ISO 31000 is an international standard for risk management. It offers standard risk concepts, terminology and processes for diverse organizations and their component departments. Few applications to avalanche mitigation projects are publicly available. While not authorities on ISO 31000, we share our impressions from applying it to examples of avalanche mitigation for infrastructure.
ISO 31000 defines risk as the effect of uncertainty on (organizational) objectives. These effects can be positive or negative. For organizations ultimately responsible for managing avalanche risk (the risk owner), their objectives often include profit, positive relations with the workforce and environmental stewardship. These objectives are subject to diverse influences including uncertain negative events such as loss of life, employee injuries, property damage or transportation delays, all of which can be caused by snow avalanches.
To illustrate ISO 31000 concepts and terminology, we use a simple example of a proposed mining road threatened by snow avalanches. Avalanches can threaten worker safety and cause delays of ore as well as of crew changes. The mining company (MC) contracts an avalanche consultant to assess the avalanche hazards and recommend mitigation options. The consultant recommends a mitigation option involving a deflection dike combined with an avalanche forecasting and control program. MC rejects the recommended mitigation option because the proposed dike would affect a stream, i.e. affect MC’s environmental objectives, which were not part of the terms of reference of the contract. To ensure ISO 31000 is implemented in the contract, MC issues a second avalanche mitigation contract that includes assessing the environmental risk. Following completion of the second contract, MC selects risk treatments including a forecasting and control program without static defences, a worker safety program specific to the avalanche prone road, increased insurance for the cost of potential delays in shipping ore, and expanded liability coverage.
ISO 31000 offers a framework for an enterprise-wide management of risk i.e. the effects of uncertainty on the organization’s objectives. We illustrate how ISO 31000 can be applied to an organization responsible for managing avalanche risk and the benefit of it being applied at all levels.