An innovative process for managing hazards with higher potential to result in fatalities or serious injuries (FSI) is significantly reducing risk in a multinational company. After nearly four years of sustained implementation at over 200 manufacturing sites, successes and opportunities alike have been experienced. Data collected from over 60,000 risk assessments has provided a rich opportunity to tease out leading indicators of both performance and quality of risk reduction programs.
The strategy that our company has adopted to deal with infrequent yet severe incident outcomes integrates a common approach to risk assessment, prioritization and management. It embodies a systematic evaluation of safeguards meant to control those hazards that have a high potential to result in fatal or otherwise severe outcomes. This approach in 3M is called Risk Assessment and Prioritization (RAP). The RAP process is embedded in the company's Worldwide Incident Management System (WIMS).
The RAP process is used as an investigative tool following actual incidents but it is most beneficial in risk reduction and incident prevention when used for analysis of near miss events and potential FSI events. The initial risk levels of hazards are systematically prioritized based upon how effectively (or not) the safeguards are found to be performing. The assessment results are then used to define the most effective and efficient mitigation strategy when further risk reduction is warranted.
A final hazard risk assessment is performed after mitigation is complete so that overall risk reduction can be quantified. When adequate hazard controls are in place, attention is directed at maintaining their effectiveness through a routine monitoring process.
This approach to risk management supplements rather than replaces existing hazard management tools. When used to its fullest potential, the approach can incorporate the results of other hazard-specific techniques into the determination of how effective the "system" actually is at controlling hazards with severe consequence potential.
Without question, the implementation of this tool has effectively lowered risk levels associated with many higher hazard tasks and activities to acceptable levels in a well-documented, defensible and quantifiable manner. The opportunity to understand performance and define the quality attributes of the risk management process has become a critical driver in the success of the program.