Often when Marines hear about operational risk management, it is in response to a rash of problems or accidents.
This year the Systems Command Fire Support Systems program was able to successfully apply the risk management model to identify the causes of two accidents and more importantly, suggested solutions to prevent further accidents.
In October of 2001, Mr. Jeff Gibbs, leader of the Systems Command?s Fielded Firing Systems Team, assumed the life cycle management of the M198 Howitzer and began to question how accidents were reviewed or investigated.
?At the time there was no centralized method to look at artillery accidents,? said Gibbs. ?When an accident occurred, units would fix it at the local level, but those solutions were never applied across the entire Corps.?
Gibbs wanted to create a methodology that would help his team link the artillery community together to provide solutions to problems.
Operational Risk Management was chosen as the method, both to review accidents and to try to mitigate future risks.
As this was being developed, two different types of accidents occurred within eight days of each other in February that heightened the need for some type of action. Gibbs formed a working group composed of representatives from the operating forces and members of Systems Command. His team included a resident M198 expert, artillery mechanic GySgt Scott Arnold, who immediately began recruiting the type of ?operational experts? needed for the ORM analysis. The operators included ordnance staff-NCOs and officers; artillery mechanics, artillery staff-NCOs; technical experts from supply depots; representatives from the U.S. Army; and Marine Corps Systems Command logisticians and safety engineers. An experienced Systems Command?s engineering expert, Ed Lerner, guided the team?s use of ORM to ensure the analysis was simple, rapid, and yet thorough.
This experienced group met for three days during July and was able to make several important suggestions. First, they recommended changes that were soon adopted for technical manuals to implement safety procedures.
Second, they wanted to develop a training video that would be shown during initial schooling of artillerymen to educate them about several common practices that increased risks considerably.
Third, they initiated an article for Ground Warrior, to publish their findings.
Last, they designed a safety bar that would prevent gun collapse during routine maintenance.
By applying the operational risk management steps, Gibbs and his team were able to identify problems and suggest solutions in a rapid manner that would save the Marine Corps money, but far more importantly, also protect the lives of the artilleryman who work with the M198 howitzer every day.