Creating a safe space for students to practice and test risk management techniques in a board game simulation
As students we often learn various concepts where we are unable to truly practice or test out to fully understand them. Within engineering, risk management is a concept we learn but we never get a chance to test out and understand what’s at risk before entering the workplace. This can lead to a lack of confidence in decision making and lack of full understanding of why certain measures are implemented.
From speaking to many of my fellow graduates, as well as many friends who have gone through engineering, I was able to develop common pain points and frustrations. The following are personas I was able to develop from speaking with several new grads and students, as well as instructors teaching Process Safety.
- 3rd year Engineering Student
"I just wish there was actual examples we can walk through that's not an process incident I haven't heard of"
- HSE Department Manager at Alchemy Chemicals
"I need a new way to engage my health and safety team at my company, the exercises and PowerPoint slides are getting old"
With the above objectives in mind, after ideation and brainstorming, a risk management board game was the final design selected. This design was selected due to the fact it would be the best method to engage participants while allowing them to practice. A board game can allow users to practice consistently whereas a workshop would only allow users to practice once and not everyone is able to participate. Through the playing the board game, users can learn from their mistakes and test out different strategies. This fulfills the first objective of our project - to allow mistake making so we can learn from them. By integrating risk management terminology and methodology within the game mechanics, users would be able to practice and retain a better memory and understanding of risk management- our third objective.
The game is structured around a jam making process plant - JAM Co. and within this process plant, there are 7 different process hazards that we can see in our everyday lives. Many of the hazards are common in our day to day lives, this makes the experience as relatable as possible.
In this game, each player plays a different role in the company, roles like a HSE Manager, an Engineer, an Operator, and People Manager.
The main goal of the players is to reduce the risk of each process hazard to as low as possible within 45 minutes to fit within our time constraint.
There are two main cards within the board game, event cards and action cards.
The action cards are categorized within each hierarchy of control. These are the different mitigation measures that the players can take.
Similar to actual risk mitigation measures, the higher up the pyramid of the control, the effectiveness also increases, however, it will be more resource intensive to implement.
This is where players have to decide and strategize while adapting their strategy as events show up.
Because Players have limited “time and money” resources, it is ideal for them to allocate them strategically for each hazard to complete the game.
Event cards help randomize and change up the gameplay. Players will be prompted to make different choices. Should they opt to mitigate a hazard that have just appeared at the expense of spending resources, or to take on that risk of the hazard appearing. Through trial and error and testing of different strategies, players and not only understand the fine differences of risk management methods, but also feel more confident in their decision making process.
In iteration one of the board game, we had individual chips that were used to represent likelihood, but when we tested, that proved difficult to play and pick up so eventually that became coloured blocks. Another feedback we received was the non direct-linkage of company “risk level” and also company health level at the end. Players were confused what the main objective was until later on it was suggested that we employ a risk matrix to document and further help visual the risk levels for each hazard. The addition of blocks to help players keep track of their resources also really helped in the final iteration of the game.
This project was a great project to really practice rapid prototyping and repeated testing with different audiences. One key component in the user testing that went well was testing with users who have no practice with risk management, so for them the experience would be brand new. This also meant any challenges or unclear instructions would stand out the most here. During the development of the game, it was easy to constantly want to add in new features and aspects to the game to make it more “fun” but by constantly reminding myself of the persona and users I was mainly designing for it allowed me to filter out what true features were the important ones for the users. Ideally a third to four iteration should’ve been done with more user testing, but as with any project, the timeline was important and further testing could have impacted the timelines.