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ORM for the ORI - Keeping things safe for everyone during the upcoming inspection

by Lt. Col. Allen Hess
6th Air Mobility Wing Chief of Safety

With the wing's Operational Readiness Inspection rapidly approaching, now is a good time to emphasize some of the operational risk management principles we've all been trained on.

More important, when stressful and complex operations are being performed, real-world or exercise, risk management becomes even more important to the safe functioning of Team MacDill.

A "wartime" mindset doesn't mean throw out the regs and do whatever it takes; it means careful consideration of costs versus benefits. Here's a quick outline of the principles behind ORM and how to apply these lessons during the inspection and beyond.

Accept no unnecessary risk

Unnecessary risk comes without a proportionate return in terms of real benefits or available opportunities. The most logical choices for accomplishing a mission are those that meet all mission requirements while exposing personnel and resources to the lowest acceptable risk.

Make risk decisions at the appropriate level

Making risk decisions at the appropriate level establishes clear accountability. Anyone can make a risk decision; however, the appropriate level for risk decisions is the one that can allocate the resources to reduce the risk or eliminate the hazard and implement controls. Commanders at all levels must ensure subordinates know how much risk they can accept and when they must elevate the decision to a higher level.

Accept risk when benefits outweigh the costs

The process of weighing risks against opportunities and benefits helps to maximize unit capability. Even high risk endeavors may be undertaken when there is clear knowledge that the sum of the benefits exceeds the sum of the costs. Ultimately, the balance may have to be determined by the appropriate decision authority.

Integrate ORM into planning at all levels

Risks are more easily assessed and managed in the planning stages of an operation. Integrating risk management into planning as early as possible provides the decision maker the greatest opportunity to apply ORM principles. Additionally, feedback must be provided to benefit future missions.

So how can everyone apply these principles to the numerous tasks during the ORI?

* First and foremost, follow technical orders, checklists and instructions. Risk management principles have already been applied in building these procedures.

* Know the limits: If you don't feel comfortable performing a task, get some help or talk to your supervisor before diving in.

* Identify hazards and inform your leadership: Keep the information flowing so that risk management decisions can be made quickly and at the appropriate level.

* Finally, during contingencies and inspections, being told to get things done "as soon as possible" will become more frequent. When hearing ASAP, in addition to performing quickly, think "as safely as possible."

Identifying hazards, comparing benefits with risks and making decisions at the right level are all ways to apply ORM to the mission-during the ORI and on into the future.

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