Safety 101 - Lesson 13

In lesson 2, we discussed the identification and analysis of risk. In the traditional safety model, a variety of tools and techniques were described for use, such as surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc., etc. The message in Lesson 2 stated "the practice of identifying and analyzing losses gives you a useful tool in focusing your time and effort in managing losses to those areas presenting real potential for problems."

As we worked through lessons 9, 10, 11 and 12, we were provided data and details on firefighter fatalities and root causes of these incidents. This has provided somewhat of a global analysis of risk to the fire service.

If we look outside the fire service, business and industry have long used risk assessment and have taken related action by identifying current and emerging methods for quantifying risks, utilizing probabilistic methods in exposure and risk assessment, understanding the impact of regulatory requirements (such as EPA, OSHA, and related laws), determining appropriate assumptions and uncertainties, ranking the risks according to potential impact, relating the role of risk information in a cost benefit assessment, and evaluating the inter-relationship of science, perception, and experience in evaluating risk.

These multiple assessment techniques define a set of objectives, rules and criteria to model and analyze risks. The assessment is flexible and can be tailored to a variety of domains and many different types of risk, defining commonalities and focusing on completion of defined missions.

Analyzing data isn't glamorous and in fact, is work. However, if it is done right, it can identify problem areas, can help you develop techniques to correct problems, intervene in situations that can cause a loss; and, it can help you in developing a safer organization for your personnel.

If you do not or have not used risk analysis, you might ask some questions regarding the risk analysis. Here are some typical questions to ask:

  1. Why should I be analyzing risks?
    • Risk analysis is a formal process that helps to determine the risk your organization faces. The process will help you decide what actions to take to minimize disruptions to your organization, and to control potential problems in a cost effective manner.
  2. How do I apply risk analysis?
    • Risk will mean different things to different people. You need to think in terms that:

Risk = (The probability of an event) x (The cost of the event)

You achieve this by using a decision making approach:

  • First - determine the threats posed to you
  • Second - think through your organization and related resources and determine any related risks
  • Third - See if you can determine any vulnerabilities in your organization
  • Fourth - Ask other individuals their perspective

Next, determine the probability or likelihood of the threat being posed to you and what problems it can cause.

Keep in mind:

  • Risk analysis enables you to evaluate the risks that you or your organization are faced with
  • Risk Analysis forms the basis for determine what risk control or risk financing techniques can be used to manage the risk.

Measuring Risk

Probably the most central component of risk analysis can be defined as the "measurement component". Determining trends, identifying changes and analyzing variances from year to year is accomplished by establishing a benchmark and monitoring performance to those benchmarks. For example:

A hazard management program may involve:

  • Base year - vehicle inspections begun,
  • Seat belt policy implemented,
  • PPE use requirements begun, and
  • Housekeeping program implemented.

Graphically, such a measuring process can be represented as follows:

While hypothetical, this type of analysis, benchmarking and action can provide;

  • flexible identification of risks,
  • definition of related risk variables
  • establishment of benchmarks, and/or
  • providing an analysis between functions, factors and results.

Comparison to National Statistics

Firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job death and injury. A better understanding of how these fatal accidents, non-fatal injuries and non-fatal illnesses occur can help identify corrective actions, which could help minimize the inherent risks of a firefighter's job. The November/December 2005 issue of the NFPA Fire Journal released the report of "Firefighter Injuries for 2004". In 2004, there were an estimated 75,840 firefighter injuries (approximately 750 injuries to every firefighter fatality). These include the following key facts:

  • 10,550 incidents were exposures to infectious disease
  • 48.5% of the incidents were strain/sprain injuries
  • 17.2% are wound/cut/bleeding/bruise injuries
  • 5.5% were smoke/gas inhalation
  • 5.1% were thermal burns
  • 48.6% of all injuries occurred during fireground operations.

Based on this data, ask yourselves these questions.

  1. How does OUR organization compare?
  2. How do WE prevent these types of incidents in our organization?
  3. What can WE do to correct these situations if they occurred in our organization?

Proactive approaches to analyzing risk and functioning in safe operating environments keep personnel performing their duties when necessary.

Lesson #13

Risk analysis provides a systematic method to identify, assess, measure, monitor, and mitigate risks; resulting in fewer risks which equal fewer incidents which enhances safety and operational performance.

Safety 101 - A new series from the technical and administrative perspective, designed to help you reduce emergency responder injuries, illnesses, property loss and death!


Dr. William F. Jenaway, CSP, CFO, CFPS is Executive Vice President of VFIS and has over 30 years experience in Safety and Risk Management, in the insurance industry. Bill is also an adjunct professor in Risk Analysis in the Graduate School at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" as Chief of the King of Prussia, PA, Volunteer Fire Company, and is the author the text Emergency Service Risk Management.