Why It’s Important to Understand Difference between Assessment and Analysis
Hazard Risk Assessment and Hazard Risk Analysis are central components of Safety Risk Management and Safety Assurance processes. Like having correct understanding of various risk management definitions, understanding the difference between analysis and assessment is important to ensure:
- Accuracy of decisions;
- Efficient risk management actions; and
- Proper workflow.
Compliance guidelines recommend a particular order for analysis and assessment for good reason. For example, doing hazard risk assessment BEFORE hazard risk analysis is sort of like trying to cook before lighting the fire.
Understanding the differences between assessment and analysis is an essential part of getting the workflow right, and knowing when to do what. Analyze and assess are related, but they are not the same thing.
Here are the differences between hazard risk assessment and hazard risk analysis.
What Hazard Risk Analysis Is
The most important thing to understand about hazard risk analysis is that is reductive in the sense that it involves:
- Identifying the safety issue and examining it;
- Investigating and interpreting the results;
- Breaking a complex situation into simple parts; and
- Understanding how those elementary parts of the situation fit together to produce the undesirable situation.
Classifying an issue is a perfect example of outcomes that result from risk analysis. Classifying issues is synonymous to documenting the interpretation of analysis results.
Once a safety issue has multiple classification associated with it, one can understand the simple, basic elements that contributed to that issue. Such classifications are commonly:
- The type of issue, which answers the question: “What is this issue really about?”;
- The central hazard, which answers the question: “What is the primary danger in this situation?”;
- The root causes, which answers the question, “What are the mechanisms that allowed the danger to arise?”;
- The Human Factors, which answers the question, “Which specific human behaviors contributed to the issue?”;
- And so on.
You can realistically classify many more things, such as policies/procedures, job tasks, etc. There are many specific methods for hazard risk analysis, but some of the most common are:
What Hazard Risk Assessment Is
Hazard risk assessment is something that happens after hazard risk analysis. It involves:
- Measuring the value of something (FAA order 8040.4A) – usually either safety performance or safety exposure;
- Quantifying the value;
- Documenting the value; and
- Using the assessed value to inform what kind of decision is make.
The reason that hazard risk assessment happens after analysis is that the findings from analysis will heavily inform the value of the assessment. In other words, an assessment without analysis is an assessment that is not supported by anything.
Various risk assessment values should have multiple, clear boundaries and definitions. For example, in the case of a risk matrix:
- It will have various qualifiers for each level of severity; and
- It will have various qualifiers for each level of likelihood.
By qualifiers, we are talking about defining things like:
- Minimum monetary damages for each level of risk;
- Damage to person(s) for each level of risk;
- Effect on mission for each level of risk; and
- Expected probability of recurrence.
How Risk Analysis and Risk Assessment Are Related
As implied, the relation between risk analysis and assessment is:
- Risk analysis provides the data on which assessments are based;
- Risk assessments create a value for the entire body of analysis data; and
- Assessments quantify the qualitative analysis findings.
Long story short, assessment summarizes analysis.
Workflow for Risk Analysis and Risk Assessment
The primary workflow usually looks something like this:
- An issue is reported;
- The issue is investigated with various tools such as bowtie, fishbone diagrams, custom investigatory processes, etc.;
- Investigation findings inform what classifications are made;
- Based on classifications and other analysis data, a risk matrix is used to assign a valuation of likelihood/severity to the issue; and
- Based on this assessment, different decisions are made.
A great tool that summarizes risk analysis into essential failures is Shortfall Analysis. It provides the most essential information needed to make risk assessments:
Published August 2017. Last updated January 2019.