Risk Management

Risk is the chance of injury or death for individuals and damage to or loss of vehicles and equipment. Risks, and/or the potential for risks, are always present in every combat and training situation the company team faces. Risk management must take place at all levels of the chain of command during each phase of every operation; it is an integral part of all tactical planning. The company team commander, his subordinate leaders, and all soldiers must know how to use risk management, coupled with fratricide reduction measures, to ensure that the mission is executed in the safest possible environment within mission constraints.

The primary objective of risk management is to help units protect their combat power through accident prevention, enabling them to win the battle quickly and decisively, with minimum losses. This appendix outlines the five-step process leaders can use to identify hazards and implement a plan to address each identified hazard.


Step 1 Identify Hazards
Step 2 Assess Hazards to Determine Risks
Step 3 Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions
Step 4 Implement Controls
Step 5 Supervise and Evaluate


A hazard is a source of danger. It is any existing or potential condition that could entail injury, illness, or death of personnel; damage to or loss of equipment and property; or some other sort of mission degradation. Tactical and training operations pose many types of hazards.

The company teamís leaders must identify the hazards associated with all aspects and phases of the teamís mission, paying particular attention to the factors of METT-TC. Risk management must never be an afterthought; leaders must begin the process during their troop-leading procedures and continue it throughout the operation.

Figure C-1 lists possible sources of risk that the team might face during a typical tactical operation. It is organized according to the factors of METT-TC.




  • Duration of the operation.
  • Complexity and clarity of the plan. (Is the plan well developed and easily understood?)
  • Proximity and number of maneuvering units.


  • Knowledge of the enemy situation.
  • Enemy capabilities.
  • Availability of time and resources to conduct reconnaissance.


  • Visibility conditions, including light, dust, fog, and smoke.
  • Precipitation and its effect on mobility.
  • Extreme heat or cold.
  • Additional natural hazards, such as broken ground, steep inclines, and water obstacles.


  • Equipment status.
  • Experience the units conducting the operation have working together.
  • Danger areas associated with company teamís weapon systems.
  • Soldier/leader proficiency.
  • Soldier/leader rest situation.
  • Degree of acclimatization to environment.
  • Impact of new crewmembers.
  • Impact of new leaders.


  • Time available for troop-leading procedures and rehearsals by subordinates.
  • Time available for PCCs/PCIs.


  • Applicable ROE and/or ROI.
  • Potential stability and/or support operations involving contact with civilians (such as NEOs, refugee or disaster assistance, or counterterrorism).
  • Potential for media contact/inquiries.

Figure C-1. Examples of potential hazards.


Hazard assessment is the process of determining the direct impact of each hazard on an operation (in the form of hazardous incidents). Use these steps:

  • Determine which hazards can be eliminated or avoided.
  • Assess each hazard that cannot be eliminated or avoided to determine the probability that the hazard can occur. This is done using the five degrees of probability: frequent, likely, occasional, seldom, and unlikely. Refer to Table C-1 for a summary of the degrees of probability.
  • Assess the severity of hazards that cannot be eliminated or avoided. Severity, defined as the result or outcome of a hazardous incident, is expressed by the degree of injury or illness (including death), loss of or damage to equipment or property, environmental damage, or other mission-impairing factor (such as unfavorable publicity or loss of combat power). Hazard assessment uses four degrees of severity: catastrophic, critical, marginal, or negligible. Table C-2 provides a summary of the degrees of severity for hazards.
  • Taking into account both the probability and severity of a hazard, determine the associated risk level (extremely high, high, moderate, and low). The standard risk assessment matrix shown in Table C-3 uses the probability/severity correlation to assign a level of risk. Table C-4 summarizes the four risk levels. (NOTE: The risk level descriptions in Table C-4 include alphanumeric designators for the probability/severity correlation. For example, a hazard that is frequent and catastrophic is designated as IA; a hazard at the other end of the risk spectrum, designated IVE, would be unlikely to occur and be of negligible severity.)

Table C-1. Degrees of hazard probability (likelihood that a hazard will affect a tactical operation).

Degree of probability
(with frequency



Occurs continuously or very often


Occurs several times


Occurs sporadically


Remote possibility; could occur at some time


Almost certain not to occur (although not impossible)

Individual item

Occurs very often in service life; expected to occur several times over duration of specific operation

Occurs several times in service life; expected to occur during specific operation

Occurs at some time in service life; as likely as not to occur during specific operation

Occurs in service life, but only remotely possible; not expected to occur during specific operation

Occurrence not impossible, but can be assumed almost never to occur in service life; can be assumed not to occur during specific operation

Fleet or inventory of items

Occurs continuously in service life of during specific operation

Occurs at a high rate, but intermittently (at regular intervals, often, or generally)

Occurs several times in service life

Occurs as isolated incident; possible to occur at some time in service life, but rarely; usually does not occur

Occurs very rarely (almost never or improbable); incidents may occur in service life

Individual soldier

Occurs very often in career; expected to occur several times during specific operation; always occurs

Occurs several times in career; expected to occur during specific operation

Occurs at some time in career; may occur during specific operation, but not often

Occurs as isolated incident in career; remotely possible, but not expected to occur during specific operation

Occurrence not impossible, but can be assumed almost never to occur during specific operation

All soldiers exposed

Occurs continuously during specific operation

Occurs at a high rate, but intermittently

Occurs sporadically (irregularly, sparsely, or sometimes)

Occurs rarely (as isolated incident) within exposed element or population

Occurs very rarely, although not impossible

Table C-2. Degrees of hazard severity.

Degree of severity

Affected unit/






Total or near-total loss of mission capability; mission failure

Significantly/severely degraded mission capability and/or unit readiness

Degraded mission capability and/or unit readiness

Little or no adverse impact on mission capability


Death or permanent total disability; unacceptable casualties

Permanent partial disability; temporary total disability (duration exceeds 3 months

Lost-day injuries or illness (duration does not exceed 3 months)

First aid or other minor medical treatment required


Loss of major or mission-critical systems/equipment; major property (facility) damage; severe environmental damage

Extensive (major) damage to systems/ equipment; significant damage to property and environment

Minor damage to systems/equipment, property, and environment

Slight damage to systems/equipment, but they remain functional/serviceable; little or no environmental damage

Collateral damage

Unacceptable collateral damage

Significant collateral damage

Minor collateral damage

Little or no collateral damage

Table C-3. Risk assessment matrix for hazards.

Degree of

of severity






Catastrophic (I)






Critical (II)






Marginal (III)






Negligible (IV)






Legend for levels of risk:

E - extremely high risk H - high risk M - moderate risk L - low risk

NOTE: Refer to Table C-4 for a description of the four levels of risk.

Table C-4. Levels of risk.

Level of risk

Type of effects

Extreme high




Mission capability

Mission failure if hazardous incidents occur during operation

Significantly degraded mission capability (in terms of not completing mission to standard or not accomplishing all parts of mission) if hazards occur during operation

Degraded mission capability (in terms of not completing mission to standard) if hazards occur during operation

Little or no impact on mission capability

Personnel/property loss

Frequent or likely probability of catastrophic loss (IA or IB); frequent probability of critical loss (IIA)

Occasional to seldom probability of catastrophic loss (IC or ID); likely to occasional probability of critical loss (IIB or IIC); frequent probability of marginal loss (IIIA)

Unlikely probability of catastrophic loss (IE); probability of critical loss is seldom (IID); likely or occasional probability of marginal loss (IIIB or IIIC); frequent probability of negligible loss (IVA)

Unlikely probability of critical loss (IIE); probability of marginal loss is no more than seldom (IIID or IIIE)



Developing controls

After assessing each hazard, develop one or more controls that will either eliminate the hazard or reduce the risk (probability and/or severity) of potential hazardous incidents. A list of example controls is included in the discussion of implementing controls (step 4).

Making risk decisions

A key element in the process of making a risk decision is determining whether accepting the risk is justified or, conversely, is unnecessary. The commander must compare and balance the risk against mission expectations. He alone decides if the controls are sufficient and acceptable and whether to accept the resulting residual risk. If he determines the risk is unnecessary, he directs the development of additional controls or alternative controls; as another option, he can modify or reject the selected COA for the operation.

Leaders can use the risk assessment matrix (see Table C-3) in conjunction with the commanderís guidance on risk decisions. The matrix can be useful in determining and communicating risk decision authority. When the matrix is used as a guide for risk decision authority, however, it should be tailored to specific mission requirements. For example, the decision authority to accept high residual risk resulting from a hazard assessed as having catastrophic severity and a frequency of seldom may be retained at the highest authority level. On the other hand, the same level of accident risk (high) may be delegated to a lower level when the potential loss is less extensive or less likely.


Controls are the procedures and considerations the unit uses to deal with an identified hazard. Implementing controls is the most important part of the risk management process; this is the chain of commandís contribution to the safety of the unit. Leaders of the company team integrate specific controls into OPLANs, OPORDs, SOPs, and rehearsals. They then ensure that all crewmembers are briefed on and understand the controls.

If the leaders have conducted a thoughtful risk assessment, the controls will be easy to implement, enforce, and follow. Examples of risk management controls include the following:

  • Thoroughly brief all aspects of the mission, including related hazards and controls.
  • Conduct thorough PCCs and PCIs.
  • Allow adequate time for rehearsals at all levels.
  • Drink plenty of water, eat well, and get as much sleep as possible (at least 4 hours in any 24-hour period).
  • Use buddy teams.
  • Enforce speed limits, use of seat belts, and driver safety.
  • Establish recognizable visual signals and markers to distinguish maneuvering units.
  • Enforce the use of ground guides in assembly areas and on dangerous terrain.
  • Establish marked and protected sleeping areas in assembly areas.
  • Limit single-vehicle movement.
  • Establish SOPs for the integration of new personnel.


During mission execution, it is imperative that leaders ensure risk management controls are properly understood and executed. Leaders must continuously evaluate the unitís effectiveness in managing risks to gain insight into areas that need improvement.


Leadership and unit discipline are the keys to ensuring that effective risk management controls are implemented. All leaders are responsible for supervising mission rehearsals and execution to ensure standards and controls are enforced. In particular, NCOs must enforce established safety policies as well as controls developed for a specific operation or task. Techniques include spot checks, inspections, SITREPs, confirmation briefs, and buddy checks.

During the mission, leaders must continuously monitor risk management controls, both to determine whether they are effective and to modify them as necessary. Leaders must also anticipate, identify, and assess new hazards. They ensure that imminent danger issues are addressed on the spot and that ongoing planning and execution reflect changes in hazard conditions.


Whenever possible, the risk management process should also include an after-action review to assess the unitís performance in identifying risks and preventing hazardous situations. Leaders should then incorporate lessons learned from the process into unit SOPs and plans for future missions.