Risk Management – Bushfire Context

Risk management strategies are widely used by all people in the modern world and the hierarchy of controls has become standard practice.

Image: Nine News

As fires are becoming larger, the risks associated with firefighting operations are also increasing. Aviation is being used at huge cost (financially) and the recent accident involving an Aircrane firefighting helicopter is a reminder of the risks for both aviation and ground crews.

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured during this aviation incident.


Hazard means a situation or thing that has the potential to harm a person.

Risk is the possibility that harm (death, injury or illness) might occur when exposed to a hazard.

Risk control means taking action to eliminate health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and if that is not possible, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Eliminating a hazard will also eliminate any risks associated with that hazard.

SafeWork NSW | Code of Practice | How to manage work health and safety risks

The Hierarchy of Risk Control 

The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest as shown in the mage below.

The Hierarchy of Risk Control | SafeWork NSW

A Step by Step Process 

The SafeWork NSW, Code of Practice, entitled “How to manage work health and safety risks” clearly identifies a step by step risk management process as follows:

You have to think about what could go wrong and what the consequences could be. Then you must do whatever you can to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks arising. 

This process is known as risk management and involves the four steps.

1. Identify hazards – find out what could cause harm.

2. Assess risks if necessary – understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.

3. Control risks – implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances 

4. Review control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

SafeWork NSW | Code of Practice | How to manage work health and safety risks

Eliminate the Hazards

It’s pretty simple to determine that the most predominant hazard in a bushfire context is FUEL.

If we assess the risks associated with high fuel loads, it’s easy to see that we are putting property, human lives and the environment at risk.

Using the hierarchy of risk controls, it makes perfect sense to use cool burning and other low impact fuel reduction methods to reduce our exposure to risk.

Most people would be quick to recognise the risks associated with poor housekeeping in a business context.

Housekeeping in the bush

Firefighter Safety

Improved land management and fuel reduction activities has the potential to reduce the risk to property, the environment and our firefighters.

Fuel reduction is cheaper and safer for everyone.

Helicopter Incident

The company operating a firefighting helicopter that crashed into a dam in eastern Victoria says the aircraft was “performing normally” moments before the accident.

Two pilots and one engineer were on board the Aircrane when it crashed into a dam at Jericho, in remote Gippsland, just after 7:00pm Monday.

The three men managed to swim to the edge of the dam.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the chopper “landed heavily” and the crew was flown to the Latrobe Valley Hospital for treatment.

“They were examined for some minor injuries and shock, as you’d imagine, but I believe they’ve been released from hospital now,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

He said the cause of the crash was not yet clear.


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