Managing Risk Perceptions: Safety Program Support Outcomes
- Vladimir Ivensky (Amec Foster Wheeler)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- August 2016
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 44 - 50
- 2016. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 34 since 2007
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- Misjudging risks posed by specific hazards may lead to incidents.
- Correctly assessing and evaluating risks is one goal of OSH.
- This article reviews perceptions of hazards and controls to illustrate the management of risk perception.
When applied to safety, errors in risk perceptions posed by a specific hazard may lead to disagreements among project team members, misallocation of resources and, in worst cases, incidents. In OSH, one goal is to achieve the proper recognition and evaluation of safety hazards and the risks they pose. To illustrate risk perception management in safety, this article reviews perceptions of hazards and associated controls based on the principle: risk = hazard/ control.
The four basic expected scenarios and reactions are:
- Low hazard/high control: Annoyance, low support of safety program;
- Low hazard/low control: Compliance/neutral;
- High hazard/low control: Fear, outrage with a lack of safety support;
- High hazard/high control: Support of safety program.
The article discusses achieving a correct, shared vision of project hazards and required controls within project teams as a necessary condition of an effective OSH program.
Differences in Risk Perceptions
Risk perception is related to conceptions of knowledge that stress the limits of science (Sjöberg, Moen & Rundmo, 2004). Recognition and evaluation (perception) of hazards as well as evaluation (perception) of controls have elements of subjectivity. People respond to hazards according to their perceptions of the risks those hazards pose. What they perceive, why they perceive it that way and how they will subsequently behave are matters of great importance to industries and governments trying to assess and implement new technologies (Peters & Slovic, 1996).
People’s perceptions of risks posed by a specific hazard vary based on their personalities, experience, knowledge and many other criteria, and these perceptions vary among individuals and groups as well.
Subjective risk perceptions are analyzed and studied with a classification strategy: psychometric paradigm. Surveys, for example, may be asking responders to provide a numerical value (e.g., from 1 to 7) to characterize a risk posed by some specified elements of a particular hazard (Fischhoff, Slovic, Lichtenstein, et al., 1978) such as:
- voluntary versus nonvoluntary exposure (e.g., smoking vs. nuclear power station exposure);
- chronic versus catastrophic outcome (e.g., exposure to X-rays vs. fall from height);
- common versus dread (e.g., caffeine vs. nuclear power plant incident or fall from height);
- certain nonfatal versus certainly fatal (e.g., exposure to lead paint vs. nerve gas);
- known to exposed person versus not known to exposed person (can be any hazard; people who are typically exposed to a hazard give it a lower score than laypersons);
- known to science versus not known to science (e.g., lead vs. genetically modified food);
- controllable versus not controllable (can be any hazard, depending on its control perception).
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