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What is risk management?

LT Ray

Is risk management an annual training burden (aka "paper dragon") or fully ingrained in our culture? Most Sailors have heard of risk management (RM) and most have an idea of how RM works, but can't we as a professional organization do better than that? Different instructions govern different types risk management. Those instructions all look similar and have similar components. When applied to the mission correctly, they produce the same result: Meeting the mission, repeatedly, in a mishap free manor. Safety is a bi-product of effective risk management.

OPNAVINST 5100.39, Operational Risk Management (ORM), has been around for about 20 years. The Naval Safety Center (NSC) is the ORM model manager. One of the many responsibilities we have is to "manage organizational and individual risk Navywide". Risk management should be applied to all tasks, 24/7, 365; at home and at work; with friends, family, and co-workers. But, do we routinely and effectively employ RM? Do we consistently: Identify hazards, assign a risk assessment code based on severity and probability, prioritize these hazards, implement controls, supervise and evaluate the evolution, and repeat. The controls you chose to use is limited by your resources, your technical limitations, and your imagination. NSC survey teams will ask your ORM program managers to provide documentation (filled out OPNAV 3502/1, 3502/2, 3502/3) (similar forms available on the NSC web site) that your command utilizes ORM fundamentals properly.

Risk management principles are also applied by the acquisition community who design, build; and provide training and logistics support for the ships, aircraft, and other weapons systems we operate. Standard Practice for System Safety (MIL-STD 882 Rev E), Naval SYSCOM Risk Management Policy (various instruction numbers apply from the 5000 series), and Requirements for NAVSEASYSCOM Safety Program for Ships and Shipboard Systems (NAVSEAINST 5100.12) are a few of the important RM policies that describe the SYSCOMs methods for managing safety risks associated with weapons systems and equipment. Just as fleet operators use the OPNAV ORM policy as a guide to manage risks in their daily operations and personal lives, the acquisition community and systems commands use these system safety processes to facilitate mitigation of system induced hazards without incurring excessive costs or unreasonably limiting performance of the weapon systems. When fleet operators and maintainers identify system related hazards they have a responsibility to communicate the hazard and recommended corrective actions to the type commander and the SYSCOMs so that they can assess the risk to the force; and decide whether those risks need to be mitigated fleetwide thru system design changes, or improved training and procedures. This reporting can be done in many ways, including mishap and hazard reports, Quality Deficiency Reports, and Planned Maintenance System (PMS) Feedback reports, to name just a few. If you suspect you have an unmitigated risk associated with a system or component used by other fleet units, at a minimum, report it to your TYCOM, NAVSAFECEN, the responsible SYSCOM, and In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) via a hazard report and any of the other feedback channels at your disposal. Giving the supporting agencies a heads up on system related hazards gives those organizations that support our warfighters the opportunity to proactively mitigate risks before the hazard results in a mishap.

Operating our complex and high tech equipment for the purpose of war fighting is not a safe evolution. We meet the mission successfully and repeatedly due to the time proven, sound fundamentals of risk management. Please contact me or the Naval Safety Center staff for training, resources, formal school inquiries, or any other risk management issue. Additional information is available at under ORM.
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Date:Jan 1, 2013
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