Be Courageous – Make the Decision

The tragedy of the Taipan helicopter crash and the most likely loss of the four defence aviators would strike a chord with most Australians.  We depend on our defence forces to protect us and our country, yet to lose them in a military exercise in one of the most beautiful places on earth delivers another level of tragedy.

The focus at the moment is to find the missing men and support their families.  Finding out what caused the incident will come later although, on the surface, it would appear this may have been an incident which could have been prevented.

In a Quick View I posted around a month ago, I spoke about the Titan submersible tragedy.  I ended the Quick View by saying it wouldn’t be the last time we see a disaster such as this, resulting in loss of life, because the risk wasn’t managed.

In the case of the Taipan helicopter crash, it would appear risks were being mitigated because of previous incidents. The most recent incident was four months ago.  There have been documented concerns about the helicopters for some time and the fleet was fully or partially grounded in 2019 and 2021.

The decision to ground the fleet is a big call.  The decision, which would remove the risk entirely, takes courage.  In this case, you may attract the ire of the Australian public for wasting our money.  Yet surely, attracting that ire, would be nothing compared to living with this loss now.  Yes, defence exercises ‘carry risk’.  However, there are some risks which should not be present.

A month ago, I was co-facilitating Actrua’s Switch On safety leadership program with Alan Sim.  Alan spoke about the interchangeable use of the words accident and incident.  Alan described how accident is an event where something just happens, no-one is at fault and a reason cannot be found for it happening.  A chance event without an apparent or deliberate cause.  Whereas an incident is an unplanned event which caused damage which could have been prevented.

This article isn’t about throwing stone at the defence force for what has occurred.  This surely will be recognised as an incident and not an accident.  For how many times have you heard someone say, or even say yourself, ‘it was an accident and couldn’t have been prevented’?

This incident is a reminder for all of us that sometimes we need to be courageous and make a decision regardless of whether it is popular or not.  Especially when that decision means removing a risk, specifically a risk, which is not acceptable and may lead to an incident.

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