Safety and Risk Assessment are like any good 12-step program: The first thing you have to do is recognize you have a problem. Risk Assessment is just as it sounds: you take apart a policy, procedure, or piece of equipment and look at both the whole and the pieces to determine what can be improved. There are no sacred cows. Pick it apart, think about "what could possibly go wrong?" (famous last words), and look to see what can be done to make the procedure safer, maybe more efficient, and possibly easier to perform. This can be applied to any aspect of show production from crowd control, to rigging, to load-in / strike, to cable management, and a myriad of other tasks. Everything we do has some sort of procedure we perform, and there is almost always room for improvement.
Things to consider are:
- Are the correct Tools (this means any physical object or software used to perform the task) available to the workers? ("Never try to do a Jeweler's job with Blacksmith's tools.")
- What PPE is needed? (OSHA regulations and NIOSH are great resources for this.)
- Are there enough (or too many) people involved?
- What is the best order to complete the work?
- Is there enough time to do the job safely?
- Who's really in-charge?
There is an excellent discussion about this subject on NPR's Talk of the Nation news show:
Host Tony Cox interviews former astronaut James Bagian (Chief Patient Safety Officer, Veterans Health Administration), William Reilly (Co-chairman, BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission), and Beverly Saur (Consultant in Strategic Risk Communication; Author, "The Rhetoric of Risk: Technical Documentation in Hazardous Environments") in this show and they all bring a high level of understanding of the issues. There are both an MP3 podcast and a written transcript of the show available.