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#1 Posted : 02 August 2000 17:50:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

Posted By barrie knight
Applying Risk Assessments to Flying Concorde

The aftermath of the Concorde disaster provides an opportunity to discuss the use of risk assessment. Despite legal requirements for work related risk assessments, there seems to be a general lack of understanding of how the process should be used. The technique has seldom been mentioned in media coverage of the crash, yet clearly its use is implicit in the decisions to ground Concorde on the one hand and to continue flying on the other.
It is inconceivable that British Airways would authorise the continued use of Concorde without being aware of the potential consequences of a second crash and without taking extremely rigorous measures to prevent such an occurrence. These would include minimising the risk of every imaginable occurrence that could lead to a ruptured fuel tank, whether from debris on the runway, bits from burst tyres catastrophic engine failure or any other scenario that experts or lay people might be putting forward at the moment. Is it likely that, if the unthinkable were to occur and a second crash happened, criminal charges against BA management could be made to stick?
What is highly likely is that after a second crash, the public, the Government, the media and the victims would start to look for someone to blame. Would this be because people generally do not accept that the fundamental, simple and obvious point that there is risk in everything we do? The only way to eliminate risk is to stop the activity – which of course is what Air France have done – no use of Concorde, no risk of a Concorde crash.
If British Airways has in fact been robustly competent in performing its risk assessment, then the understandable fears which many interested parties have at the moment are unfounded. British Airways, therefore, has a huge interest in trying to educate the public on its risk assessment techniques. It needs to persuade everybody, including the media, the government and the legal profession, that it has taken all reasonable precautions.
The Institution also has a large interest in getting the Risk Assessment message across. How do we go about it? What could British Airways publish? How can they get people ‘on their side?’ Can the Institution help? How can the discussion be opened up to the public arena?
#2 Posted : 26 September 2000 15:48:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

Posted By George Wedgwood
You pose a very interesting discussion point but one I am familiar with since I do part of my work in corporate personnel risk management. BA may have done such a risk assessment and even quantified the risks as I would do for significant hazards, but they would not make this public since much of the information contained within the assessment would be confidential to the business. However, in line with 'normal' plc cautious approaches to sharing such information, this may be available to genuine interested parties or through their trade body for discussion in professional circles. In my industry (electricity), we have many hazardous pieces of work equipment, some of which take it on themselves to explode violently. Fortunately, these bits of equipment are usually located in fairly remote places and so far, no one has been injuured as a result.

That does not make us complacent however, as my initial calculations show that a high risk exists for anyone present under certain operating circumstances and therefore the company should take risk management action. We can't eliminate the hazard otherwise the lights would go out but we can minimise the risks to tolerable (or better) levels. that requires detailed knowledge of the risks and a methodical approach to ways of implementing control measures that can be demonstrated to work. Yes, we have to live with the fact that the risk of death exists, but we can demonstrate that we have done everything reasonable to make it tolerable. That may mean spending considerable sums of money and in the interim, preventing personnel access to risk areas.

So BA will have done this diligently, I am sure, and come up with the result that it is probably a tolerable personnel risk to fly Concorde - but not a worthwile commercial one! That's when the overall corporate risk needs to be considered, in addition to the purely safety-related one.

So numbers are a great help but few understand them and it continues to be wise in only discussing them with those who actually understand - and the public don't!

Regards, George Wedgwood
#3 Posted : 26 September 2000 16:59:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

I think the problem here is not just wether the airlines conclude that concorde can be flown again, but if they can find airports which will accept them! At present it is most unlikely any American air authorities would take the risk of possible secondary litigation for a similar disaster occuring in a more residential area.
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