Risk Management & the 4th of July

| July 7, 2009

I spent the 4th of July at Disney.  It was the first time I have been to Disney in several years.  The fireworks display was truly impressive.  After the fireworks were over, we made our way back to our hotel using Disney’s transit system.   I was once again struck by Disney’s ability to efficiently manage large crowds of people.

Disney Fireworks

Disney Fireworks

Unfortunately, early Sunday morning tragedy struck Disney’s transit system when two monorail trains collided – killing one of the train operators.  According to news reports, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently conducting an investigation into this accident. 

I was contemplating this accident – and the resulting negative publicity for Disney – as I reviewed the latest draft of ISO 31000 – ISO’s newly developed Risk Management standard.

One of the weaknesses of many risk management programs is failing to fully evaluate the risks associated with events that are rare (low likelihood) but with the potential for severe (highly negative) consequences.  In Section 5.5.2, ISO 31000 suggests that such events may warrant risk treatment even when it appears that action may not be justifiable on strictly economic grounds.  The typical assumption being that the event will never happen; therefore, the time and money expended to evaluate and address the risk will be wasted.

This monorail accident appears to be this type of an event. 

It was clearly rare.  According to Disney, this is the first fatal crash in the 38-year history of the monorail’s operation.   

Yet, the consequences of this accident are likely to be severe –

  • death of an employee
  • reduced confidence in – and utilization of – the transit system by guests
  • the costs incurred associated with an OSHA fatality investigation – even if no fines are imposed
  • negative publicity for a company that is very concerned about maintaining a positive public image

Take ISO 31000’s advice to heart in your own risk management programs – including the risk assessments conducted to meet the requirements of OHSAS 18001.  Be sure that your low likelihood risks are evaluated – including those associated with abnormal or unusual activities.  As the accident at Disney proved, just because an event hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean it may not happen tomorrow.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)


Category: Emergency Preparedness, Risk Management

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