Discovering Hidden Logistics Safety Risks

Posted by Paul Little on 17 March 2014

The mark of a great logistics safety risk management program is its ability to anticipate risk and manage it appropriately. However, some risks can be concealed from scrutiny and as a result they won’t trigger hazard communications or precautionary measures that need to be taken. Some risks can be sufficiently hidden in undocumented practices and activities that aren’t considered essential that they may not undergo an appropriate risk assessment.

With the need for an efficient and flexible supply chain and a strong desire to excel at customer service, employees can be prompted to act in a manner that isn’t always consistent with prudent logistics safety practices. Here are several examples of hidden logistics safety risks that you’ll want to put on your list for future risk reviews.

Hidden Logistics Safety Risks

hidden risks ahead11. Employees Transporting Chemicals

A sales representative that obtains a competitor’s sample that needs to be sent to their company's R&D facility for analysis can trigger actions that cause logistics safety risks.

  • If the employee transports the hazardous chemical in their personal vehicle, they can be injured by a fragile package that doesn't contain its hazardous contents. 
  • If the hazmat sample is shipped undeclared by courier, transportation personnel may also be exposed. 
  • If the sample is taken aboard public transportation (e.g., aircraft or train) in the employee’s checked or carry-on luggage, the risk will further escalate. 

2. Hidden Hazmats

There are hazardous material shipments where the hazard is truly hidden. When an engine with flammable liquid fuel or equipment containing radioactive material or lithium batteries is shipped undeclared, the risk of a release and human exposure becomes very real. The concern for these hidden hazards prompted IATA (International Air Transport Association) to dedicate Section 2.2 of the Dangerous Goods Regulations (Hidden Dangerous Goods) to help identify and detect dangerous goods presented as general cargo.

3. Shipping Chemicals by Air

Even though shipping chemicals by air is a common practice, many shippers do not have the breadth of experience shipping hazmats by air as they do by road or vessel. Their inability to directly manage the placement of the hazmat aboard the aircraft and the lack of appreciation for the forces placed on the cargo (e.g., pressure differential & vibration) adds an element of risk that can be difficult to manage. And with a lack of knowledge about the consequences of a hazmat release on the operation of an aircraft, shipping chemicals by air can be among the top hidden logistics safety risks.

4. Untrained employees

The transportation regulations define who a hazmat employee is and the necessary training to ensure hazmats are offered for transportation in a safe manner. For training to be effective, it needs to include all employees that are responsible for hazmat activities. The hidden risk is employees that don’t routinely perform hazmat functions that may step-in to help and offer a chemical shipment that has not be properly prepared.

5. Unmanaged Change

Ignoring the management of change is a common reason why many logistics safety risks remain hidden. Logistics process changes that are implemented:

  • Without taking a team approach
  • Without using risk management procedures
  • Without understanding the consequences of the change

will keep those risks out of sight until an incident occurs somewhere in your supply chain. Customer service, rising costs and convenience can be strong motivators to quickly implement a change. (See Blog: Managing Logistics Risk to Improve Performance)

What is common among these 5 hidden logistics safety risks is that they can all be identified with a methodical approach to logistics safety risk management. By thoroughly documenting all aspects of your supply chain and closely controlling your logistics safety practices, previously hidden risks can be identified, assessed and managed. When logistics safety risk management is an integral part of a logistics safety management system, your risks will be managed appropriately. (See Blog: Documenting a Logistics Safety Management System).