Risk Strategy. Safety Risk Management

This article describes how safety risk management is a key component of any safety management system and involves identifying safety hazards to your operations and assessing the risks of mitigation. To successfully identify hazards you should think laterally and be unencumbered by past ideas and experience   


The term “safe”

Those involved in disaster  management are often faced with defining what level of safety from hazard exposure is considered sufficient. There is not necessarily a correct answer to the question “how safe is safe enough?” ( Derby and Keeney, 1981). Most people assume that referring to something as “safe” implies that all risk has been eliminated. However, because such an absolute level of safety is virtually unattainable in the real world, risk managers must establish thresholds of risk that define a frequency of occurrence below which society need not worry about the hazard. Derby and Keeney (1981) contend that a risk becomes safe or acceptable if it is “ associated with the best of the available”

This definition can cause great disagreement between the public and disaster risk management officials. The public may expect a level af safety determined to be zero risk for some hazards, such as terrorism in the United States. Officials may need to recalibrate the public's perception of these hazards continually to let the public know that although the risks are in fact stille possible, they have been mitigated to the best of the country` s social, economic, and technological abilities. Although the chances of a terrorist attack will always exist, governments strive to attain levels of security dictating that the risks are so low that people need not worry.

To determine what level of safety is most acceptable, Derby and Keeney ( 1981 ) contend that “the best combination of advantages and disadvantages” must be chosen from among several alternatives. For instance, although the risk for car accidents is one of the greatest we face on a daily basis, eliminating the risk by prohibiting the use of cars is impractical. However, we can make cars more resistant to impact, add seat belts and airbags, and enact laws and regulations that limit the ways in which cars are operated. The result is a level of safety upon which society agrees is acceptable in relation to the benefits ( mobility ) retained.

Paul Barnes of the Australian Department of Primary Industries explains the importance of establishing an agreement on what constitutes safety in the community. He writes:

Is our goal Community safety or Safer Communities? As a societal outcome, Community Safety can be sought via efficient  and effective regulation at an institutional level. Associated with this regulation must be similarly high standards of risk management applied at the community level. The establishment of safer communities , however , is a different matter. Before this can be sought as a goal, determinations must be made about what safety means to the communities themselves. To do this, institutional regulators must ensure that use of their expertise does not promote inflexibility in understanding the world - views of the public. 

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          Coppola, D. (2021): “Introduction to International Disaster Management”   

About the Author

Frank Sanoh


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