Risk Management

80-90% of losses are caused by human (individual and organizational) failures… Yet systems approaches focus on technology and processes.

In some industries, risk is managed by a ‘trial and error’ approach. Regulation cannot be relied on exclusively to address this, as the situated and negotiated character of regulatory compliance means that different groups have different perspectives on what the particular risks are and what is required to mitigate them. This is a call for action for engineers and their organizations to be better equipped to better identify hazards; prioritize and manage risks; and protect people, the environment, assets and production.

Risk Management is the systematic and iterative process of communicating, consulting, establishing the context, and identifying, analyzing, evaluating, treating, monitoring, and reviewing risk.

For simpler operations, such as a simple one-person task, the risk management process may involve the use of a one-page checklist. For complex, multi-disciplinary processes (e.g. railway operations on track with rock falls, avalanches, and washouts) risk management may involve using software to perform a systematic, comprehensive safety and mitigation assessment.

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The Swiss Cheese model of accident causation is a model used in risk management (especially aviation safety, engineering, workplace safety) to illustrate the principle of layered security.

Risk controls can be used at many stages of an operation to prevent, control, and mitigate risks. Losses will only occur if the ‘holes’ in the cheese align,

The Layers of Protection Analysis (LOPA) “Onion” is another model of accident causation/prevention used in risk analysis and risk management in process safety management (refineries, pipelines, manufacturing).

LOPA considers methods of preventing a hazardous event from occurring (process controls, alarms, safety instrumentation systems, physical protection and pressure relief) and mitigating the severity of the associated risks (physical mitigation/separation, emergency response).

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Areas of Research

There were 919 occupational fatalities in Canada for 2014… Even with sophisticated risk-informed approaches, many hazards are overlooked.

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80-90% of losses are caused by human (individual and organizational) failures… Yet systems approaches focus on technology and processes.

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Technological risks are being challenged on moral and emotional bases… Risk decision makers struggle with these dynamic, interactive, and expanding debates.

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The adoption of technologies and new processes is often opposed. Overcoming this requires building: awareness of problem, interest for solutions, evaluation of benefits, solution trailing, and lastly adoption.

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Organizations can be regulated at various levels, on various activities, by various actors, and through various modes. Yet, what is the interactivity between these?  What are the most effective enhancements?


Dr. Lianne Lefsrud, Ph.D, P.Eng.

Engineering Safety and Risk Management, Faculty of Engineering
12-287 Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering 9211 116 Street, Edmonton, T6G 1H9

Phone: 780.492.8351 (office) | 780.951.3455 (mobile)
lefsrud@ualberta.ca  |  LinkedIn |  Twitter


My Monday, where I get to be the chef AND taster of an interesting and delicious mix. It started with @egosnet inspiration, now teaching, then Chair selection, new research on risk management, page proof review, presenting findings to a regulator, then more teaching #FundayMonday

Abusive bosses are even more catastrophic than you imagine. This study of NBA players shows that those with abusive coaches early in their career had more technical fouls & lower performance a decade later! (And the 2nd paper shows 17%-33% of college coaches use abusive styles)

Inspiring keynote from Renate Meyer on publishing, hosted by @johnamis6 @uoebusiness for Org Studies @egosnet. A lit review must create continuity & development, acceptance & critique, and accumulate knowledge; there must be some cheese, not just holes... 🧀 @OS4Future @ProfJarz