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An insight into the application of Dynamic Risk Assessment. Edmund Jacobs MSc MIOSH RSP MIIRSM FRSH Occupational Health & Safety Manager. What is Dynamic Risk Assessment (DRA)?.

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an insight into the application of dynamic risk assessment

An insight into the application of Dynamic Risk Assessment


Occupational Health & Safety Manager

what is dynamic risk assessment dra
What is Dynamic Risk Assessment (DRA)?

“the continuous assessment of risk in the rapidly changing circumstances of an operational incident, in order to implement the control measures necessary to ensure an acceptable level of safety”

(HM Fire Service Inspectorate, 1998)

dra concept
DRA concept
  • The assessment of risk in dynamic situations is undertaken

prior, during and after the execution of an operation

  • The benefits of proceeding with a task must be weighed carefully against the risk
  • Think before you act rather than act before you think
  • What sets DRA apart from systematic risk assessment is that it is applied in situations that are:

- unpredictable/unforeseen risks

- the risk environment rapidly changes

- allows individual to make a risk judgement

- provides personnel with a consistent approach to

assessing risk



Initial Attendance Stage of Incident

Evaluate the situation, tasks & persons at risk

Select systems of work

Consider viable alternatives

Proceed with tasks

Assess the chosen system of work


Are the risks proportional to the benefits?


Re-assess systems of work

Re-assess systems of work



Can additional control measures be introduced?

(HM Fire Services Inspectorate, 1998)

dynamic risk assessment flow chart

Developmental Stage of Incident

As the incident develops, re-evaluate the situation, tasks and persons at risk. Apply above model to take account of any new hazards and introduce control measures as necessary to allow existing or new tasks to proceed. Halt tasks completely if the risk outweighs the benefits to be gained.

(HM Fire Services Inspectorate, 1998)

dynamic risk assessment flow chart6

Closing Stage of Incident

Maintain the process of task and hazard identification, assessment of risk, planning, organisation, control, monitor and review of the preventative and protective measures

Incident debriefed

Significant information fed back to:

Strategic level

Systematic level

(HM Fire Services Inspectorate, 1998)

what types of organisation s use dra
What types of organisation’s use DRA?

Examples include:

  • Fire service
  • Ambulance service
  • Police service
  • Military
  • Commercial airline pilots


the history behind dra

The history behind DRA

An unacceptable level of fire-fighter deaths occurred during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s

HSE served a number of improvement notices on the fire service

HSE recommendations highlighted the need for better risk assessment in relation to the systems of command and tactical fire-fighting

(Flin, 1996)

the emergence of dra
The emergence of DRA
  • The fire service refocused its challenge on managing fire-fighter risk during fire fighting operations.
  • This led to a new concept of DRA being introduced in the early 1990’sas a means to manage operational risk in dynamic situations.
  • It was argued that the fire service had carried out assessments for years many years (prior to DRA) without the reference to the concept of risk. This equates to the concept of situation awareness and assessment referred to as ‘size-up’.
operational risk management model
Operational risk management model
  • Accountability & responsibility
  • Establish policy
  • Priorities
  • Resources
  • Positive H&S culture
  • Departments undertake risk
  • assessments
  • make recommendations to
  • improve safety
  • Develop & implement
  • additional control measures
  • Operational personnel
  • continuously evaluate &
  • manage risk at the
  • incident

Chief & Assistant Chief Fire Officers’ (1996)

fire service attitude towards safety
Fire Service – Attitude towards safety

The philosophy used highlights the correct attitude

towards safety:

“We may risk our lives a lot, in a highly calculated

manner, to protect saveable lives.

We may risk our lives a little, in a highly controlled

manner, to protect saveable property.

We will not risk our lives at all for lives or property that

are already lost.”

(HM Fire Inspectorate, 1998)


Fire Service - Core values

Core values define the boundaries and give a shared understanding of when personnel should place themselves at controlled risk.
  • Agreed core values avoid mixed messages being sent to staff
    • Without this employees are unsure as to what is expected of them
    • If core values are not formally agreed how do management know that they have the same view towards safety as others within the organisation
benefits of dra within fire service
Benefits of DRA within fire service
  • Reduction in fire-fighter deaths for many years
  • Risk is managed well within the fire service.
  • It is believed that DRA has proved its value in

promoting awareness of risk in dynamic environments

  • The link between risk and decision making also raises awareness of cognitive processes of assessing risk in operational situations
  • The model offers a basis for learning and a structure for debriefing of incidents and exercises where there is now a common language of risk
benefits of dra within fire service cont
Benefits of DRA within fire service (cont)
  • HSE satisfied with approach to safety
  • DRA integrated within risk management model
  • Levels of risk management model measurable against HSG65
  • Other occupations can benefit from the fire service experience and the utilisation of the DRA model offers “a learning and a structure for the debriefing of incidents”
criticisms of dra
Criticisms of DRA
  • It is unclear as to its origination or on what basis it was drawn up
  • No one has tested the various elements experimentally
  • DRA (key to decision making) suggests that generally decisions do not follow in a neat sequential procedure, instead characterised by apparently instinctive experience driven responses to the situation as it unfolds
  • Decision making research found that fire-fighters would be unlikely to comply with a deliberate process of risk assessment were it to be imposed

(Samurcay & Rogalski, 1988, cited in Tissington & Flin, 2004)

adoption of dra by police forces
Adoption of DRA by police forces
  • Other organisations followed in the fire service’s foot steps such as police forces e.g. West Midlands police and the MPS
  • The Metropolitan police were prosecuted by HSE for alleged breaches of health and safety, and failing to ensure the appropriate management of risk at operational incidents
  • This was a catalyst for other adopting forces
comparisons between the police service and fire service
Comparisons between the police service and fire service
  • Similarities:

- required to work in extremely hazardous and dynamic


- clearly defined command and control rank structure

  • Differences:

- fire-fighters attend incidents as a ‘crew’ with

equipment and line management

- police officers often operate as ‘single’ units and may

be the first to arrive at the scene with little or no


- initially, they often do not have back-up or specialist

resources to deal with the emergency

social and moral pressures
Social and moral pressures
  • The policing imperative requires a police officer to
  • preserve life, deter and detect crime. The overall mission
  • of policing is public safety
  • This duty to act may place officers in environments where
  • significant risk is present and may place officers in grave
  • danger
  • The HSE recognise that there may be a conflict between
  • protecting life, reducing crime and controlling the risks
  • for police officers
assessing risk in dynamic situations
Assessing risk in dynamic situations
  • The organisation needs to communicate risk expectations
  • clearly to their officers when operating in dynamic
  • environments
  • Are officers trained to a consistent level to assess
  • risk and are they empowered to make risk decisions?
  • Are officers given guidance on what aspects to record
  • and feedback?
difficulties of applying dra in the police service
Difficulties of applying DRA in the police service
  • There is no consistency of approach to DRA across forces
  • The content, level, duration and type of training is applied differently and excludes probationers
  • Training not endorsed by the Home Office
  • Ambiguity about the integration into procedures and systems
  • Awards for bravery: core values not defined mixed messages will be received about risk judgements
factors affecting the extent of application of dra
Factors affecting the extent of applicationofDRA
  • Employees facing dynamic situations may often:

- disregard operational risk controls to achieve local

and organisational goals and objectives

- operate under time pressure in high risk situations to complete their task may experience the “red mist”

- operate in situations where it is difficult to control the actions of others or environmental conditions

- be influenced by public expectations or cultural norms

- operate as a single unit without appropriate equipment with little experience

excessive risk taking behaviour
Excessive risk taking behaviour
  • Canteen culture: may not recognise that unnecessary risk taking as unacceptable behaviour, but may perceive this behaviour as part of the cultural norm.
  • Whilst the policing imperative may necessitate officers to operate in high risk situations the police service need to provide clear guidelines to prevent officers from placing themselves and others at unnecessary risk.
  • The H&S culture within the police service is personified in the tradition that police officers are awarded commendations for bravery; however there is little recognition for officers that carry out effective risk management.
post incident debrief
Post incident debrief
  • DRA provides a useful means for feedback and review of systematic assessment and strategic level
  • DRA is not about feeding every risk or situation back to the organisation, only significant and new risks and information
  • Organisations needs to have a shared understanding of risk
  • Detail what to report, record and when
hse view on dra
HSE view on DRA

It is recognised that the nature of policing necessitates police officers to respond to the demands of unpredictable and rapidly changing situations and reliance solely on systematic risk assessment and set procedures is unrealistic. In order for the police service to effectively manage operational risk appropriate training should be provided.

(HSE, 2005)

is there a conflict between dra and policing
Is there a conflict between DRA and policing?

There appears to be a fundamental conflict

that exists between DRA and policing with

officers, not only believing that they have an

unwritten duty to place themselves at risk but

also evidencing this behaviour.

the way forward
The Way Forward
  • The creation of core values on risk taking across all Forces.
  • A consistent and integrated approach to training delivered by knowledgeable people with experience in the field.
  • Training and greater accountability given to line management in recognition of their key roles in the process.
  • Post incident debrief undertaken to include feedback on DRA so that new risks or unforeseen complications can be recorded and risk assessments reviewed or undertaken.
the way forward cont
The Way Forward (cont)

The content of training needs to be considered to

improve or impact on an officer’s attitude and

behaviour. Canteen culture wields such a strong

influence over officers because unlike policies,

procedures and training courses the canteen culture

is reinforced on a daily basis.

Fielding (1992)