How to Perform Risk Assessment in Aviation SMS

A risk matrix is an excellent tool for quickly assessing and ranking safety exposure. Safety incidents can be real or an imagined scenario. Performing risk assessments is an integral function in the overall process of the risk analysis process:

  1. Evaluate hazards involved in the issue;
  2. Evaluate how well safety controls meet each hazard;
  3. Evaluate if new control are needed;
  4. What is the severity and probability of negative outcomes in the future; and
  5. (if applicable) Implement needed changes (i.e. mitagative actions) to get the SMS program to an acceptable level of safety.

It’s important to remember that risk assessments are only one part of the risk analysis process, as risk analysis and risk assessments have different goals. Performing a risk assessment will result in one letter for severity and one number for probability.

How to perform risk analysis in aviation SMS programs

Goals of Performing Risk Assessments in Aviation SMS Programs

It’s important to understand the difference between risk assessment and risk analysis. The goals of risk assessment are to:

  • NOT to make decisions; but
  • Quantify safety events;
  • Rank safety events;
  • Determine overall exposure from safety issue;
  • Document proof of performed risk analysis; and
  • Track exposure.

Decisions should be made based off of risk analysis, which is the process of analyzing all factors involved in a safety issue. The reasons we use risk analysis rather than risk assessments to make decisions is that risk assessments:

  • Give a macro overview of exposure; and
  • Does not provide necessary details needed for making safety decisions.

Risk analysis DOES provide those details. However, in order to determine whether or not the risk is acceptable, safety managers should use the final risk assessment number/letter to determine whether the issue is in the “green” acceptable range.

Risk Management Tools to Aid in Assessing Risk

Many aviation risk management tools can be used to inform quality risk assessments. Some tools and similar risk management tools that we highly advocate for understanding risk exposure are:

Having a combination of the above points will significantly aid in assessing risk in terms of:

  • Quality/accuracy of risk assessments;
  • Efficiency of determining risk assessments; and
  • Ability to make quality safety decisions based on risk analysis process.