The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging, new situation that is impacting how we live and work. Learn how Operational Risk Management will help the …
Managing risk is inherent
in everything we do —
both in our Navy Mission
Environment and in our
personal lives. Each of
us learns from observing
our environment,
identifying the impacts
that environment has
on our activities,
making decisions about
how we want to respond and
then observing the results
of our actions. We
instinctively use our best
judgement to assess the
costs and benefits of
each situation to make a
decision. As we develop
experience across more and
more situations, we learn
to manage the risks and
consequences associated
with them and eventually
become adept at changing
our decisions based on new
Risk Management,
or O-R-M, provides a
systematic approach to
risk-benefit analysis
that helps manage complex
situations, allowing
decision makers to
carefully think and
evaluate a situation
before taking action.ORM
is a simple six-step
process, which identifies
operational hazards and
takes reasonable
measures to reduce risk to
equipment and the mission.
This type of formal
approach is especially
important when faced
with new situations.
The COVID-19 pandemic
is a challenging new
situation that is likely
to continue affecting our
personal and professional
lives for the foreseeable
future. We are
forced to live,
work and make decisions
in a stressful environment
with little recent
precedence and incomplete
and changing
information. Case
numbers may rise and
fall in the area we live,
work or travel.
Travel restrictions,
changes to face-to-face
conference or training
plans and rules about
social distancing are all
examples of the changing
risk environment COVID
Despite new challenges,
we must continue to
prioritize the health and
safety of our workforce
while still executing
critical mission
requirements for the
fleet. O-R-M will help
us identify the unique
risks associated with
the COVID pandemic,
manage them through
planned mitigations,
and then make risk
acceptance decisions based
on the expected benefit.
The DOD and the Navy have
recognized that
applying O-R-M provides an
effective framework for
reducing mishaps. OPNAV
3500.39D, Operational Risk
Management, provides
guidance for applying ORM.
O-R-M is founded on four
principles. Accept No
Unnecessary Risk:
Unnecessary risks
contributes no benefits to
the accomplishment of the
task of mission.
In other words, if you
don't need to do it,
don't do it.
Everything involves risk.
The most logical choices
for accomplishing an
operation are those that
meet all requirements with
the minimum
acceptable risk.
Accept Risk When Benefits
Outweigh the Costs: All
identified benefits should
be compared against all
identified costs.
Even high risk endeavors
may be undertaken when
there is clear knowledge
that the sum of the
benefits exceeds
the sum of the costs.
Balancing costs and
benefits is a subjective
process, and ultimately
the balance may have to be
arbitrarily determined
by the appropriate
Integrate ORM into
Planning at all Levels:
Incorporating risk
management principles
early in the planning
and execution stages saves
time and costs and gives
decision makers with the
greatest opportunity to
apply ORM principles.
Make Risk Decisions at the
Appropriate Level: Anyone
can make a risk decision.
However, the appropriate
decision-maker is the
person who can allocate
the resources to reduce or
eliminate the risk
and implement controls.
The decision-maker must
know how much risk is
acceptable and when to
elevate the decisions to a
higher level.
At times, it may seem
easiest to accept NO RISK,
but accepting no
risk has its own risks.
For example, we could
effectively mitigate the
risk of COVID infection
at the work by closing the
office entirely
and staying home.
But completely abandoning
the mission puts the
organization, the Navy
and potentially the entire
country at risk. So,
there is a risk benefit
balance that must be
achieved that keeps us
healthy and employed while
allowing the organization
to accomplish the mission.
Now let's look briefly
at the six steps of
Identify the hazards,
assess the risks,
make risk decisions,
implement controls,
supervise and review.
Step 1: Identify the
Hazard A hazard is any
condition with the
potential to cause mission
personal injury or death,
or damage to or loss of
equipment or property.
Experience, common sense,
and specific analytical
tools can all help
identify hazards.
Decision makers bring
different perspectives and
may weigh risks
differently For this
reason, a group discussion
is critical to step 1 and
helps facilitate
buy-in throughout the ORM
Step 2: Assess the Risk
Risk is defined as the
probability and severity
of accident or loss from
exposure to the hazards
identified in step 1.
Step 2 is an attempt to
predict the probability
and severity of negative
events caused by the
hazards, combining the two
factors to assign a final
Risk Assessment Code, or
RAC. A key concept of
risk assessment is
Probability. When
assessing the
probability of a
risk, we are trying to
predict the likelihood
that a hazard will
occur. These are given a
code from A to D, with
A being most likely to
For example, the NAVAIR
enterprise uses guidance
from the Navy's
Bureau of Medicine,
the local county
health officials,
the CDC and OSHA to help
us assess the probability
of COVID infections.
The probability of COVID
infections is high when
personnel are directly
exposed to the respiratory
secretions of an infected
individual. The
probability of infections
changes in proportion
to the rate of community
spread, the number of
potentially infected
people in a group, the
length of time personnel
are exposed, and the
distance between people.
When assessing the
severity of a risk,
we are trying to determine
the impact of the
outcomes, categorizing
them from high to low
severity using
numbers 1-4.
In the
COVID-19 environment,
many of the potential
hazards and consequences
might be hidden from you
do you know which of
your employees or
co-workers might be at
high risk because of
an underlying medical
condition? Do you have a
child or parent that might
be at high
risk? As a parent,
friend, child or
significant other,
you have to take these
possible consequences into
your personal
calculations. As an
organization, we must take
these issues into account
as part of our severity
assessment when balancing
the health of the
workforce and the mission.
Step 3: Analyze Risk
Control Measures Next,
the team would investigate
specific strategies and
tools that may mitigate
or eliminate the risks
identified in Step 2.
All risks have three
components: probability of
severity of the hazard,
and the number and level
of exposure of people and
equipment to the risk.
Effective control measures
reduce or eliminate at
least one of these.
The level of exposure
can affect both the
probability and severity
of a risk and may be a
good starting point to
apply mitigations.
Exposing fewer people to a
hazard often reduces its
likelihood of having
severe consequences.
Risk control
considerations must take
into account the overall
costs and benefits and,
if necessary, provide
provide alternative
Step 4: Make Control
Decisions Identify the
This is the individual,
at the appropriate level,
who can balance the
risk against the potential
benefit and value to
determine if the risk is
The decision maker will
consider the importance of
the mission, the potential
impacts of the risks,
the effectiveness and
costs of the chosen
controls, and ultimately
whether or not the
benefits outweigh
the potential costs.
Step 5: Implement Risk
Controls Once the risk
decision is made, a plan
must be put into place for
applying the controls
that have been selected,
and providing
resources, the time,
materials and personnel,
required to put these
measures in place.
Step 6: Supervise and
Review The final step of
the ORM process is to
monitor the situation and
watch for change.
Workers and managers
should periodically
reevaluate controls,
monitor for new risks and
take action to correct
ineffective risk controls.
This step is
critical to success.
Without continual analysis
of the effectiveness of
controls, the next person
in line may pay the price.
With COVID-19, step 1 is
identifying the hazards to
the NAVAIR enterprise and
to the personal health of
employees, contractors,
military personnel and
their families. Step 2
is assessing the risks,
the probability and
severity of exposure
to the COVID virus.
Probability should first
be assessed in an assumed
that is, with none of
the known risk mitigation
precautions in place.
Those precautions will be
part of a later step.
Severity of the impacts to
personal health may range
drastically from no
symptoms to severe
respiratory damage to
The consequences to
mission may include
closing a work
center, product line,
or other facility which
in turn may impact the
delivery of a product
to the fleet or other
customer. Now at
step 3, we consider the
mitigations we set aside
in step 2. The risk of
COVID-19 infection
increases with exposure.
The best way to protect
ourselves and others,
and reduce the
spread of the virus,
is to limit interactions
with other people as much
as possible.
We should consider
mitigations such as social
distancing, wearing a face
mask in public and washing
our hands.
steps 4 and 5,
we would determine and
implement these controls,
then continually
assess their effectiveness
Contact tracing is one way
to assess effectiveness of
mitigation measures, by
investigating the actions
of newly infected
personnel and attempting
to find the weak
link in their controls.
With much of the
country opening up,
personal and work
travel is on the rise.
There is no way to ensure
you have zero risk of
infection while traveling,
so it is important to use
O-R-M to
identify the hazards,
assess the risks, and
try to implement as many
controls as possible.
Employees who plan
to travel beyond their
command's local
commuting area for
official travel or
personal leave should
review their plans with
their supervisors before
Together, the employee and
supervisor should assess
the travel plans, weigh
the risks and the benefits
to determine an
acceptable level of risk.
When returning to
work, the employee should
contact the supervisor to
provide details of stops
and social distancing
practices employed during
Each situation is unique,
but it is up to the
supervisor to determine if
and when the employee can
safety return to
the work center.
The travel location, mode
of travel and potential
social interactions
will determine the hazard
probability. The
member's age and
pre-existing medical
conditions may impact the
severity. Their status
as teleworking or coming
to the office upon return
also impact the risk
scenario for the
organization as a whole.
Their value to the work
center vs the criticality
of their physical presence
on this specific trip
should also weigh strongly
into the cost-benefit
Let's go to the impact
that the supervisor and
team member might need to
assess: In our scenario,
the employee must provide
a classified briefing a
few days after returning
from the trip. Assuming
the employee remained
asymptomatic on their
return, the supervisor
must still assess the
hazards of a
potentially infected,
asymptomatic employee.
What is the impact to the
mission if the employee
cannot perform the
brief? Are any of the
personnel attending the
briefing in a high risk
group? What would the
impact be if the employee
tests positive and that
classified work-space
needs to shut down? What
would the impact be to the
mission if the work group
receiving the briefing all
became sick?
The supervisor needs to
think ahead and consider
all these potential
costs and impacts prior to
making this risk decision.
Once you evaluate
the hazard and associated
risks, you can make
an informed decision.
Do the benefits of the
risk outweigh the costs?
In our specific scenario,
does the employee really
need to make the trip?
If the employee is only
needed for backup support,
do they need to be present
in person? If our
employee really does need
to make the trip, does the
employee actually need to
be in the office in the
next 14 days? Could
someone else do that
classified briefing in the
employee's place? The
supervisor in our scenario
needs to make cost and
benefit decisions about
the risks to the mission,
as well as to consider
what mitigations and
controls could be applied
to reduce the
potential hazards,
or reduce the probability
of infectious spread in
the work-group.
Let's discuss what we
mean by mitigations and
There is some level of
risk in everything we
do. A
mitigation, or control,
is a method by which we
reduce risk by identifying
hazards and taking actions
to reduce the potential
severity or probability of
occurrence associated with
that risk. There are
three types of controls to
mitigate the spread
of COVID-19 in the
Administrative Controls
and Personal Protective
Examples of engineering
controls are features of
the physical workspace
that we put in place to
help reduce the spread of
infection. For example:
Workspaces might be
adjusted to add plexiglass
or raise cubicle walls to
create a physical barrier
between employees.
Desks might be moved to
put distance of six feet
or more between employees.
These types of controls
help to physically reduce
the potential for direct
contact with potentially
respiratory droplets.
Administrative controls
reduce risks through
This is very important
while operating during the
COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Protection
Conditions or HPCON
on installations are
an example, as are travel
restrictions. NAVAIR has
issued specific
COVID-19 policy,
guidance and training
aimed at reducing the risk
of infection in
the workplace.
Administrative controls
include maximizing
telework or other altered
schedules that limit the
number of individuals
working in proximity to
each other, as well as
the mandate that all
individuals at ALL NAVAIR
commands and sites are
required to wear face
coverings that completely
cover the mouth AND nose
when entering and moving
through NAVAIR
facilities. There may
also be current or future
administrative controls
mandatedll from the
NAVAIR Commander or higher
headquarters requiring a
screening process to enter
buildings on base.
Personal protective
equipment or PPE is
specialized equipment
designed to protect
individuals performing
certain functions within
an organization.
Due to limited
PPE is not intended to
be widely distributed;
nor is it necessary
for all employees. The
proper use of engineering
and administrative
controls should
significantly reduce risk
of COVID infection
for the workforce.
Supervision is a critical
part of the continuous
approach to O-R-M.
After risks have been
identified, hazards and
probabilities have been
assessed, and controls
and mitigations have been
directed, supervisors must
ensure that controls are
communicated, applied,
and are being effective.
Supervisors and employees
should communicate
frequently about the
effectiveness of controls,
and assess if adjustments
need to be made. NAVAIR
leaders will continue to
monitor on-site regional
and local conditions for
resurgence of infections
and adjust ineffective
risk controls to mitigate
the danger to personnel.
Government, Civilian,
Contractors and Military
personnel all need to
continuously assess their
own COVID exposure
risk and work with their
supervisors to determine
if additional risk
mitigations are needed to
protect the work center
from COVID
outbreak among coworkers.
Not only when returning
from leave or travel,
but also based on
daily interaction with the
For example, if you eat at
a crowded restaurant you
assume a high risk of
COVID infection compared
to the much lower risk
of infection when you are
eating at home
alone. Additionally,
after travel, quarantine
greatly reduces the risk
of spreading
COVID to co-workers.
Face coverings are one of
the most effective ways to
stop infections
when worn properly.
In addition, social
distancing of six feet or
more and space
optimization have proven
to be some of the best
strategies to reduce the
risk of infection in
and out of the workplace.
Integrating ORM into
planning at all levels and
as early as possible
provides the greatest
opportunity to make
well-informed risk
decisions and implement
effective risk control.
It is essential for the
individual to consider the
event in which they are
engaged and select the
appropriate controls to
meet the hazards they
identify. The health and
safety of our workforce is
our top priority.
Risk Management,
O-R-M, helps us mitigate
risks and make informed
decisions critical to
accomplishing the mission.

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