Pulp and Paper Canada

RO-3: Risk Assessment

May 1, 2006  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Pulp & Paper Canada looks at new, more flexible and cost-effective ways of delivering safety training to Canada’s mills over the Internet.

Pulp & Paper Canada looks at new, more flexible and cost-effective ways of delivering safety training to Canada’s mills over the Internet.

The best way to examine new e-learning techniques is by actually completing a typical safety course offered over the Internet to get some insight into the pros and cons of this option. Out of several choices, OHS Canada magazine management was approached and PPC selected the complete Risk Assessment course, as this subject is now included as an essential or core element in just about every OHS Management System standard around the globe, including Canada.



The first step was to assess the quality and pertinence of the content of the course series. The seven modules which can be taken in entirety as a certificate course or indivdually for interest include, Modern Safety Systems, Risk Assessment Processes, Inferential Statistics, Job Hazard Analysis, Inspections, Gap Analyses & Perception Surveys, & Fault Tree Analysis. The module on Modern Safety Systems sets the tone by establishing that identifying, prioritizing and managing risks to prevent accidents and injuries is much more cost effective than administering losses.

The OHS Canada course content focuses on perfecting techniques designed to look forward to detect and manage hazards before they cause accidents, rather than relying on regulatory compliance and past accident investigations alone to dictate the content of future safety efforts.

The methodology used to deliver the course was very straightforward and user friendly. It took a total of about 20 hours on line over three weeks to complete the entire course and final exam, or an average of about three hours per module. The material was very well conceived, easy to understand in most cases, with plenty of simple, straight forward examples and graphs that were reinforced from time to time by audio clips. Testing options were well designed. For example, it permitted module pre-testing to exempt participants who were already knowledgeable to skip to the next topic or module. A summary test at the end of each module required a score of 80% to allow the participant to move on to the next module. Failure required the participant to retake the module and test to achieve 80%. A second failure removed the option to take the final total course exam which, if successfully completed, earned the participant a course certificate. This second failure restriction can be modified by OHS Canada as part of the flexible course customization options. All quizzes and questions were either multiple choice or matching types.

The author was successful in earning the full seven-module course certificate with a 90% score. The exam is an “open book” but was written in 45 minutes without referring to course notes and/or text. This feat was credited to the high retention of course material due to the well designed delivery format of the course and the frequent quizzes to ensure retention. The course was fun to take, especially due to the flexibility of being able to access it 24 hours a day and the self-pacing feature.

Performance measurement

One top feature of this risk assessment approach is that it provides users with a measure of the reduction in the level of risk for each risk assessment which can be rolled up for the entire daily, weekly, monthly risk assessments (aggregate measure). This provides another leading indicator of the degree to which hazards are managed by the enterprise. It also provides a measure of the effectiveness of safety interventions (corrective actions) expressed in risk level reduction and a better idea of cause/effect relationships.

Student profile

This course is good for managers, supervisors, safety specialists, process and design engineers, and workers. However, the Modern Safety System, Risk Assessment Processes and Job Hazard Analysis modules are probably the ones best suited for workers who could possibly apply these skills without supervison when performing daily tasks.

Cost-Effectiveness: Without any supportive cost studies, it is still felt that this course provides cost-effective tools to prevent accidental injuries and losses. This is simply because the concept looks at achieving tolerable risk, not zero risk, and prioritizing the control of the higher risk/higher consequence/higher potential loss situations, thereby allocating resources where the returns are greatest.

Delivery cost

The full course series base price is $450 CDN for all seven modules. Individual course modules list at $69 each. OHS Canada is open to negotiating group discounts and customization possibilities to suit client needs.

If the course is used to replace another ineffective course used by the enterprise, the incremental cost impact on the training budget could be much less or even nothing, and may even yield a net budget saving!

Rating: 4.5 Stars — very good!

Based on all of the above criteria, the course is subjectively rated at 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. Notwithstanding the course’s emphasis on line worker participation in risk assessment activities, line workers are saddled with the problem of detecting and managing residual risk at the “Point of Risk.” The extra .5 star could be picked up by improving the management of residual hazards/risks by line employees applying the course techniques when performing unsupervized tasks, whether routine or non-routine.


Overall, this course responds positively to the above strategy by focusing on the proactive management of hazards/risks created by both system errors and human errors.

John E. Little, a risk management consultant, can be reached at : jelittle@videotron.ca

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