The US Forest Service Risk Management Program
To accomplish the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, we expose employees, volunteers, and contractors to a wide variety of environments ranging from secure office settings to extremes of weather, terrain, fires, and floods. All these workplace situations have hazards that present some degree of risk of harm to employees.
Fortunately, most of the risk our employees face is manageable through deliberate, collaborative, and thoughtful risk management.
The Forest Service risk management program exists to help managers and employees identify and communicate value and objectives, identify risks, evaluate how to mitigate them to the lowest practicable level, and then decide if the value or attempting to achieve the objectives is worth accepting the residual risks.
What is Risk Management in the Forest Service?
Risk management is the deliberate action taken by an organization or individuals to manage risk. This is achieved by the identification of opportunities and threats and the allocation and use of resources to increase the odds of success, avoid hazards, minimize consequences and provide for recovery. Risk management seeks to reduce risks to acceptable levels. In most endeavors, we will not be able to reduce risk to zero. The risk management process operates on four connected and affiliated levels: enterprise, strategic, deliberate (operational), and real-time (time-critical).
Although the concepts at all levels are similar, the scope varies from the agency mission to a single tree. While it may be desirable to apply risk management in depth for every operation, time and resources may not always be available. The objective of risk management is to develop sufficient proficiency in applying the process, so risk management becomes an automatic part of the decision-making methodology on and off duty. Leaders must employ the risk management process to make sound, timely decisions.
The tools in this guide can be helpful when conducting strategic risk assessments during project and fire operational planning, but this guide is not intended to cover Enterprise (ERM) or Strategic Risk Management (SRM), as those are above the project level.
U.S. Forest Service Risk Management Council
Forest Service Fire Operations Risk Management Council serves to facilitate and promote wildland firefighter safety. The council encompasses an unparalleled spectrum of skilled professionals sharing knowledge, ideas, expertise, and technology.
The mission of the Risk Management Council (RMC) is to promote a comprehensive, proactive, and recognizable program that significantly advances the effective use of sound risk management practices by Forest Service employees and organizations of Forest Service employees.
U.S. Forest Service Risk Management Training Resources
The Forest Service Risk Management Council sponsors a variety of risk management training ranging from the Agency Administrator required course
Risk 101 to casual risk dialogues aimed at all employees. To request a risk training, please contact your Regional Risk Management Officer (RMO) using the Risk Management Council link above.
The risk management council, in cooperation with the office of safety and occupational health and the aviation safety council, has implemented a Operational Risk Management Guide. Essentially, all Forest Service actions seek to meet multiple objectives, not just safety-related objectives. This guide is written to be inclusive of managing the risks associated with meeting any objective, especially the objective of no harm to employees.
The ORM process and the newly developed risk assessment worksheet, when signed by a line officer or other approved authority, can replace the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) form.