Congratulations to Clare Dallat seen here presenting her final thesis paper, ‘Beyond Likelihood and Consequence: Developing a Systems Approach to Risk Assessment in the Led Outdoor Activity Context’ at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Her initial research concluded that while risk assessments were a vital part of planning led outdoor activity (LOA) programs in Australia, the focus tended to be at the ‘sharp’ end of practice ie operational staff, and rarely looked at the far more complex system of other contributing factors.
As a result, she has developed a new risk assessment method, NET-HARMS (NETworked Hazard Analysis and Risk Management System) which is capable of identifying systemic risks as well as emergent risks.
The longer-term plan is to develop a practical, easy to use tool for organisations looking to improve their risk management and safety systems. A secondary benefit from using this tool may be the development of better procedures based on what actually happens in an organisation as opposed to what is thought to happen.
An article will be published soon on the OCA website that describes the new system, how it can be applied and the likely benefits.
Inadequate risk assessment has often been highlighted as a contributing factor in the injuries and deaths of participants on led outdoor activity (LOA) programs in Australia, and internationally. The field of safety science considers that accidents in complex safety-critical domains (e.g. LOA’s, healthcare, aviation) are caused by a combination of decisions and actions of multiple actors situated across the system, not just by any actors working at the so-called sharp end of practice (e.g. instructor, pilot or nurse). Prior to this program of research, it was unclear as to whether this systems thinking perspective had been translated across to risk assessment practice.
To address this gap, a literature review of current risk assessment methods was conducted, followed by a survey of current risk assessment practice, the subsequent development and application of a new systems thinking-based risk assessment method, and finally, testing of the method’s reliability and validity. The studies found that current risk assessment methods and practice are not consistent with systems thinking, that existing risk assessment methods are limited in their ability to identify system wide risks, and that the new risk assessment method (the NETworked Hazard Analysis and Risk Management System; NET-HARMS) is capable of identifying systemic risks as well as emergent risks.
Further, formal reliability and validity testing of NET-HARMS demonstrated that risk assessment may be enhanced by involving multiple analysts from across the work system in the process. These findings have important implications for risk assessment activities being conducted within complex safety-critical domains.
Rasmussen’s (1997) Risk Management Framework