Are risk management treatments that we implement influenced by the timing and the severity of the event? How about emotion?
In hockey, a player is penalized 2 minutes for a high stick to the face of another player; but the penalized player is given a 4 minute penalty if the other player bleeds. The action is the same, but why is the punishment a function of the outcome? Should that matter?
On February 12, 2010, hours before the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Winter Games, Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died after a crash during a training run. As a result, a couple of things happened: They lowered the men’s start to the women’s start (to slow down the course) and built a wall where the accident happened to ensure other athletes were not injured in the same place. (But in doing this, was this admission of guilt or good risk management?)
From a risk management perspective, the “stupid fast” risk of the track was determined to be acceptable and was signed off by the IFL. Not having the wall where the luger was killed appears to have been an unidentified risk.
Now what if Mr. Kumaritashvili had only sustained a broken leg? What if the accident had taken place during a training run in 2009 instead of on the eve of the Olympics? Would the actions have been different? Perhaps they would have built the wall, but would they have reduced the speed too for the Winter Games?
Timing and public relations (read: emotions) certainly had something to do with these actions. When your organizations develop risk treatments, keep this in mind.
Some additional facts about the track and the athlete courtesy of the CBC:
Mr. Kumaritashvili was ranked 44th out of 65 lugers on the world cup circuit but was considered experienced enough.
He had taken 26 runs on the Whistler course and others have taken 1000s of runs on the Whistler course already.
He was traveling 145km/hr at the time of the collision.
It’s a fast track, ¼ of the width of the Salt Lake track at 97m wide with a 48-story vertical drop, so curves are very close, back to back.
There were complaints about the track.
Luge blinds were coming down during the training run.