Risk Makes Sense

by Dave Collins · 18 comments

in Risk Management,Risk Taking,Robert Long,Safety Books

Finally a Book About Risk That Makes Sense

Risk Makes SenseFor some time now we have been privileged to have Dr Robert Long writing some very interesting and provocative articles about creative and effective ways to manage risk in the workplace. They have proven very popular – See them all here

You know all about Legislation, Codes of Practice, Standards, Guidelines, safety systems like BBS, endless paperwork and forms, highly qualified safety consultants, the latest research etc but have you ever thought that something was still missing – you just couldn’t put your finger on it? Risk management is a cornerstone of safety management, and legislation enshrines ones obligations to identify hazards, reduce the risks, implement actions and monitor the outcomes. No-one should argue with the moral, social and legal obligation to provide a safe work place, but what is safe? Can a work place be without risks? Can all risks be identified and controlled to an acceptable level, whatever that might mean? Unfortunately, whole industries have now built up around risk management, where even the slightest risk is now turned into a negative, with many organisations choosing the slogan of ‘zero harm’ as their mantra. In some organisations it seems that the word ‘risk’ has become associated and equated with the word ‘evil’. The motto and language of ‘zero’ is everywhere, sometimes spoken of in organisations like a religious fundamentalist belief. The cult of zero is so pervasive that to question it incurs the wrath of an inquisition. The language of ‘zero’ has become threaded into popular safety culture and industry without question. The language and trajectory of zero doesn’t make sense under the lens of learning, motivation and imagination. It is as if the very taking of a risk in some industries is equated with stupidity. It is as if risk doesn’t make sense.

Then, finally, here is a book by someone who gets it!

NB: We have no commercial interest in this book nor do we receive any financial considerations from it’s sale – its just a damn good read! – do yourself a favour and get a copy!

What the book is about

You can download a more detailed intro, including the table of contents here: RISK MAKES SENSE PROMO (1696)

If you want to just skip the intro and buy the book CLICK HERE

Dont just take my word for it – read the testimonials here: TESTIMONIALS

In a world of growing risk aversion, one could be forgiven for thinking that risk doesn’t make sense. Risk elimination thinking and behaviour sets a trajectory for a ‘dumb down’ workplace culture. The more efforts are made to ‘engineer out the idiot’, the more the system creates an unthinking workforce.

A Newsletter in 2011 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK lists a number of things that have been banned. Dodgem cars, school sack races and kite flying, amongst the activities which have been banned. Some schools have banned kids playing on monkey bars and others have banned leather footballs. A local council has instituted a $1000 penalty for kite flying on council ovals in case somebody might get hit. Even the Royal British Legion had to stop selling poppies with pins on Remembrance Day in case people might prick themselves.

(Safety Snippets Edition 22, September 2011)

The report above demonstrates just how absurd things have developed in our risk adverse society. The reality is, there is no learning without risk. Risk is not bad. You can’t live life without a ‘trade-off’ for risk. You can’t learn without risk. We seem more than ever preoccupied with lawsuits than learning, more anxious about injury than adventure and, fearful of harm rather than welcoming creativity. The quest for certainty, absolute control and the elimination of doubt is a fundamentalist pursuit.

The evolving language of risk elimination and cult-like fixation with everything ‘zero’ is a language that fosters the development of an unthinking workforce. As risk aversion increases, so do the resulting management systems that accompany it. This results in ‘flooding’ the worker so that they default to gut instincts, personal micro-rules and ‘risk quackery’. This increases risk. Rather than resist risk or extinguish risk, we need to embrace it and better understand it from a psychological and cultural perspective. This is a purpose of the book.

The answer to the challenge of risk is not more paperwork but more effective conversations and dialogue that are tuned into the psychology and culture of risk. When learning is the lens through which we view risk, risk makes sense.

The book is 182 pages and includes workshop questions at the end of each chapter and is only available from the website http://www.humandymensions.com .  The book is structured in three parts. The first part is: What we Know about Risk, the second is: What we Know about Human Sensemaking and the third is, What we can do to Make Better Sense of Risk.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita October 17, 2012 at 2:17 AM

Plzzzzzzzzzz hw much is this book goin to cost me,I wld really luv 2 ve it 2 improve my knowledge on risk assessment. Am becoming addicted to ur site,kudos and kip up d gud work

engineer April 30, 2012 at 9:24 AM

BTW: risk AVERSE; not ADVERSE. Relying on spell-checkers is risky.

Riskex April 20, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Dawww shucks Leon – appreciate that mate – made my day!

Leon Lindley April 20, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Hi Dave

Thanks for keeping it real. I really appreciate you trying to put some balance back in the mix with risk and safety. Keep up with your articles and your good work.



Riskex February 10, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Hey Caroline,

Thanks for your feedback. I thought you would be one who would enjoy this book. How boring would life be without risk? I love living dangerously – like hitting snooze buttom more than once – oh and jumping out of planes and riding motor bikes

I had a “zero harm” proponent tell me “nothing is impossible” – I had to point out that nothing is another word for zero!

I’d love to hear your thoughts after you’ve read the book.

Keep up the good, fair dinkum work you do – look forward to checking out your new safety system :-)


Caroline Kingston February 10, 2012 at 10:49 AM

This! Risk Makes Sense – looks like it is going to be a fabulous read.
All to true, we are becoming to risk adverse, learning less and cotton balling the workplace.
Yes, management of risk with a practical solution is what is necessary without going overboard.
I believe there is always a level of risk with all things that we do, both work and at home and certainly the mantra of zero harm is an elusive concept in my mind that provides a false commitment that really, could it be achieved, has any company achieved this and if so who are they??? Consider BP with all the resources they have at one end of the scale down to the small business man who provides pool cleaning services. Both business operations have activities of risk exposure that could lead to a harmful event (certainly we know what BP has caused over the years). It really comes down to how alert are people about risk and the practical way to manage and control the risk….. Preventing kite flying… how absurd, I’ve never heard of such …… This would e a National crisis in India. I’m glad I’m not a kid in the UK. I loved monkey bars, flying kites, dodgem cars… amongst other things….. I’ll stop here!
Dave, I’m looking forward to the read.
Thanks again for keeping me in the loop with literature worth reading!

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