Setting the Standard

This is me coming up for breath. I've been in the deep-end of airport operations for the last 10 months or so and I'm only just getting my head above water. I think (or at least hope) I've achieved a lot over the last couple of months but very little has been blog-worthy. However, over the last week or so, I've been swimming in that lovely little pool called Wildlife Hazard Management. And while I was re-writing my airport's Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, I stumbled across something I thought worthy of a share.

A long time ago, I wrote about integrating wildlife management and safety management with (as always) a focus on risk management. Well, I want to take this a little further.

The Wild Side of Risk Assessment

The crux of my previous post was that the risk assessment of wildlife sits within the risk assessment of safety and that they may use different techniques. The SMS-level might use a standard risk matrix (or not) and the wildlife risk assessment might use a different technique such as the Paton bird risk assessment model.

The Risk Management Process

The two techniques are really just tools within the fairly standard risk management process. As the global standard puts it:


I think that some of this stuff most of us do well but there is a step we've been missing. It's that dark green one - evaluation.

In Practice

Here is how I see most risk assessment processes going:

  1. We identify the risks - in this particular case bird species at or likely to be at the aerodrome
  2. We calculate a consequence and likelihood score for each species
  3. We assign each species to a risk category according to the model used
  4. We treat the risk - we think of stuff to do to address the identified risks

And all that sounds great but there is, to me, something missing. We might very well devise risk treatments that are sound and effective. We might even target those species that appear high up the list (let's call that, risk ranking, which doesn't appear in the standard). But how have we actually decided to do those things?

In Theory

Well, good ol' ISO 31000 defines risk evaluation as:

(The) process of comparing the results of risk analysis with risk criteria to determine whether the risk and/or its magnitude is acceptable or tolerable

and notes that:

(It) assists in the decision about risk treatment

So what are risk criteria? Again, ISO 31000 says that risk criteria are:

terms of reference against which the significance of a risk is evaluated

Damn it ISO, buddy, you went a bit circular there. So what do I think the risk criteria are?

I look to the note above, they guide you in the decision making process. You set up parameters, before hand, that tell you what to do with risk assessed at the various levels you've set.

Here's an Example

I've just put together the risk assessment framework I intend to use at my airport. I'm basing it on Paton but extending it to land animals as well. I describe the calculation of consequence and likelihood and then outline (via a matrix :( ) the calculation of the final risk level.

And then...

I define what must be done for each risk category/level.

Even before I've looked out the door to see what birds I have at the airport. These requirements are now set in stone. It holds me to a standard and allows for variations in the real-world context, which will occur, to be managed in a consistent and almost predictable way.

This standard allows my bosses, my airlines and my team to know what is expected if we encounter a situation where a species is assessed as "extreme" or "very high" or "negligible".

And for me, those standards are:

Wildlife Evaluation Criteria

Applying the Standard

Now, I go and look out the door. I, with the help of a qualified ornithologist or biologist, look at the environmental, operational and historical contexts and come up with a list of species. We score them and categorises them and then we have to do what the above table say we are going to do.

Any species assessed as "extreme" get their own plan (luckily none of them for me at this stage). Those at "very high" get general strategies that target them (for example, I will be implementing a short-grass policy to reduce my kite numbers) and so on.

As things change, I can also change my strategies with confidence as I have a standard to hold on to should I wish to drop strategies or introduce strategies.

And I think this is a good thing. Yes, you might get pinned in a corner and have to act in some cases but that is the point. You will be held accountable anyway and not setting a standard will not protect you if it all goes pear shaped - touch wood.