Safe Trails: Fail on the Trail? Not Me!

Risk measuringby Erick Wikum

My typical column provides tips to address a specific safety concern you may encounter when using the Little Miami Scenic Trail. In this month’s column, I would like to provide you with a tool you can use to determine which of the many, many potential safety issues deserve your attention.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) provides a step-by-step method for identifying, analyzing, and preventing or mitigating potential failure modes. FMEA includes the following steps:

  • List potential failure modes.
  • Analyze each failure mode as to its effect or consequences based on both its likelihood of occurring and its impact.
  • Develop plans to prevent or mitigate the failure modes having greatest effect.

To understand FMEA better, consider the following list of potential failure modes and corresponding effects.

SafetyTable Oct2022

Now, let us consider how to prevent or mitigate the first four failure modes, which have highest effect in the worst case. We can prevent collisions caused by ourselves by slowing around others, announcing our presence (“on your left”), and giving others a wide berth, and avoiding unexpected movements (like suddenly turning around on the trail). We can mitigate the effect of collisions caused by others primarily by being alert. To mitigate the potentially life-threatening effects of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, we can avoid the trail during the hottest hours of the day, hydrate, and dress appropriately. We can prevent or mitigate the effects of a slip, trip, or fall by exercising care when the trail is uneven, wet or icy, algae- or leaf-covered, wearing proper footwear, and wearing a helmet. To mitigate the effects of a crosswalk accident, we can come to a complete stop, check carefully, and proceed across a street only when it is completely safe to do so.

The effects of failure modes vary from person to person based on activities pursued, physical condition, etc.  I encourage you to construct your own list of failure modes and to conduct your own analysis to determine which failure modes deserve your attention.

Fortunately, just a few actions can mitigate the effect of many potential failures and those actions include (a) paying attention to what’s happening around you, (b) exercising caution around other trail users, and (c) wearing a helmet when engaged in wheeled activities.

Identify, analyze, and mitigate.  Add FMEA to your toolbelt and you will be equipped to use the trail safely.


October 2022

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