As professionals, managers or engineers working in the field of safety at work, what we want is a work environment with no accidents. But we have to perform in an area where absolute perfection is rarely achieved, and we have to expect that risk will sometimes arise from a hazard (equipment failure, negligence or inattention of a worker, a bad maintenance program, lack of knowledge, etc.). Even when the risk is very low, an accident could occur. This can be a troubling thought for many people, and especially for those dedicated to prevention.
We know that risk can never be entirely eliminated from an activity unless the activity is completely stopped, and we must prioritize certain prevention activities over others to maximize security. In this paper, the author presents some practices in risk management that can help in making choices that ensure the best possible safety level for workers.
How can managers and professionals reach acceptable and tolerable levels of risk? In our personal lives, public policies or workplaces, can we use concepts like probabilities, the precautionary principle, ALARA, or acceptable risks to justify the risk level we can morally and legally accept? Safety should be more about putting energies on known and proven dangers than on eliminating hypothetical and rare risks.
As we all know, the resources that can be devoted to health and safety are not infinite. We have to be able to advise stakeholders to focus less on eliminating minuscule, hypothetical risks that distract workers and employers from the known and proven threats. We must intensify our efforts in prevention, but we must also help the management team to make the best decisions possible and act where it counts and where we can expect the best results in safety.