Skip to main content.

Treatment options for improving air travel safety


One of our clients conducts exploration and mining activities in West Africa. The company has a country office at the commercial centre A, but it must work closely with officials in the capital B. Some staff and contractors also travel between A and B to connect with international flights. Travel between A and B is on a local commercial airline. The company uses charter flights from A to service fly-in-fly-out operations at a remote site C. Distances and the inadequacy of road and rail connections make air travel between A, B and C essential.

Air travel schematic map

The local commercial airline has a poor safety reputation, and air travel in the country is generally high risk.

Risk rating summary (using the company's risk assessment process)


Crash of a scheduled flight using the local airline results in multiple fatalities to staff or contractors

Control effectiveness

Requires improvement


Multiple fatalities


Could occur in a 5-20 year period

Risk rating

Red zone! The activity must be stopped immediately until action to reduce the level of risk is undertaken or authority to continue is received

Potential exposure

Multiple fatalities

Treatment workshop

We prepared and facilitated a workshop to examine options for travel between A, the commercial centre, and B, the capital, that would reduce the level of risk. The workshop was structured to focus on the identification and evaluation of risk treatment options associated with air travel in the country. Because the risk was safety-related, the evaluation of treatment options was on the basis of ALARP, i.e. seeking the option or set of options that reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable.

The company’s risk scales did not provide the right kind of guidance for the assessment needed. Instead, the risk for each treatment option was assessed in comparison with the current level of risk, which was set arbitrarily at 100. For example, if an option reduced the number of people who must fly between A and B by 10%, then the comparative rating for the option would be 90, all else being equal. This is not a perfect way of assessing risk, but its limitations were understood by all involved and it provided a guide for use in broader benefit-cost assessment.

Comparative level of risk

The workshop was conducted by international teleconference. Broadleaf's thorough analysis of background information and preparation of detailed briefing material was an essential part of the process and a significant contributor to the workshop’s success.

Treatment options

A set of options was developed and grouped by the general treatment strategy they represented: avoid the risk, reduce the likelihood, reduce the consequences, share the risk and accept the risk.

A selection of treatment options is shown in the figure, with their initial classifications. Options were classified into four categories:

  • Yes – this option is worth pursuing (blue flag)
  • Yes in part – this option is worth pursuing to address at least part of the risk (red flag)
  • No – this option is not worth pursuing (red cross)
  • Maybe – we don’t have enough information at the moment to make a decision (question mark).

Selected treatment options (of 20 discussed in the workshop)

From treatment options to improvement actions

The treatment options that were agreed to be worth pursuing were developed into action plans, with responsibilities and timings allocated. Extracts are shown in the table.

Selected treatment options and actions

Reduce international connections through B

Conduct a detailed analysis of travel purposes and patterns, and the relationship with international flight schedules through A and B.

Adjust rosters as far as possible to facilitate international connections through A rather than B.

Educate travellers on the reasons for preferring connections through A rather than B, and detailing alternative travel options.

Include a statement in the company’s country travel policy about avoiding unnecessary flights between A and B, including flights for connections through B.

Schedule travel to increase the numbers of groups traveling by charter

The current pattern of use between A and B shows many days with only one or two people traveling, not enough to justify a charter on pure cost grounds. Revise the travel schedules to maximise the occasions when groups of at least four people travel on the same day.

This may require a more formal travel planning and scheduling process.

Prohibit flights at night and in adverse weather conditions

Do not allow any domestic flights in the country at night.

Do not allow any domestic flights in the country in adverse weather conditions.

Include these requirements in the company’s country travel policy.

Allow personnel to refuse to fly

Allow personnel to refuse to fly if they have a perception that the aircraft is not suitable or the weather is adverse (even if this requires rescheduling of meetings).

Include this in the company’s country travel policy.

Investigate new commercial arrangements for access to charter seats

Investigate (and negotiate if appropriate) formal commercial arrangements with one or more international companies that use charter flights with acceptable carriers between A and B to guarantee access to a specified number of seats.

It was recognised that implementing these actions would reduce the risk associated with travel between A and B using the local airline, but they were unlikely to eliminate it entirely. However, travel using the local airline was agreed to be a last resort, and only after implementing all other treatments.

International mining company
May, 2011
Mining and minerals processing
Services included:
Risk treatment
Risk assessment and risk treatment