Risk Debate Forums

The British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is providing 'have your say' web
forums to run until 5th October to give an opportunity to express a view online
about the 'sensible' management of risk.

Some parts of the media, in recent years, have sought to entertain through the
general ridicule of risk management by exemplifying the more unusual outputs
where there has been an unwise attempt to eliminate risk completely. This has
had the effect of undermining public regard generally for the work of both
health and safety regulators and practitioners.

Risk assessment is the basis of the occupational health and safety regime. This
is about sensible health and safety ­ managing risks, not trying to eliminate
them altogether. Unfortunately this is not always the approach taken in
practice. Some simply ignore the risks altogether, and one has seen instances
where that has led to real harm to people ­ and to the business. Others,
perhaps driven by the fear of being sued, overreact and take a much more
risk-averse approach, banning activities outright, instead of recognising that
all human activities have risks and managing them appropriately.

The majority of risk assessment decisions are relatively straightforward ­
identify what might go wrong, look at what control measures are in place at the
moment and decide if this is adequate or if further measures are needed. Much
of the time it is about striking the balance between risk and cost ­ providing
hard hats to construction workers doesn't cost much but saves a number of lives
each year. But not all decisions are that simples.

Lifting patients by hand unsurprisingly causes a high rate of back injury
amongst nurses or carers. This is a big concern ­ it leads to vital staff being
unavailable for work because they are suffering from very painful and
debilitating ill health. The nurse has a right to be protected from disabling
back injury, but the patient also has a right to be treated in comfort and with
dignity. The answer cannot be a blanket ban on all manual lifting whatever the
circumstance, again it comes down to risk assessment and finding a way forward
that controls the particular risks in a sensible manner.

Forums are available in the following areas:

  • Risk aversion;
  • Public safety;
  • Education;
  • Local government.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: Health and Safety Executive