More about resilience

More about resilience

Nov 17th, 2016

Did we learn more about resilience at the Conference on Risk and Resilience?
Over forty papers and keynote lectures covered many aspects of hazards, risks. However, only a few taught about resilience.
By the way, one of the key lecturer asked the audience if there were any CEOs or CxOs from any mining company in the room. A long silence was the answer.

More about resilience
Nobody…it’s remarkable, isn’t it?
It seems that even in the aftermath of the two last tailings dams catastrophic failures, Management does not bother to learn more about risks. Or perhaps does not want to show in a conference?
Happily, we had a good audience at our course. A solid group of international mid-managers (Canada, US, Australia, Peru).

As per the terminology, we have the feeling that instead of learning more about resilience we learned about an attempt to create a new buzz-word with the side effect of increasing confusion.

More about resilience

Many stressed the need to clarify the glossary related to risk, consequences, etc. By the way, Riskope’s ISO 31000 compliant glossary link can be freely downloaded here .

Delegates defined Resilience as

the ability of a system to adjust and sustain required operations under both expected and unexpected conditions.

We were baffled. Unless one defines what expected or unexpected is, then one cannot define resilience. Should we understand that expected conditions are “average”? We base that on the mathematical sense. The expected value is the average value. If that’s true, i.e that is the intended meaning of “expected”, then “unexpected” means any value that is not the average. Most likely, in the realm of nefarious events, a higher value (more load, more water, etc.). But could also be a lower value (less steel resistance, fire resistance, etc.).
We imagine however that  “unexpected” means “far away from average”, but, again, unless we define  “how far”, the definition is incomplete.

If, instead, unexpected means “unknown” we would have a total new set of questions. Is unknown a “unheard of” type of event or an “unimaginable” one? Again all sorts of speculations can take place here, but let’s cut the story short.

Resilience engineering and resilience management

Delegates then said that

Resilience engineering and resilience management are the actions that can and must implemented to minimize risks to levels tolerable to all stakeholders.

Now we were really confused! We really want to minimize risks, all of them? Without looking at the return on mitigative investment and without any prioritization? And no risk assessment? And what about the tolerance of all stakeholders? Who defines it? When?

We then saw an organizational chart for resilience management, starting at CEO and Board level to explain more about resilience. It showed the engineers (of record), and all the other levels of management of a mining operation (mine manager, supervisors, etc.). In parallel it showed third party reviews and safety inspections/audits. Remarkably, no one in charge of risk assessment. When we asked why we heard that everyone should perform their own risk assessment.

Two case histories

Two case histories illustrated examples of “lack of resilience”:

  • blatant errors and omissions,
  • large mishaps consequences,
  • lack of monitoring and finally
  • blatant under-design.

Should we then consider good engineering sense  “sufficient or enhanced resilience”?
And what about over-design?

No one talked about fragile vs. ductile failures, a concept taught in good engineering courses already forty years ago.


We know there is more about resilience than the Conference showed.
Resilience enhancement should aim at:

  • avoiding fragile failures,
  • shortening the interdependent chains of failures, and finally
  • avoid domino effects, etc.

Resilience enhancement is important and deserves attention. It requires careful risk assessments to reveal:

  • difficult to spot risk exposures,
  • fragility areas of the system under consideration as well as
  • long chain and interdependent failures

ORE based risk assessment include all the points necessary to build the base for learning more about resilience of you systems and their possible enhancements.

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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Mitigations, Probabilities, Risk analysis, Tolerance/Acceptability

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