I am a risk taker...

  • Published
  • By Maj. Todd Abshire
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Safety Office
Hi, my name is Todd and I am a risk taker.

What did he just say? Who would freely admit to being a risk taker in today's Air Force. Whether you realize it or not, you are a risk taker too.

I recently attended the Operational Risk Management course at the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The course was three days long and I gained valuable in-depth knowledge of how to use ORM properly.

Can you recite the four pillars of ORM from memory? You may not be able to express them verbatim but you probably do them without thinking: accept no unnecessary risk, make risk decisions at the appropriate level, accept risk when benefits outweigh the costs and integrate ORM into Air Force doctrine and planning at all levels.

Let's take a look at that first one -- accept no unnecessary risk. Notice that it didn't say accept no risk, but no unnecessary risk. Flying aircraft, driving vehicles, operating machinery or just getting out of bed in the morning involve some type of risk.

Air Force Policy Directive 90-9 defines risk as "the probability and severity of loss or adverse impact from exposure to various hazards." Great, now I know I am not supposed to take unnecessary risk, but how do I determine what is unnecessary? Do a risk assessment.

A risk assessment "is the process of detecting hazards and their causes, and systematically assessing the associated risk." You may have a lot of time to accomplish the risk assessment or a split second when doing a time-critical risk assessment.

Here is a scenario for you to think about. You are on a road trip driving down a two-lane highway at night and the cruise control is set to the posted speed limit of 65 mph. The road has multiple hills and curves with little to no paved shoulder and it is lightly raining.

As you approach another car going in the opposite direction, your eyes detect movement of an animal running into the road. What do you do? Do you swerve left and hit the other car, slam on the brakes, hit the animal and hope for minimal damage, or swerve right and leave the road? This is a time-critical risk assessment.

Let's back up to before you started your trip. What could you have done to prevent or manage the risk of having a traffic accident? First, you would identify the potential hazards such as time of day, weather, wildlife and traffic.

Second, assign a risk assessment code based on the probability and severity of the hazard causing a mishap and the potential outcome.

Third, implement control measures to reduce the risk associated with the hazards. Some control measures include reject, or not take the trip; avoid, select a different route or drive slower; or delay, not drive at night or wait for the weather to improve.

Finally, reevaluate the hazards based on your control measures. Once you have assessed the hazards and taken steps to mitigate them you can decide if the benefits outweigh the costs to take your trip.

On-duty mishap rates have dropped significantly with the introduction of risk management and mishap prevention programs. Unfortunately, off-duty mishaps are a continuing problem.

Although we have seen safety records broken, complacency is our enemy. Your actions off-duty will either positively or negatively affect the Air Force, your co-workers, your friends and especially your family.

ORM is not about taking no risk. It is about managing risk in an appropriate manner, both on- and off-duty, to lessen the likelihood of mishap.