Risk and Self-Assessment


By George Tranos

Let me just say this up front – motorcycling is dangerous! No matter how much we try, we can never fully eliminate the risks involved in riding. That said, we can also get hit by the proverbial bus crossing the street. Some people won’t do anything that has an element of danger. That may be fine for them, but for adventurous types like you and I, that just isn’t living! Adrenaline seekers need the thrill of peril to make us feel more alive. There are ways to minimize that risk and still enjoy the rewards we seek.

Risk awareness and management are fundamental tools used by first responders, pilots, adventurers and persons who have other dangerous pursuits and professions. While no one can fully eliminate all danger, a risk self-assessment can be a vital tool to help you become more fully aware of the factors that contribute to risk. Being aware of the risk can help you decide if and how some of the risk can be mitigated, or if you might want to avoid the activity at this time.

The “I’m Safe” checklist is a self-assessment checklist to assist pilots in determining their own physical and mental health before flight. It can help you assess your risk. The I’M SAFE Checklist is taught early in flight training and is used throughout a pilot’s professional career to assess their overall readiness for flight when it comes to illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue and emotion. Like many other acronyms, each letter represents one thing to check. Here’s a quick rundown.

I = Illness. Do I have an illness or any symptoms of an illness?

M = Medication. Have I been taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs?

S = Stress. Am I under psychological pressure from the job, worried about financial matters, health matters or family discord?

A = Alcohol. Have I been drinking within 8 hours? Within 24 hours?

F = Fatigue. Am I tired and not adequately rested?

E = Eating. Am I adequately nourished?

Most of the time, this type of self-assessment is hard, but pilots, professionals and others need to try to maintain an objective view of themselves in order to assess their behavior and emotions in a safe way. Riding a motorcycle is akin to flying on the ground. As such, riders need to be just as aware and prepared as a pilot. For example, if a rider notices that they are unusually angry or impatient while getting ready to ride, he or she may want to reconsider riding.

Other occupations use similar but different risk assessment checklists. The Coast Guard (and Coast Guard Auxiliary of which I am a member) uses the General Assessment of Risk (GAR) model. Also, called Green-Amber-Red, this model uses Supervision, Planning, Team Selection, Team Fitness, Environment and Event/Evolution Complexity as their rating elements. Each category is assigned a risk code of 0 (For No Risk) through 10 (For Maximum Risk) and the score from each category is totaled. If the total falls in the green zone, risk is at a minimum. If the total falls in the amber zone, risk is moderate and you should consider adopting procedures to minimize risk. If the total falls in the red zone, you need to implement measures to reduce the risk prior to starting the event/evolution. The GAR model should be used as part of planning operations and should be continually reassessed as milestones within our plans are reached or as elements change. It is vital to the safety of the crew and to the success of the mission that the coxswain and crew understand and evaluate the full impact of risk versus gain for each tasking.

If Risk Assessment is determined to be excessive, there are options to determine if the risks can be reduced or controlled. Some control options include: Spread-out – Disperse the risk by increasing the time between events or using additional assets. Transfer – If practical, locate a better-suited asset to conduct the mission (i.e. different type of asset or crew). Avoid – Circumvent hazard: Wait for risk to subside (i.e. wait until daylight or weather passes). Accept – In some cases the benefit might justify the assumption of risk. In these cases a decision to accept risk may be made with the stipulation that risk is re-evaluated as the mission progress. (No adjustment to Risk Assessment). Reduce – Reduce or limit risk exposure, use of Personal Protective Equipment, additional training or rest, stress reduction.

The key here is that no matter which risk assessment tool is used, you should always self-assess the dangers involved and be aware of what you can do to reduce risk. Riding may never be completely safe, but individually we can each be more aware of what’s involved and take action to reduce our risk and increase our safety and enjoyment.