The best way of minimising risk is to eliminate hazards.  However, where the hazard is integral to your business this is not possible, and so you need to manage your risks.  Engineering controls are usually the most effective, followed by softer controls (e.g. procedures, training and competence) then mitigation.

A large proportion of human factors risks are related to the tasks people perform.  This article titled Task Risk Management shows a practical method of understanding and managing these risks.  It uses Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA) and Human Error Analysis (HEA) techniques, which are demonstrated in the video animations access from the menu.

Monitoring performance

It is not good enough to assume that risks are being managed effectively without collecting evidence to back that up. In fact the best organisations always assume that there must be something wrong and will continually look for the faults in their systems.  Regular auditing has a part to play, but more active monitoring on a day to day basis is essential if your aim is to fully manage risks. To achieve this it is essential that people understand the risks, know what to expect and the signs that something may be wrong.

Analysing Incidents

Causal tree for analysing incidents

No matter how well we manage risks, things will go wrong and incidents will occur. Whilst this is a sign of failure, any incident is an excellent opportunity to learn more about how risks are being managed in practice.

It is important that all incidents, no matter how minor are analysed.  It should not be a case of asking what damage has been caused, but instead what could have happened.  When analysing incidents it is important to recognise they will always have more than one cause, and the conditions and events that led directly to the incident will have their origin in the systems and management within the organisation. Causal trees are a simple but very effective method for analysing incidents.

Access a video animation demonstrating CTA from the menu.

AB Risk can help

Risk assessment has become a fundamental aspect of managing organisations in all sectors, including those with major and less significant hazards. But often the assessments are too narrowly focused and fail to address the wider issues.

AB Risk has the knowledge and experience in the technical, human, systems and organisational aspects of risk. Whether acting as an objective third party to review and audit arrangements; or more involved in the assessment of risks, development of controls and systems, or analysis of incidents AB Risk knows what is practical and effective for managing your risks.