Talk of the Nation: Risk Management

'Risk Management' is a popular term these days.  Lots of things to be discussed that affect us all from BP's Oil Spill to accusations about cars that accelerate unexpectedly, to airplane and train crashes.  It may be the big disasters that make the news and turn the spotlight on both the culprits and victims, but it can be small disasters, or near-misses, that you see every day in your theatre that can make you take pause and realize, "maybe it's time we re-think how we do this before someone gets hurt."

Safety and Risk Assessment are like any good 12-step program:  The first thing you have to do is recognize you have a problem.  Risk Assessment is just as it sounds:  you take apart a policy, procedure, or piece of equipment and look at both the whole and the pieces to determine what can be improved.  There are no sacred cows.  Pick it apart, think about "what could possibly go wrong?" (famous last words), and look to see what can be done to make the procedure safer, maybe more efficient, and possibly easier to perform.  This can be applied to any aspect of show production from crowd control, to rigging, to load-in / strike, to cable management, and a myriad of other tasks.  Everything we do has some sort of procedure we perform, and there is almost always room for improvement.
Things to consider are:

  • Are the correct Tools (this means any physical object or software used to perform the task) available to the workers? ("Never try to do a Jeweler's job with Blacksmith's tools.")
  • What PPE is needed? (OSHA regulations and NIOSH are great resources for this.)
  • Are there enough (or too many) people involved?
  • What is the best order to complete the work?
  • Is there enough time to do the job safely?
  • Who's really in-charge?

Each step of the way you have to question the ultimate goal of the task, and the financial reality of the project.  "Biting off more than you can chew" is a recipe for disaster, so break-down tasks into manageable portions.

There is an excellent discussion about this subject on NPR's Talk of the Nation news show:

Host Tony Cox interviews former astronaut James Bagian (Chief Patient Safety Officer, Veterans Health Administration), William Reilly (Co-chairman, BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission), and Beverly Saur (Consultant in Strategic Risk Communication; Author, "The Rhetoric of Risk: Technical Documentation in Hazardous Environments") in this show and they all bring a high level of understanding of the issues.  There are both an MP3 podcast and a written transcript of the show available.

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