Every year I fly to Adelaide to conduct an audit. I have done this for many years, however, this year I had a more time available and decided on a slight change. Those who know me, know I am an avid rider, so this year, I thought I’d ride down on my motorbike. What I didn’t realise was that it was going to be a good lesson on risk control.
There are many risks that come with riding a motorbike. For some, there are too many risks and they would never contemplate doing it. However, I love the feeling of the freedom, and adventure that it brings, which in my opinion easily outweigh the negatives. But like any risk, they can be managed by applying controls; I wear the correct gear, ensure the bike is correctly serviced, leave a safe distance between myself and other vehicles, only travel in daylight, etc.
The ride was leisurely from Brisbane and I arrived safe and sound in Adelaide after 5 days, taking a slight detour to the town of Barham (same as my family name) and catching up with friends in Mildura. I had travelled on average about 500 km a day. After completing the audit, I decided upon the most direct route home; through Murray Bridge, Hay, Armidale and then Brisbane. This is about 2000 km and would take 3 days, according to my plan.
All was going well until I spotted a shortcut across a back road into a little place called Bendemeer just a bit south of Armidale. I checked the map and the road looked good. But what the map doesn’t tell you, it’s 40km of unsealed and very loose gravel – and this is where things went a bit wrong. I got a puncture. Where was my puncture kit? You guessed it, back home in the garage!
After all my preparation, and contemplating all the things that could go wrong, I still didn’t implement the controls. In this case, that means having the puncture kit with me, not leaving it at home!
So why tell you all this? Well it is the same with many businesses.
They have the great big flashy risk register with lots of risks, lots of colour, and lots of controls. The controls being recorded as to how they will reduce the risk to an acceptable level in order for the work can get done. However, when you go and check if the controls identified in the risk register are actually working and implemented – there’s nothing. There is no actual control, no awareness, and the risk is still there exactly the same as it always has been. All that has happened is that someone has filled in a spreadsheet!
The morale of the story – If you identify that you need a control, then make sure it actually gets implemented. Otherwise, what was the point of identifying the risk in the first place? Safe riding.
P.S. Fear not, some great young lads in Bendemeer with trail bikes had a puncture repair kit and I was on my way within ½ hour.