The ancient Greek story of Icarus and his father, Daedalus, tells of a master craftsman who made wings from feathers and wax designed such that a man could wear them and fly. Daedalus made two sets of wings, for himself and his son, so that they could escape from an island. Knowing the material properties of feathers and wax, Daedalus warned his son Icarus not to fly too high or too low, lest the wax be melted by the sun or the feathers clogged by sea-spray.
Icarus, however, was overcome by the incredible and exhilarating feeling of flight. He was so taken by the experience, that he flew higher and higher. He flew so high that he got perilously close to the sun. Just as his father warned him would happen, the wax on his wings melted; the wings fell to pieces and Icarus fell from the sky. The water into which Icarus is said to have fallen is near Icaria, an island in the Aegean Sea.
This myth is sometimes taken as a parable on the dangers of pride and overreach; essentially making a point around the consequences of ambition. Today in industry, however, we find a commercial environment in which ambition and over-reach are expected. A lack of willingness to reach beyond established capabilities is a lack of innovation – a sure sign of upcoming organisational decline. To counter the risks innovation brings in the environments we work in, we use risk management methodologies. In our modern context, another interpretation of the Icarus myth is one of a failure of risk management. The risks of the system Daedalus designed and built were in fact known, but what was missing was any attempt to mitigate those risks beyond a verbal instruction to the operator.
At ICARUS, the management of safety risk is a cornerstone of what we do, in the aviation space and workplace. We support organisations across New Zealand and Australia, including: