Risk is Not a Game

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 @ 06:05 PM gHale

By Nicholas Sheble
“Risk is the probability of the occurrence of harm and the severity of that harm, and by focusing on the risks that impact your business you can mitigate damage and realize cost savings,” said Kevin Connelly.

Connelly, business development manager at Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and Dan Posner, senior project manager at UL were a part of the Siemens Educational Webinar Series on Risk Assessment Wednesday.

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The process they describe is risk assessment. Risk assessment methodology is a tool they use to identify risk of harm resulting from various hazards, hazardous situations, and harmful events. It’s a qualitative undertaking but it can involve quantitative tools to measure the risk.

Knowledge and experience of the design, use, installation, maintenance, incidents, accidents, and related harm must come together to assess the risk.

“Forming the risk assessment team is the most important step,” Posner said. “It should include lots of people of varied disciplines and multiple talents, all of whom are part of the process and system.”

The team should have knowledge of all phases of the life of the process, from design and construction up to decommissioning. The team evaluates events that can possibly lead to levels of harm defined in international standards. The standard the presenters cited as being a good model for risk assessment is ISO 14798.

The risk analysis procedure employs a flow chart that dictates these steps:
Step 1 — Determination of the reason for conducting a risk assessment
Step 2 — Formation of a risk assessment team
Step 3 — Determination of the subject of risk assessment and related factors
Step 4 — Identification of scenarios: hazardous situations, causes, and effects
Step 5 — Risk estimation
Step 6 — Risk evaluation
Step 7 — Has the risk been sufficiently mitigated? Yes or no? If no, loop back to Step 4.
Step 8 — Reduction of risk

Risk assessment is not an exact science and thus, there is a certain degree of subjectivity in the process. They recommend the user review risk assessments periodically because changes creep into all operations relating to products produced, the environment, the process itself, and regulations may change too.

To ensure the best and most consistent assessments, Posner and Connelly emphasize the necessity of the risk assessment team rigorously following the above methodology as it’s laid out in the standard.

The standard itself suggests that while the method is qualitative, numeric methods of assessment that follow the format described in ISO 14798 are also useful.

The webinar “Risk Assessment: Best Practices in Assessing Risks Webinar” will be online next week.

At this URL (click on “show past events” to see the listing of webinars) there are other useful webinars that www.ISSSource.com has reviewed. They are:
• Transitioning to ISO 13849-1: Changes Required and Helpful Tools
• Changes to NFPA 79 Electrical Standard Explained
• Siemens vs. Allen-Bradley: A Third Party Look at Current Safety Platforms
• Robot Safety: Changes Coming through R15.06 Robot Safety Standard

There’s another webinar on this same or very similar topic discussing the role risk assessment plays to mitigate hazards and improve machinery-related safety that you can view now. Its title is “Risk Assessment: Protect Your Workers While Optimizing Productivity.”

All these educational webinars are free.
Nicholas Sheble (nsheble@isssource.com) is an engineering writer and technical editor in Raleigh, NC.

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