Comparing Types of Risk Assessment
When it comes to risk assessment all templates look the same, as much a Safety loves templates, there is no value at all in duplicating someone else’s designed template.
The copying of templates affirms the ideology of the designer, cannot be ‘owned’ and cannot build competence in the user (https://safetyrisk.net/the-seduction-of-templates-set-and-forget/ ). Dependence on someone else’s risk assessment design simply confirms the bias of the designer and its underpinning philosophy, which most likely isn’t even known or owned by the designer, let alone the user. Most likely the template you copied was designed by an engineer.
An engineering-focused risk assessment has no cognizance of: persons, ethics, relationships, personhood, learning, Socialitie, the collective unconscious, heuristics or human ‘being’. The most common risk assessments in safety are: mechanical. linear, centred on objects (hazards), structured on tables and built on closed systems and structures.
If you search Google for ‘risk assessment template’ there are 750,000,000 results. If you click on images you get hundreds of pages that look like Figure 1 and Figure 2.
And what do we see? Checkboxes, tables to fill out and of course the obligatory nonsense risk matrix, the singular most unintelligent tool devised by Safety. If you want to improve risk assessment in one easy first step, get rid of that silly coloured box nonsense. What Greg Smith calls the most dangerous tool in the risk and safety (https://vimeo.com/166158437)! Just have a listen to Greg (or read his book Papersafe) and hear what he says about risk assessments and their contribution to defendability in court!
Of course, if you want to really waste your time collecting all your risks on a meaningless risk register do so, thereby affirming even more deeply an engineering framing of how risk is defined. Similarly, a hazard register, what a complete waste of time building up a database that will be used against you in court should something go wrong.
Perhaps have a look at what regulators and government agencies give out as risk assessment templates. It’s all the same:
There are literally thousands of templates online AND THEY ARE ALL THE SAME!
I wouldn’t give 2 squirts of diddly piss for any of them. All of them are looking for the wrong thing, all oriented towards engineering, all focused on objects, not one with a thought for social psychology or culture as determinants of risk.
So, once you have completed your template, signed it off and filed it away, what do you know? Have you covered off the risk? No! What is the correlation between what was documented in paperwork and reality in the field? Not much as most coronial inquiries and court cases discover.
Most of this stuff plays beautifully into the culture of ‘set and forget’ and ‘tick and flick’. Here’s a few questions to consider:
- Has the risk assessment considered critical heuristics enacted unconsciously as part of habituation?
- Has the risk assessment considered the way social dynamics determine choices and decision making under pressure?
- Has the risk assessment enabled the consideration of social and political relationships and determinants of decision making?
- Has the template defined risk adequately?
- Has the risk assessment thought about trade-offs and by-products associated with regulatory pressures?
- Does the risk assessment considered the nature of persons and social relations?
- Does the risk assessment enable the visualization of relationships between key stakeholders and persons in groups?
- Is there any thought about mental health included in the risk assessment?
- Does the risk assessment enable consideration of critical psychological and cultural factors as determinants of risk?
- Are unseen and invisible risks considered?
To help out, I’ve made this comparative table, for those who love tables:
How amazing that Safety thinks it has undertaken a risk assessment and doesn’t consider any of these critical factors. And then when things go wrong Safety throws up its arms in disbelief because it has been indoctrinated with all this engineering thinking that has defined safety as a behaviourist counting exercise.