Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining

Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining

Sep 25th, 2019

Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining looks at the Boeing’s special committee re-evaluation of procedures and compares them to mining world issues.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the Boeing 737 Max, Boeing created a special committee. The intention is to better their projects safety procedures. Perhaps something similar to the initiative ICMM has launched lately for the mining industry. That is  in the aftermath of recent catastrophic tailings dams accidents. The ICMM report is not yet available, so, in the interim, we will refer our own publications. And in particular to our book “Tailings Dam Management for the Twenty-First Century. Its subtitle is What Mining Companies Need to Know and Do to Thrive in Our Complex World” (Springer, Amazon)

Reporting structure issues


In the NY Times article we read about suggested reporting structure for engineers at the company. Indeed, at Boeing, top engineers report primarily to the business leaders for each airplane model. And only secondarily to the company’s chief engineer.

Thus engineers who identify problems potentially slowing a jet’s development can face resistance from executives who revolve around meeting production deadlines. The committee reportedly recommends flipping the reporting lines. Thus top engineers report primarily to the chief engineer, and secondarily to business leaders.


In mining when tailings is reporting to the mill, trouble is ahead. That is because production imperatives pressure tailings into possibly untenable stances. And that leads to intolerable risks.

Additionally, lack on clarity on the reporting and action structure, as well as mitigation implementation cloud the issues.

The problem is serious and we published 3 years ago a blogpost on Courageous Leadership and the need to better risk communication within an organization.

Reporting structure issues closing notes

In this aspect, the score is Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining  even.

Silo culture issues

If an organization treats risk as a silo then the organization is exposed to systemic risk culture bias and mismanagement.

Indeed silo breaking is paramount. The organization needs to have channels from within to allow risk communication with the various internal and external stakeholders.


Another key recommendation calls for establishing a new safety group that will work across the company.

Reportedly, the new safety group should ensure that the company’s various  groups:

  • maintain adequate independence and
  • work together
  • while sharing information effectively.

The new group will report to senior Boeing Management, as well as to a new permanent committee on the board focusing on aerospace safety.


This is like calling for abolishing the silo culture. Indeed, something we have been preaching in our courses and conferences for years.

Reporting to the senior leadership is the same as Risk Manager being a VP and reporting directly to the CEO. Certainly not to the CFO, see first point!

Silos culture issues closing

In this aspect, the score is Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining  even.

Design and evaluations


A third major recommendation involves how Boeing approaches the design of future airplanes. Indeed, the board committee should reportedly recommend that Boeing re-examine cockpit design and operation. That is to ensure that new Boeing planes are accessible for the next generation of pilots, including those with less training.


Our book clearly states the need for a different approach to design evaluations. We advise rational convergent quantitative risk assessment (QRA) platform in mining projects and operations. This approach enables us to “measure” and make sense of a complex problem. It allows us to:

  • transparently compare alternatives;
  • discuss rationally and openly survival conditions;
  • evaluate premature failure of a structure.

A rational convergent QRA platform will reduce costs, avoids blunders. Additionally it constitutes a healthy management practice, especially for long-term projects. Projects requiring short- or long-term monitoring, and, of course, site restorations.

Furthermore, numerous courses an publications have stressed the need to bypass the baby boomers retirement wave. Indeed, managing knowledge especially since the new wave of employees will lack time to gain experience beside an “old-timer”.

Design and evaluations issues closing

In this aspect, the score is Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining again even.

Closing remarks on Risk culture at Boeing vs Mining

In 2013, Riskope were the first in the world to estimate of the rate of major failures of tailings dams. We compared their human casualties’ risks to well known social tolerance thresholds.

We showed quantitatively how, over time, multiple hazards hits would significantly increase the probability of failure of a dam. Leading to intolerable future risks.

When we published the paper, Factual and Foreseeable Reliability of Tailings Dams and Nuclear Reactors -a Societal Acceptability Perspective, we showed that, rather unexpectedly, major catastrophic nuclear accidents and tailings catastrophic failures have similar rates of failure.

Reporting and media attention over tailings dams have changed following Mount Polley, Samarco and Brumadinho failures. It is a necessity for mining companies to change their management practices. We need convergent QRA platform in mining projects and operations to become ubiquitous.

Call us to learn how.

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Category: Hazard, Mitigations, Optimum Risk Estimates, Probabilities, Risk analysis, Risk management

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