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Managing risk

A beaver was killed by a tree falling on it that was cut down another beaver.

The El Rito Beaver. A beaver was killed by a tree falling on it that was cut down by another beaver.

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

A few years ago, I worked with the United States Forest Service as a Safety Officer for a large national forest in Idaho. The forest was substantial and the hazards of logging operations, trail breaking, ranger district maintenance and of course, massive amounts of “windshield time” (driving) were prevalent. Mega-risk was continuous day in and day out and difficult to control. However, it is one picture from a different forest that was given to me by a Lumber Contracts Administrator which really tells the whole story of how important risk management is in everything we do. It is the photo of the El Rito Beaver.

More than likely, the El Rito Beaver was working with an associate and neither beaver properly assessed the hazards of an operation they had performed many times before. The two were plying their trade as they had done with countless aspen trees in the past and didn’t perceive this operation as risky since they had always been successful. From the outcome, it is woefully apparent that risk management was certainly not on the radar of either Castor Canadensis to permit this type of fatal outcome. So what could they have done to limit the risk of their operation? They could have applied RM to their aspen tree felling plan and involved the application of the complete 5-Step RM Process prior to the “cutting” operation.

Control the outcome as follows:

1. Identify the Hazards: Step one of the RM process involves application of appropriate hazard identification techniques in order to identify hazards associated with the operation or activity. Beavers could be hit or crushed by falling aspen trees during beaver tree-felling operations.

2. Assess the Hazards: The assessment step involves the application of quantitative and or qualitative measures to determine the probability and severity of negative effects that may result from exposure to hazards or risks and directly affect mission or activity success. High probability that beavers in the fall zone can be injured or killed by felled aspen trees.

3. Develop Controls and Make Decisions: Step three involves the development and selection of specific strategies and controls that reduce or eliminate risk. Effective mitigation measures reduce one of the three components (probability, severity or exposure) of risk. Post monitor beaver in a safe zone to keep all additional beavers out of the fall zone of felled aspen trees to lower the risk.

4. Implement Controls: Once control measures have been selected, an implementation strategy must be developed and carried out. The strategy must identify the who, what, when, where and costs associated with the control measure. Additional beavers to monitor tree fall line to prevent other beavers from entering the hazard zone during tree felling operations. Minor cost to operation, benefits great, risk lowered.

5. Supervise & Evaluate: The RM process continues throughout the life cycle of the system, mission, or activity. Leaders and supervisors at every level must fulfill their respective roles to ensure controls are sustained over time. Once controls are in place, the process must be periodically re-evaluated to ensure controls remain effective and mission supportive over time. All beavers discuss the aspen tree felling operation to evaluate the process and suggest additional risk mitigation techniques if necessary.

There can be more hazards to this beaver operation, but quite honestly I think you all get the point.

In closing, assess risk in each of your daily activities. Assess what you do at work, during physical fitness training, your time off activities and especially while operating a motor vehicle or motorcycle. Take the time to minimize the possibility of a mishap and manage risk simply and effectively.

Remember, don’t be the El Rito Beaver, stay safe my friends!