When Should Perform Risk Analysis
Risk analysis is an activity that safety managers will perform on a regular basis for discovered (or potential) issues. You might identify these issues because of a hazard report or during an audit. Regardless of how you identify an issue, you will need to analyze it to understand:
- What the central problem is;
- How this problem arises; and
- What this problem likely leads to.
Based off of your analysis, you can assess the issue in question and thereby understand what actions you do or don’t need to take on the issue. During risk analysis, your goal is to identify the various “parts” of the issue:
- What is the hazard;
- What are the root causes;
- What are the contributing factors;
- What negative outcomes will the hazard likely lead to (risks); and
- How effective are existing risk controls, if any.
To perform risk analysis, you need to have as much information about the issue as possible. The more information you have, the better.
Related Aviation SMS Risk Analysis Articles
- What Is a Hazard in SMS
- How to Distinguish Hazard vs Risk [i.e., negative outcome] Occurrence
- How to Perform Root Cause Analysis
How to Identify Primary Hazard
Identifying a hazard for an issue will be the first thing you want to identify. It’s your starting point. A hazard has the following attributes:
- An object, situation, or circumstance that poses an unacceptable level of danger;
- A condition that arises only once in an issue;
- May lead to (or did lead to, in the event that a negative outcome is reported) a negative outcome if not mitigated; and
- A condition that arises from identifiable mechanisms (objects, behaviors).
Depending on the type of issue you identified, a hazard may or may not have already occurred. If a hazard has occurred in your identified issue, then you can simply see at what point in the identified issue the above condition occurred.
If your identified issue does not have an identifiable hazard because the issue was identified proactively then you will need to make your best guess at what hazard WOULD HAVE occurred.
Analyze Issue for Most Likely Negative Outcome
After identifying the hazard in an issue, you will need to identify what risk (negative outcome) is most likely to happen given the hazard occurrence.
Negative outcomes can easily be identified with an if-then statement. An if-then statement works like this: “If [hazard]…Then [bad outcome/risk]…” Risk statements are a good way to establish the most likely negative outcome.
For example, an if-then might look like this:
- If ground crew starts deicing aircraft while aircraft door is not secured,
- Then deicing reagent can seriously injure multiple passengers.
In the example scenario, the negative outcome is multiple customer injuries.
Identify Root Causes
An integral part of risk analysis is analyzing the issue for root causes. A root cause is an action or condition that leads directly to hazard occurrence. Usually, a hazard occurrence will have multiple root causes that “conspire” together, resulting in hazard occurrence. Another way of saying it is that root causes play a “causal” role in hazard occurrence.
It’s useful to have a hazard-because root cause statement. For example:
- Ground crew started deicing procedure while aircraft door was open,
- Because there was no existing step to in policy to check for closed-door and lack of task coordination (communication) between different crews.
You should document your root causes, such as via classifications, for later data mining. There are many tools for root cause analysis, such as fishbone diagrams or 5-Whys Analysis.
Identify Contributory Factors
Contributory factors are similar to root causes, but contributory factors are not “causal.” Rather, contributory factors simply effect the problem by:
- Speeding up the time between root causes and hazard occurrence;
- Making certain risk controls less effective; or
- Intensifying root causes’ threat.
When performing risk analysis, it is helpful to make a list of all things that “contributed” to the problem. Any items on this list that were not identified as root causes are likely contributing factors. Some examples of contributing factors are:
- Airline’s first winter operating in cold climates contributed to faulty ice detector; and
- Windy day contributed to billowing higher amounts of deicing reagent into aircraft.
In both cases, these factors were not “causal”, but they certainly contributed to a negative outcome.You should document your contributory factors, such as via classifications, for later data mining.
Last updated April 2023.