How to Manage Risks with Chronic Unease

Editor's Note: A warm welcome to Laura Fruhen who joins us from Australia sharing research on how chronic unease can be used to support safety management in aviation.

Chronic Unease - A State of Mind to Manage (Safety) Risks

When making everyday decisions, we rarely have all the information available. Sometimes, we deal with ambiguous information, so we may rely on assumptions. When managing safety, making sense of unclear and ambiguous information can be critical.

In this blog post, I will discuss chronic unease as a mindset that can support managers in dealing with vague and unclear information in their decision-making.

To Be Wary Is To Be Ready for the Unexpected

Some safety issues present themselves clearly. These are often issues that researchers classify as personal safety (i.e. Do workers use the right personal protective equipment?). Other safety issues can be hard to spot and equally hard to pin down. For example issues that are embedded in the processes of operations and can be visualized by Reason’s (1997) Swiss cheese. They are the holes that might be hiding in each slice of cheese (i.e. barrier).

Some organisations, such as those in the aviation sector, operate in risky contexts and are extremely capable of maintaining their safety barriers, assessing the state of their safety processes, and ensuring the holes in their barriers do not align. They are highly vigilant to weak signals of potential risks. These high reliability organisations (HROs) share certain characteristics that make their risk management so successful as they:

  • Evaluate the absence of surprises as a reason for anxiety, not complacency
  • Assume that they might not fully comprehend the complex systems that they operate and are preoccupied with failure
  • Adopt a many-angled approach of constant improvement towards safety issues

Managing Risks

Organisations don’t always manage risks collectively and it often comes down to the individual decision-maker to determine how to solve a problem or a way to go forward. In fact, organisations are in many ways systems of decision makers.

These decision makers, both individually and collectively, are potential hole-makers as well as hole-fixers in the cheese slices that keep organisations safe. The figure below illustrates the impact that managers can have on many of these barriers through the decisions that they make.

managing risk ATC

Decisions are usually made based on information. The quality of any decision then depends on the information that it is based on - and the skills, knowledge, ability and intuition of the person making the decision.

As humans, we are usually confident in our attention and our ability to notice changes in the environment and to identify (weak) signals of risk. However, the reality is that our attention is very selective and we often use mental shortcuts (called heuristics) to simplify complex problems.

Humans, while confident about their information processing abilities, are in actuality not that great at dealing with ambiguous and complex information. This video nicely illustrates some of the limitations of our attention.

In an organisational context, it can be hard to immediately identify the effects that decisions might have on operations. Similarly, it can be tricky to notice what relevant signals present themselves in the environment and which decisions are the right ones in more and more complex contexts, organisations and operations.

The Uneasy Manager

In our research, Prof. Rhona Flin and I have investigated unease and how it can support managers in their work, particularly in overcoming ambiguity and complexity in information and the environment. Unease has been highlighted as an attribute of managers in highly reliable organisations.

Chronic unease refers to the experience of discomfort and concern about the management of risks. It is a healthy skepticism about one's own decisions and the risks that are inherent in many complex and risky environments. Ultimately, it is the gut feeling that occurs when we are not quite confident in our decisions and our assessment of what is going on. For example, imagine you are an air traffic management supervisor and your employees tell you the following:

“Yesterday we broke the record for the number of arrivals in one hour”.

How do you react? Do you congratulate them? Or do you think about the pressure they may have put on the system? Do you consider the potential risks that could have degraded barriers by operating with higher levels of traffic? Do you worry about the extent to which the ATCOs (Air Traffic Controllers) might have been putting unnecessary pressure on themselves to cope with high traffic loads? Do you worry whether they focus too much on traffic throughput rather than on safety?

What about if your employees tell you the following:

“The met forecast is often inaccurate so we don’t restrict inbounds until the actual visibility falls”

What would your response be? Do you wonder about possible inbound overload due to reduced visibility? Are you concerned about how diversions are being handled? Do you reflect on where to hold inbounds and how to inform ACC (Area Control Centre) to reduce speed of next arrivals? Are you concerned about the safety implications of a forecast that is inaccurate? Are you wondering for how long this practice may have been going on? Do you worry about the reasons why you had not known about this before? Would this even keep you up at night?

Your intuitive reaction to safety issues such as the ones above can help filter attention to the issues that are most critical and focus further investigation of what might actually be going on. This intuition is often derived from experience.

This form of thinking can be particularly helpful when risk related information is ambiguous (that is, it allows for different interpretations or conflicting meanings) or unclear (where not enough is known). You can think of your intuitive reaction to safety issues as an additional piece of (highly subjective) information that you can consider to make sense of the issues that present themselves and where to focus your attention.

Why Some Managers May Be More Uneasy Than Others

Some managers might be more uneasy than others. Similarly, others might experience unease, but might not refer to it as readily in their work as a source of information. So what are the characteristics of managers that might affect these tendencies?

We have identified five characteristics that are likely to be linked to the managerial experience of unease (see Figure below).

ATC safety

We proposed that vigilance and experience will shape the extent to which managers notice (weak) signals of risks. Further, we identified that safety imagination (also labelled requisite imagination by Westrum, 1991), the managers’ propensity to worry, and their pessimism (which includes a negative outlook as well as a tendency to resist complacency) can affect the level of unease that a manager is likely to experience in response to the risks they perceive.

How to Channel Unease to Support Safety Management

Experiencing unease is only a starting point. The important question is what to do with it. Just being uneasy in itself will not help managers in their management of risks, in fact it might make them less effective. The trick is to transfer it into useful actions that can lead to better risk management.

We found that unease manifests itself in many ways in managers. That included behaviours that the safety literature has identified as having a positive effect on safety. These included:

  • Being inspirational
  • Asking for input from employees
  • Setting clear goals
  • Providing rewards
  • Making safety a priority

However, the most prevalent issue we recognised was the extent to which managers tend to channel their unease into flexible thinking.

Flexible Thinking

Flexible thinking is the tendency to approach safety-related issues from many angles, to think about them critically and to question assumptions. Individuals who are chronically uneasy about safety-related issues are more likely to engage in flexible thinking. Doing so helps them to better solve safety-related problems, and encourage this type of thinking in their colleagues. Flexible thinking can for example entail:

  • Not jumping to conclusions
  • Avoiding standard answers as to why issues occur
  • Exploring new problems with a fresh look, while building on experience
  • Considering all sources of data and information, and identifying whether more data and information is needed
  • Critically examining the issues that are behind the situation
  • Considering each issue on its own, but also the interconnections between issues

How Much Unease is Healthy?

In our reflections about unease, we reasoned that there is likely to be an optimal, or healthy level of unease for each manager.

Too little unease might lead to complacency, so that warning signals are ignored, ambiguities are marginalised, and adverse consequences are not considered.

On the other side of the spectrum, too much unease might lead to the experience of anxiety, affecting decision making, action and over the long run, (mental) health.

The trick will be for each manager to reflect about the ways in which they react to risks, to use this as a source of information and channel it into behaviours as well as information processing strategies that are going to have a positive impact on safety.

So the next time, when that vague sense of unease sneaks up on you, don't dismiss it. Maybe the ways in which it can be put to use described here can help you to harness it so that it can support you in managing the risks in your business.

Image and video credits: Brain via author, Cheese diagram by author, based on Reason, 1997,  Incidents & Accidents diagram by author, video (c) by Daniel Simons (1999), based on research by Simons and Christopher Chabris, posted on YouTube by Daniel Simons

Additional Resources About chronic unease and the research that went into developing the concept About Laura’s work on organisational safety and leadership or to inquire about research collaborations around unease and other safety related topics

This blog post is based on the following research papers: Fruhen, L. S., Flin, R. H., & McLeod, R. (2014). Chronic unease for safety in managers: a conceptualisation. Journal of Risk Research, 17(8), 969-979. Flin, R., & Fruhen, L. (2015). Managing Safety: Ambiguous Information and Chronic Unease. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 23(2), 84-89. Fruhen, L. S., & Flin, R. (2015). ‘Chronic unease’ for safety in senior managers: an interview study of its components, behaviours and consequences. Journal of Risk Research, (ahead-of-print), 1-19.

References Reason, J. (1997). Managing the risks of organizational accidents. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Rochlin, G.I. (1993). Defining "high reliability" organizations in practice: A taxonomic prologue. In K.H. Roberts, New Challenges to Understanding Organizations. (pp.11-32). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Weick, K.E., & Sutcliffe, K.M. (2006). Mindfulness and the quality of organizational attention. Organizational Science, 17, 514-524.

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Australia Airports Build: The Other End of the Line

  The focus of post 2 of this series was the pressure currently being placed on the Brisbane Airport in Australia, in part, from a type of mining operation known as FIFO. Obviously, for the FIFO concept to work there need to be airports at the other end of the sector and that is the topic of this post.

As introduced, FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) is a resourcing tool for remote and regional mine sites to staff their operations from larger population bases and locations offering a better lifestyle.

As Australia's resource sector took off in the mid-2000s, companies had to compete on more than wages to attract enough personnel to make their operations viable. By flying in staff from cities, companies had access to a large pool of recruits and workers had the ability to earn attractive incomes while their families maintained a comfortable lifestyle at home.

In order to facilitate this system, mines and other resource company locations needed an airstrip, aerodrome or airport, depending on the size of the operation.

Industry-wide Growth

A comparison of certified aerodrome numbers from 2004 to 2010 showed that the overall numbers of such aerodromes increased by 30%.

Comparison of Certified Aerodrome Numbers 2004-2010 Grouped by Operator Type

A deeper dive into the numbers shows that the relative percentage of aerodromes owned by resource companies grew in excess of the overall increase. Over this period, 19 aerodromes operated by resource companies entered the certified airport business, so to speak, and this presented challenges both in the ramp up and the ongoing operation of these facilities.

The Need to Build

While the economics of mine development are beyond the scope of this article, to a casual observer, the case for having an aerodrome on one's mine site must have been strong. In areas with dense mining activity, it became normal to have upwards of five aerodromes/airports located within a 30 nautical mile radius.

In the image of the Leinster Area, Western Australia, below, the large red aircraft are certified aerodromes (not current) and the smaller aircraft are uncertified landing sites in support of other mines and remote farming stations.

Close Aerodromes

The proximity of the airport to the site or village would have an impact not only on the work periods and fatigue considerations of the company but also the amenity and comfort factors for the worker. At the height of the mining boom, worker attitude to a site's facilities became an important factor for some as they had the pick of work sites and were happy to move sites at a whim.

In addition to the basic number of new certified aerodromes at mine sites, the size of some of these facilities became significant as the boom progressed. While many aerodromes grew from humble beginnings as emergency airstrips and may have only required some paperwork and no physical works to accommodate a Dash-8-200 (the general trigger for certification, i.e. an aircraft with more than 30 seats), other sites required something bigger straight away. Some of these facilities went from nothing to jet in no time at all.

Fortescue Dave Forrest airport in Western Australia is one such airport. The Fortescue Metals Group operation near Nullagine was a significant development in its own right and needed an airport to suit. From a greenfield site, the company constructed a 2300 meter long runway with supporting infrastructure capable of supporting regular A320 aircraft, initially, and F100 aircraft, currently, from Perth.

In addition to dealing with the remoteness of the site and the scarcity of expertise and labour at the time, the project also involved cutting through a hill and diverting a creek to find that balance between cost and efficiency.

Building was just the First Obstacle

Once the airport was built, a whole new set of challenges for the mining company began. Running an airport, especially a certified aerodrome, comes with a bunch of regulatory and safety requirements. As mining companies focussed on doing what they do best, non-core activities such as running the airport either fell to mine workers as secondary duties or became outsourced to the village operator or another sub-contractor on site.

The results tended to vary.

Workers on these airport, invariably, had other jobs on site. Be they cleaners, cooks, safety officers, paramedics, they all needed training and few came with aviation experience. Luckily for the industry, competency-based training had been developed some years prior and tailored courses for mine sites were easily developed and deployed.

But it wasn't as simple as that. With staff turnover high, it was not unheard of for training organisations to be visiting sites on numerous occasions to train up new workers with the previous staff having left for other opportunities. Sometimes, it was a matter of weeks between visits.

This training also focussed on the frontline workers, such as aerodrome reporting officers and ground handlers. Support for aerodrome managers was required as, again, people with little aviation experience had to navigate aviation safety regulations including grappling with the implementation of Safety Management Systems like the rest of the industry. In response, a healthy consultancy industry grew in support.

That consultancy industry has, in some ways, morphed into a dedicated airport operations service industry with a number of companies offering airport labour and full service solutions to mining and resource companies.

What Does the Future Hold?

The heat is off the mining sector generally but there are plenty of FIFO operations still in business. In some other areas, the FIFO concept itself is under pressure. Regardless of the outcome of these political and economic arguments, the benefit of aviation and airport supported operations is now too well known to not be considered in any future development or expansion.

In these leaner times, innovation will become vital as both mining companies and service providers seek to distinguish themselves from their competitors. The skills and knowledge gained during the boom times might become a valuable commodity for those seeking employment or engagement in a tougher market.

The next few years will prove to be interesting in the remote and regional areas of Australia.

Australia airports


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Performance: Going for the Deep Dive

In this series’s previous post, I discussed the identification of critical controls in the service of a fully-functioning airport (or anything for that matter) safety assurance, but that is not the end of the story.

The point of having these critical controls is to provide your organisation with an account of how it manages risk.

The role of the Accountable Executive, supported by their subordinates, is to be in a position to provide that account and to ensure that it aligns with the organisation’s strategy and objectives, or vice versa.

There may be some discussion on the level to which this account should reach but the following article outlines what is thought to be an effective and achievable middle ground.

A Model for Doing Stuff

When approaching the problem of assessment, it is advisable to have general model of how stuff gets done. In this case, you need a model of a systematic approach to doing.

Probably one of the most widely accepted models is PDCA which stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act. There is plenty of information on the Internet on PDCA and perhaps it is the result of an inadequate understanding on my part but I like to modify it slightly.

For me (and others), the D(o) and the A(ct) are the same thing, and you may not want to act if you haven’t planned that action appropriately.

So I like to look at it as PDC and while the P-D-C steps are in order, they may not always flow one after the other. You might have ten goes at the doing before you do a check and that might send you right back to the doing part. Below, is a somewhat colourful and hopefully informative diagram.

PDC Diagram

Starting at the Start

I hope it is obvious that this circular, feedback driven process starts with a plan. This plan will be based on the identified risk, any legislated standards and/or regulatory requirements as well as industry best practices. This is where your assessment standard will also need to start.

The assessment of the “plan” step will include answering the following questions:

  1. Does the plan address the risk, does it meet standards and requirements and is it best practice?
  2. Is the plan documented (for example, in the Aerodrome Manual or in the Wildlife Hazard Management Plan)?
  3. Does the plan result in assessable procedures, tools and/or training?

Going for a Ride

The next step of the assessment (and therefore the next part of the assessment standard) will look at the “do” part. This process will involve:

  1. Checking that the do-er has access to the procedures
  2. Checking that the do-er’s tools are fit-for-purpose, available and serviceable
  3. Checking that the do-er is trained
  4. Checking that it all comes together to achieve the plan

Who Checks the Checkers?

Some people might argue that the process I am outlining here (critical controls and assessment standards), is the “check” step - I don’t agree.

This step in the cycle is for those in the cycle. This overall process of assurance discussed here, sits outside the cycle. It is independent (and hopefully, objective) as its goal is not in the doing but in the managing or governance.

The “check” step is about feedback to the do-er and will be, itself, laid out in the plan. The plan should discuss when a supervisor or manager will review records to identify trends or sign-off work as complete - it will vary. At the very least, you are looking for feedback.

Probably, the best example I can think of is for regular but random checks of airside drivers. The authorising of drivers is the “doing” part but going out on the movement area and checking licences or measuring vehicle speeds is the “checking”.

Your assessment standard should include these steps to provide an overall picture of the system in action.

Pulling it Together

With assessment standard in hand, it is time to get to work - auditing. Some might not consider auditing real work but it can be challenging, especially when your goal is addressing risk in a functional, yet efficient way.

Runway Entry

The end result will be a condense but complete picture of how a critical control is performing. This digestible form will allow your Accountable Executive to have a full appreciation of the process by which your organisation manages risk. Put it together with some contextual statistics (e.g. significant events, losses, magnitude of operations), and your assurance processes will put you in the drivers position in terms of accountability and improvement.

This was part 3 in a 3-part series on proactive safety assurance in relation to risk assessment - part 1 looked at the Safety Assurance process overall while part 2 explored the concept of critical controls.

Feel free to contribute to this post and other posts by leaving a comment below (registration needed before you can comment).

Photo of sun by APilotsEye

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Critical Controls: What Keeps You Up at Night?

airport safety assuranceToday's post on safety assurance will focus on identifying and measuring critical controls.

Checking an entire system of controls is a big job. Reporting on those checks would be an even bigger job and not necessarily a welcome thing if your senior management is as busy as mine. The company I work for employs a criticality filter to focus our accountability on those activities that mean the most.

This article is going the explore both why you might want to use criticality and how you might apply it to your long list of controls.

How Do You Manage a Deluge?

Anyone who has dealt with a large spreadsheet knows about filters. Power users of Excel or Numbers will have used them to their advantage and, if they have done it in front of others, have probably earned themselves a few admirers.

But even the most tech-noob amongst us is using filtering all the time. Human perception filters out, supposedly, unneeded data automatically either to allow us effectively operate or because our body is suffering under stress (think, tunnel vision leading passing out when subject to G-force).

As stated above, a criticality filter can take your lists of (potentially hundreds of) controls down to 3-10 and if this list if truly your most importance risk control activities, then now you have the time go into depth on these controls and then report up to your Accountable Executive in a way that they can digest, comprehend and articulate, if required.

Pick Your Favourite Child?

Once you've accepted that you need to choose some of your control activities for special attention, now you need to pick them. This is probably the part of the process where things have the potential to become contentious and to be stalled.

The primary piece of advice given to me when I was first introduced to this approach was to consider "what controls, if not working properly would keep me up of night?" At that time, I was still new in my job, so I have a few things I wanted to change and these kept me up at night already - so it was easy.

But having been through the process now, I have developed some other guidelines to help identify the critical aspects of your operations. They are proactivity, persistence and multi-purposes.

  • Proactive Controls

Don't rely on a trigger to be enacted/implemented. Obviously, this applies to activities like habitat control (grass management) and serviceability inspections.

  • Persistent Controls

These are ones that are always there during operations. Passenger screening and approach slope guidance lights are good examples having this quality.

  • Multi-purpose Controls

These are signal activities that address two or more hazards/risks. A perimeter fence is a great example of this as it address both the safety risk of animals and the security risk from agents with intent.

Don't Forget Context

As with nearly everything in the field of safety management, a definitive answer on critical controls cannot be given. Because your context will be different to mine, and even mine is changing over time.

The matrix below shows the critical controls I've been working with for the last year but they are under review at the moment.

Example Airport Critical Control Matrix (CC) Dan Parsons

Given I think that this is a contentious topic, I'd love to hear your point of view in the comments below.

In part 3, we'll go into what you do with these critical controls through the development of a standard against which your audit/review is conducted.  Part 1 provided an overview of Safety Assurance.

Photo credits: 1 is by APilotsEye 

Rest Assured: Safety Assurance for a Good Night's Sleep

This is part 1 in a 3-part series on proactive safety assurance. This article provides a little overview on safety assurance as a process and a potential way to lighten the load to get started. Of the 4 pillars of ICAO's Safety Management System (SMS) framework, I tend to think that Safety Assurance is the biggest lost opportunity. Policy, risk management and training tend to get done in same manner but a truly proactive assurance program is, in my experience, often overlooked. And that is a shame, because I see the assurance part as the difference between doing safety and managing safety. But the challenge is where to draw the line in terms of detail and reporting. This series looks at how to tackle that problem.

Without a feedback loop, a safety manager can't provide assurance to the highest level of the organisation that safety objectives are being met. Without that assurance, accountable executives cannot provide an account (the definition of the title) of how safety is achieved.

Without that accountability, I don't know how they sleep at night.

Investigation and statistical analysis are a key part of a safety assurance program but they aren't the full story. Looking at where you have had problems in the past is important but it's not going to cover all your bases - it is not going to help in a dynamic environment, during periods of change or to help catch that insidious black swan.

To complement this reactive approach, you need to get proactive.

That means going out and looking at the operation in action, making sure it is performing as designed and that the design achieves the objectives of the system (including safety). Again, this is the difference between doing and managing.

Going out and measuring normal performance will give you a better chance of spotting deviation and catching problems before they become problems.

Information Overload

So did that just double your workload?

It did seem that I suggest you not only do your job but then you check that your job was done correctly.

Well, yes, it does mean that. It gets even worse when you consider that many operational tasks airside on an airport are checks in themselves. So I am actually asking that you check that your checks are functioning as expected by you, your stakeholders and your regulator.

Regulatory guidance tends to suggest that the expectation is that operators will check their entire system and maybe that should be the goal.

But in implementing a new or revitalised proactive assurance program it might pay to focus on what is important or in other words critical.

Let's Get Critical

Critical is such a good word in this context. It has a generally accepted meaning that does allow it to be honed in specific contexts. No one seems to get upset when you specify what critical means in a particular context like they do when you define risk in anything but ISO31000 terms.

And it is tied to that concept of risk so neatly that now you start to have the ability to assess what aspects of your operations need to be looked at closely.

The organisation I work for focuses on critical controls and they are the pivot points for a standardised approach to auditing, review and reporting.

In part 2 of this series, we'll dive into critical controls and how they can be defined and then used to get a good night's sleep every night. But before you go to bed, leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.

Editor’s Note From today we will publish bimonthly, so 2 posts a month. Our next article will be on the 26th March 2014 then on the 9th of April and so forth. We thank you for being part of our community.


Hop On the Airport Risk Review Merry-Go-Round

7 Steps to Airport Wildlife Risk Managment

This is the final part of a 7 part series exploring the use of the ISO 31000 risk management framework in airport wildlife risk management; the previous parts have explored consultation, context, risk identification, assessment, evaluation, and treatment.

You might think you’re all done. You’re now sitting back with your treatments mapped out, all of which are based on your requirements for each of your risk scores relating to your identified species. But this is probably where the management part of risk management comes to the fore.

Monitoring and review is more than a step. Like consultation, it relates to every step of the way. It pops into and out of every other part of the risk management process and different approaches and techniques are required.

The Stalwart

I think nearly every airport that does wildlife hazard management has a bird counting process and there are pretty well established standards for these.

But monitoring and review is so much more than this. In fact it is probably too big to discuss in its entirety here, so I just want to tackle a couple of point I think are important.

Harassment Effectiveness

ISO 31000 lists control effectiveness as the first objective of monitoring and review. While bird counts and strike data do this, for harassment control there are a few other variables that can potentially confound these results.

Instead, I think that airside officers should score the effectiveness of their harassment activities as they do them and, potentially, at set intervals after. A simple scoring system on perceived effectiveness is a good start and over time, may provide useful information on which techniques are worthwhile and which are not. This is particularly important when habituation is a big problem with wildlife harassment.

When? Always But Not All the Time.

While monitoring is continually taking place, there will need to be periods between reviews to ensure that sufficient data is available for the identification of trends and significant phenomena.

On a daily basis, airside officers will be monitoring birds (through standard counts or while on patrol). Sometimes these observations will lead to immediate action such as a BirdTAM or similar but this data will also go into a database for regular review.

Other reviews will take place on seasonal or annual bases. Species identification and habitat reviews may take place at set times during the year.

While some guidance material puts a 5-year timeframe on your wildlife hazard management plan review. I would consider this a review of the plan’s framework (e.g. [risk assessment methodology](link post 4), [risk evaluation criteria](link post 5), etc.) more than its content. A new species is not going to wait for your next review to follow those locusts that just arrived in the area.

Your strategies within the plan will need to be more flexible and your processes will need to be responsive enough to manage the seasonal and periodic variability of the world’s natural environment.

There is Always More

As I hinted above, there is more to this than what I have written about here. It’s a big subject and there is always more to learn, more to write about and more to do. Help us flesh out this subject below by commenting with your experiences, knowledge and lessons learnt.

The Matrix of Airport Wildlife Risk Management

7 Steps to Airport Wildlife Risk Management

This is part 6 of a 7 part series exploring the use of the ISO31000 risk management framework in airport wildlife risk management; the previous parts have explored consultation, context, risk identification, assessment and evaluation.

By now, you’ve got a list of bird and animal species with appropriate risk scores or categories and a list of requirements for each of these categories and this step can either be a lot of fun or infuriatingly frustrating.

Fun, because it involves solving problems and buying toys, and frustrating, because it there are no easy answers. And I’m sorry to report, that this post is not about silver-bullets. There are none.

Remember that context step earlier? That should have been a hint that this series was not going to provide solutions. Instead, we’ve been discussing the approach you can take to implement your own and have confidence in your decisions. So let’s look at how you will decide what toys to buy, what strategies to implement and what activities to perform.

Focus on the Problem

Ever since the risk identification step, we have focussed on the wildlife and it makes sense to carry that on. Especially, if some of those species are in categories that require you to develop a specific risk treatment plan or to target or consider them in your general strategies.

So, take each such species in turn and look for strategies that address their presence on the airport or in flightpaths.

Look for a variety of measures for each species and then put them all together.

Add Structure

Doing the same thing or the same sort of thing, over and over again, is like walking on a tight-rope. There is no room for error and everything is pretty unstable.

It is much more advisable to attack the problem from a few different directions. You need to create a matrix or a network of strategies to provide depth to your defensive strategy. Even ISO recommends this by promoting “the adoption of a combination of treatment options”.

The structure I like to use is to categorise each risk treatment as either preventative/mitigative and passive/active.

Preventative and mitigative refers to the presence of wildlife on the airport or in potential conflict with aircraft. Each risk treatment is categorised on whether it prevents wildlife from entering these areas (either physically, via some deterrent or removal of attractant) or mitigates the impact of their presence.

Passive and active refers the necessity for regular human involvement to enable the control measure to achieve its aim. Passive measures are set and forget type measures (e.g. fences) and active measures require constant or regular human involvement (e.g. egg removal).

Take each of your identified strategies and put them into a matrix with preventative/mitigative on one scale and passive/active on the other. You are aiming for good coverage in each of the four areas. If there are any gaps, keep looking for solutions.

Go Circular

Before you rush off and start implementing your strategies, you might need to do some more risk management. The introduction of risk treatments might introduce new or alter existing risks and these need to be managed much like the wildlife we are seeking to avoid.

A good example is the use of firearms. They introduce quite a bit of risk and you will need to identify, analysis, evaluate and treat these risks as well. The process will be the same but the tools and techniques will differ.

Once you have closed this loop, you are ready to go - good luck.


Don’t go too far, you are going to need to keep an eye on things and make adjustments as required. Let’s go through this in the next and final post. While we wait, why not post a comment on your treatment strategies.

Resources More information on wildlife hazard management and bird strikes can be found at: