Risk Management Guideline for Engineers

Risk Management Guideline for Engineers

Mar 31st, 2021

The Canadian Engineering Qualifications Board (CEQB) recently published a Risk Management Guideline for engineers. This post discusses some of the concepts and draws parallels with another upcoming publication.

Risk Management Guideline for Engineers

Our general comments on Risk Management Guideline for Engineers

We saw a number of good points in the Guideline, for instance:

  • a glossary,
  • the clear call for hazard identification,
  • some examples, and finally and perhaps more than anything,
  • the fact it fosters engineers’ awareness for risks.

We fully empathize with the desire to generate risk management awareness among engineers. Indeed, especially the young generations that may believe that technological solutions, IT, IoT and other modern tools may deliver “safety” in all circumstances, need to become more aware of risks.

However, we also firmly believe that engineers should refrain from doing full risk assessments because their brains are “engineering” and not risks evaluating “machines”. It is a matter of mental framework and it is difficult to shift from one to the other. We have already discussed this many times, especially with reference to credibility and failure modes. Furthermore, talking about ethics, engineers should refrain from risk assessments of their own designs and rely on third parties. This, by the way, was proposed by UNEP for tailings dams. In addition, let’s not forget the conflict of interest issues we already raised in 2013.

It would be nice to expand the Guideline to cover climate change and resilience

We really enjoyed seeing the references to black swans, unknown unknowns and dominos effects. Our readers know how adamant we have been in the past on these points.

One point we think is missing is a discussion of force majeure, such an important point linked to contractual agreements and climate change!

Engineers, and not only lawyers and contractors, should be ready to discuss enhanced B2B formulations and delve into “new normal” due to climate change.

Some Details on CEQB Risk Management Guideline for Engineers

The Guideline outlines principles and processes allowing engineers to identify and analyze risk, and support decision making. The primer also provides information geared toward best practices and ethical obligations.

In the words of CEQB Vice Chair, the guide provides clarity on “how-to” in as simple a fashion as possible.

Indeed, the Guideline eight-step framework illustrates how to prevent and mitigate risk. Among the steps we particularly enjoyed seeing the explicit citation of hazard identification. Indeed, many mistakes occur when designers skip this step  in common practice risk assessments. The guideline explains that all engineers should be familiar with risk management, as business-as-usual risks do exist. Risk management should not only cover high-risk industries and scenarios. Some examples  in the appendices make the point quite clear.

Another member of the committee rightly commented on the inevitability of risks and how evaluating consequences and developing tactical or strategic options to deal with potential scenarios is:

  • paramount to safeguard the public, clients,
  • reduce economic losses and
  • business interruption.

Thus he concluded the Guide is a valuable tool to help meeting ethical obligations and fulfil the technical part of the social contract.

Closing remarks

Our new book, presently in production, is packed with all the information allowing the Public Guide to become an operational document and not just a primer on risk. It talks about:

  • business-as-usual risks,
  • divergent risks, for instance climate change, technological hazards, in addition to
  • force majeure,
  • negligence and
  • societal and ethical aspects of risk management. Finally,
  • three fully developed case studies complete the discussion.

The book is distilled from over twenty years of convergent quantitative risk assessments in various industries. We took advantage of the COVID travel restrictions to complete the manuscript.

We are mesmerized to see how the themes and developments in our book match the Risk Management Guideline for engineers. Consider we had no idea the Guide was coming and we are very happy to see the two documents truly look like “twin documents” completing each other.

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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Probabilities, Risk analysis

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