I recently undertook the Alternate Knowledge Assessment, run by Newcastle University, on behalf of Safety Institute of Australia. Part of the assessment was to develop a SWMS, which if followed, would have avoided a crane related incident. The SWMS required an initial risk assessment to determine the risk rating based on the supplied risk criteria. Interestingly, following the application of control measures, there was no residual risk. This annoyed me at first as I had no opportunity to show how much I had reduced the risk, however upon reflection, I realised that the format of the SWMS somewhat agreed with my view on risk management.
If you consider the fatal consequence of falling from the nacelle of a wind turbine 70 m above the ground and you apply risk control measures, the objective is that a person will not fall. The control measures are a combination of Lock Out Tag Out, harnesses, helmets, double hook lanyards, engineered anchor points, training, a buddy system, rescue plans and limitations of work at certain wind speeds. With all these controls, the potential to fall is very low, and if they all work as required, the fallen person may be hurt to varying degrees. An even less likely event is that the critical controls measures do not work when a person falls, resulting in the fatal consequence. Thus more than one outcome in the title of this blog.
Going back to my SWMS, I realised that all my control measures were to ensure the event didn't happen, as the consequence, in most instances, was not going to change if a critical control didn't work. If you consider the strength of the controls I have described above, which can be readily circumvented or rely on people to implement them every time, as well as monitor them, the real consequence remains catastrophic.
By focusing on the true consequence, and doing everything to prevent them from eventuating, rather than a fanciful mitigated consequence to meet some corporate risk acceptance criteria, personnel are less likely to become complacent by the message that the controls they write into a SWMS or risk assessment will always work.