The Importance Of Pre-Activity Risk Management Reviews

Pre-activity risk reviews are a critical part of difficult, complex, or hazardous activities. They are performed by the supervisory team in the activity planning stages and their intent is to identify activity-related issues that could occur before, during, or after the work. There is tremendous value in this, particularly if the activity is one that where new equipment, personnel, or locations are involved. Note that pre-activity risk reviews are not the same as field level safety reviews undertaken by workers before they start a task. The pre-activity risk review is easily done and typically takes slightly more than an hour (time requirements vary with activity complexity). The risks are evaluated in terms of likelihood and consequence, with consequence being assessed from four different perspectives: Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE), Cost, Quality, and Corporate.

The analysis is performed for each of the three activity phases involved – before, during, and after. For the before phase, the activity set-up is analyzed to identify any needed personnel, equipment, training, layout, materials, permits, approvals, and other elements that must be in place and ready prior to starting. Starting the activity when any of these items are missing puts the activity in jeopardy and significantly increases the risk of Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE), Cost, Quality, and/or Corporate issues associated with the activity. For the execution phase, the same approach is taken but the focus is on the activity itself and the issues that can arise while the work is underway. The after-phase analysis looks at how the activity is followed-up and considers new signage, procedures, safety barriers/protocols, and other factors that may be needed to ensure the activity results do not cause issues in ongoing operations.

To perform each analysis, the supervisory team looks at the activity execution plan and forecasts what could go wrong based on experience and knowledge. Each potential issue is assessed using the likelihood categories to see determine its likelihood rating. Next, the consequence is assessed by rating the probable outcome if the issue does occur. Consequence is assessed from each of the four risk perspectives. Likelihood and consequence for each perspective is combined in the risk matrix to determine the level of risk, or criticality, of the risk. If the risk is considered significant, actions are identified to reduce the likelihood, consequence, or both. The actions are assigned to different personnel and tracked to ensure they are completed. The hard part is keeping track of everything, something that is significantly easer to accomplish with a robust software application (App) to support the effort.

The benefits of implementing pre-activity risk management are huge. From a company perspective, if you intend to take on a new area of business, new line of products, or manufacture something new, then spending an hour or two forecasting what can go wrong and how it can be avoided will make for happy customers, happier employees, and a much more profitable venture. If an issue does occur, you are ready with a plan ‘B’ and the impact to your customers, employees, and bottom line is minimized. From a project perspective, if you have a plan and contingencies in place for key risks, the likelihood of having an injury, downtime, or a quality problem with the output is minimized. Get ready, do the work, and get out and on to the next job is the most profitable way to execute projects. Pre-activity risk management reviews go a long way to making this happen.

Most companies that have achieved success and grown have implemented risk management and pre-activity risk reviews. This has kept them from experiencing many of the legal, OSHA, regulatory, quality, and financial issues that can plague smaller companies. And many of the larger companies embed the requirement for a risk management program into their contracts so that only those with an active program can pre-qualify as one of their suppliers. Many larger companies reduce their risk by only dealing with what they determine to be well managed companies. W. Edwards Deming (a 20th century management and quality guru) said that “Management is prediction” and he expected managers to identify and avoid/minimize problems before they occurred. Risk management is the key tool for this.

The amount of money and time wasted solving issues that could and should have been avoided provides a very large return on pre-activity risk management and risk management in general. So-called ‘firefighting’ and always having to troubleshoot and solve problems is completely unproductive and a waste of resources that could be better used elsewhere. Risk management keeps any organization from relying on luck to avoid major catastrophes and improves their short and long-term financial performance. Avoiding even one or two issues a year generates far more savings than the costs associated with risk management implementation.

The challenge with pre-activity risk analysis, and risk management in general, is managing the process. Spreadsheets are very impractical and are not geared for use outside of the office. TRM Advantage is a low-cost, simple, mobile friendly App that is designed specifically for risk management. Implementing a risk management program centered around TRM Advantage will give any risk management effort a strong basis for success and a tangible return on investment.


  • ship freight
    September 26, 2022

    Very good post. I’m dealing with a few of these issues as well..

    • By Brent Robertson, MSc, P.Eng., PMP, CLA
      September 26, 2022

      Thanks very much for the feedback! I am glad you found it relevant – Brent


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