Dodgy risk assessments

Why do so many safety people not understand risk matrices? I know they’re a very blunt tool and many people would rather not use them at all, but you would at least think we would understand the basics.

So many businesses have their own matrix, but who designs it? Who decides what boxes are which colour and what do they base that on? Do they ever think rationally about the implications of what is included?

I was looking at an example last week that basically suggested it was okay to proceed with a 1 in 5 chance of killing someone if you thought risks were reduced so far as is reasonably practicable. This is so far out of sync with generally accepted tolerability levels that it indicates a complete lack of knowledge of risk basics. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a very dubious risk assessment. Nor do I suspect it will be the last.

I don’t believe there is a gung ho attitude that actually accepts that level of risk. My experience is that good operators who know what they’re doing simply have no way of translating that into a decent risk assessment. Because this misunderstanding is clearly mirrored in those that should be the checkers/reviewers, then the whole process becomes a monumental waste of everyone’s time.

If we transferred all the effort that goes into colour coding into thinking carefully about all the key risks and how to better manage them, we might get some better outcomes.

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