Missing the “Small” Stuff

Do you ever find yourself or your employees forgetting to identify minor hazards even while your organization has a very robust risk management program? Recent high-profile catastrophic accidents have taught us that it is smart to identify the big “golliwopper” risks... You know, the kind that may cause catastrophic damage or loss. These type of risks may occur infrequently, yet when they do the damage may be intolerable. So, organizations wisely spend time identifying these types of catastrophic scenarios and developing risk mitigation strategies. But I wonder if during the process is it easy to lose sight on the types of hazards that used to be in the forefront of our minds: the high-frequency/low-severity event. You know... the hazards that will cause slips, falls, or minor injuries.

When I was in the Marine Corps we used to find that in our aviation activities we spent so much time analyzing and mitigating risks during non-routine operations that we became pretty good at it. We called it Deliberate Operational Risk Management. It helped us achieve high mission accomplishment rates while keeping non-routine risks as low as practicable. But we realized that we tended to incur more accidents during routine operations, or the types of missions we performed on a regular basis. While preparing for the low-frequency/high-consequence events we would sometimes overlook the higher-frequency/low-consequence events. To equate this to commercial terms, it is like trying to prevent a major catastrophe at a plant and incurring injuries from slips and falls.

So, do you ever find yourself missing the “small” stuff? If so, why do you think that is? Is it that when risk perspective shifts that it is hard to maintain a balance between both types of risk assessment? I will add that both types of risk assessment approaches may be seen as a vital part of organizational performance. A balanced approach may help you and your organizations maintain awareness of both the minor and serious risks.

Thanks, and have a great and safe week!