SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

The Truth about What Predictive Risk Management Is

Posted by Tyler Britton on Mar 23, 2017 6:06:00 AM

What Is Predictive Risk Management?

Truth about what risk management is

It’s important for aviation SMS programs to be clear about the different types of risk management activities, and use them accordingly.

Predictive risk management is the process of performing risk management activities on potential/hypothetical hazards, risk events, and/or consequences.

“Potential” and “hypothetical” should not be random. Predictive activities for risk management are based on:

  • Normal operational data, as opposed to accident data; and
  • Potentialities that have not already occurred.

Many large online resources discuss the need to “shift” from reactive to predictive risk management. This seems to imply a false notion that predictive is a “better” form of risk management than reactive or proactive. This is simply not true.

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Misnomer about Predictive Management of Risk

It’s important to remember that when you read about “moving towards” or “shifting to” predictively managing risk, this simply means:

  • Adopting predictive activities in your risk management process; and
  • Moving from sole reliance on reactive and/or proactive risk management.

Each type of risk management has an important place in your organization. Predictive risk management is used to:

  • Identify safety issues that haven’t happened yet; but
  • Probably will happen if unaddressed; and
  • Act accordingly by updating risk control repertoire.

The process of predictively managing risk is done through predictive activities.

What Are Predictive Risk Management Activities

Perhaps the three most common predictive activities for risk management are:

  1. Management of change;
  2. Trend analysis; and
  3. Safety cases.

These activities are commonplace in well-developed programs and involve:

  • Accumulating and classifying safety report data;
  • Analyzing current operations;
  • Identifying new hazards;
  • Identifying new risks;
  • Implementing controls to prevent these potentialities;
  • Analyzing controls for "substitute risk;" and
  • Identifying trends.

Some common tools for risk management that aid in predictive activities are:

Related Aviation SMS Trend Analysis Articles...

How It’s Different from Proactive and Reactive Risk Management

Reactive risk management is the process of addressing safety events after they occur. This is understood in two different ways by different parts of the organization:

  1. Management: acting in response to submitted safety issues; and
  2. Employees: acting in response to a hazardous condition in the environment.

The second point is extremely important on one that you will rarely see discussed. Risk management is not just for safety management, but for all employees in different ways.

Proactive risk management involves identifying precursors to risk based on safety data, such as leading indicators. For employees, proactive risk management involves identifying and reporting root causes and other precursors to risk events/hazardous conditions.

Predictive management of risk is unique from these other forms of risk management in that:

  • It does not directly use safety data from incidents;
  • It is not a “response” to anything (such as to data or incidents); and
  • It is primarily a management process, whereas proactive/reactive are both employee and management processes.

In short, managing risk predictively is kind of a stand-alone process. Reactive and proactive activities are intimately tied together. Predictive management has more specific uses.

Final Thought: What Your Safety Program Needs to Be Predictive

New aviation SMS programs will have a hard/impossible time performing practice risk management activities. This is because they lack the essential ingredients that are needed for the predictive process:

  • Strong historical data to support predictive findings;
  • Strong policies and procedures to analyze;
  • Well-developed risk analysis techniques; and
  • Time, manpower, and resources needed to spend time on predictive activities.

The long and short of it is that you need a well implemented SMS. Otherwise, your time, resources, and energy is better spend on implementation rather than on predictive analysis. If you are managing the SMS using paper and spreadsheets, you will not reap the benefits of reducing losses and improving aviation safety at your organization.

There are a few low-cost, commercially available SMS database solutions that will make your SMS more:

  • Sustainable;
  • Audit worthy; and
  • Professional.

We might summarize predictive management of risk as:

a luxury of mature safety management systems using robust SMS databases to manage lots of collected safety data.

If you need world-recognized SMS tools to manage your safety data, we can help. If you are interested in learning more about how an SMS database will benefit your company, see these related articles:

Related Aviation SMS Database Articles...

Download SMS Implementation Checklist

If you want to start implementing predictive management of risk, but are still bogged down in implementation, see this implementation checklist.

Download SMS Implementation Plan

Published March 2017. Last updated January 2019.

Topics: 2-Safety Risk Management

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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