Our perception of our own organisations in terms of overall safety and health risks are varied.There are huge differences in all our organisations.There are significant differences from one department to another.The risks on a production line are different to those in the maintenance department, which are different to those in the marketing or IT departments, which are different to those in stores and goods inwards. Some organisations are stereo typed as safe and others dangerous. People have suffered and even died in a place of worship or an office. These are not Mines, Quarries or Nuclear Power Plants. Some stereo typing in itself can be a risk factor. An organisation that does not perceive itself to be risky may under assess, leaving itself vulnerable to risk.
The fact is anywhere people function, there is a risk of, ill health, shock, trauma, stress, anxiety, loss, hurt ,accidents, injury and death … to ourselves, friends, loved ones, passers-by and colleagues. Cost benefit analysis and reducing risk to as low as reasonably practicable is also susceptible to individual perceptions of what tolerable is to them and what their perceptions allow.
.How much ‘RISK’ is tolerable is subjective. Individual’s perceptions of risk are conditioned by experiences, upbringing, age, gender etc. Some of us chose to commute by motorcycle despite the inherent risks in comparison to climbing into the comfortable, air conditioned and relatively safe environment of a motor car, and others wouldn’t dare drive anything other than the largest, sturdiest, luxury Sports Utility Vehicle.
Generally speaking, if as individuals we suffer loss in any way, it is considered intolerable by us, our families, neighbours and authorities.Society at large demands certain standards of acceptable outcomes from our participation in our ethical, time consuming and productive work.
It is mostly held that having good levels of physical and mental welfare are fundamental to the lives we want to lead and the outcomes we require. These demands have defined the tolerable levels of responsibility shown by organisations and individuals for the last 200 years.
People and organisations still cut corners and take risks, which before an accident, loss or ill health they perceived to have been tolerable risks. The statistics prove the subjective nature of our perceptions of what is tolerable risk taking, negligence and corner cutting.
I have unfortunately on too many occasions experienced the ‘coal face’ evidence that individuals and organisations are fallible to risk taking. Having accompanied many people to the large local A&E department, I am all too aware of the numbers of people who suffer due to occupational / organisational injury and ill health.
A&E departments always seem to be full or overflowing! Especially on Monday morning or Friday afternoon when all the seats are taken and its standing room only, even with broken lower limbs.The tangible expressions of sadness, bewilderment, dismay, regret, pain, discomfort, shock and anger are there in abundance, every hour of every day, in every town and city in the UK
But back to the statistics
One survey reports that 1300 people are dying each year from work related incidents, that’s 4 per day. It also estimates that there are 50,000 deaths from work related chronic and long latency illnesses and cancer etc every year.
There are 5000 deaths per year from asbestos related disease alone.
"A health & safety problem can be described by statistics but cannot be understood by statistics. It can only be understood by knowing and feeling the pain, anguish, and depression and shattered hopes of the victim and of wives, husbands, parents, children, grandparents and friends, and the hope, struggle and triumph of recovery and rehabilitation in a world often unsympathetic, ignorant, unfriendly and unsupportive.
Only those with close experience of life altering personal damage have this understanding”
The A&E experience is only the tip of the iceberg. For every individual who hobbles or is wheeled into A&E there are countless others who have a more acute experience as paramedics rush them straight into theatre or they are admitted straight to critical care and life support departments. They are having no less a sad and painful experience. And for each of these there are others who just have to wait much longer due to chronic industrial disease to experience their regret, anger bewilderment and sense of injustice.
And then there are the sons, daughters, wives, husbands, friends, uncles, aunts, nieces, grandparents and lovers who suffer in most cases more than the victims themselves.
Then there is the financial and legal cost!
This all amounts to an immeasurable amount of grotesque suffering that I would argue was and is largely avoidable.
"The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil
but because of those who look on and do nothing."
A definition of Risk assessment may be … the determination of the value of risk related to a concrete situation and a recognised threat or hazard.
I find the word ‘value’ interesting here. Are we saying that risk could have value?
Yes of course it does. If we undertake any task for benefit then that task will potentially have a risk or cost to us in terms of resources, time, health, finances, safety etc .. the value of this is measured against the benefits. In other words cost benefit analysis.
A word I use in terms of risk benefit is 'consequences'. For me this word evokes the contrasting immediate, short term and long term value of risk. All of us are predisposed to a lesser or greater degree to look to our short medium and long term goals, especially in the business world. But do we always give sufficient time to the consideration of the consequences, inevitable or otherwise?
Perhaps if we all considered the consequences more thoroughly there would be a much greater movement away from the aforementioned pain suffering and anxiety that money, success and goal achievement cannot displace retrospectively. In favour of suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
For me a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is simply the fantastic opportunity to consider the consequences by first of all stopping … to observe, see, hear, think, discus and consider, before it’s too late.
I encourage all with responsibilities at any level in any organisation to work together and be aware of and understand …
The Value Of Risk
Is In The Assessment
Before It’s Too Late
“A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them;
the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”