Do the math.
That is one of the familiar expressions we all hear. It’s all about connecting the dots and coming to a natural, logical conclusion. Do the math.
Having a logical conclusion to safety is a challenge, but Vladimir Ivensky tried to make it simple in his recent Professional Safety magazine article about determining the right level of risk for a hazard to make safety protocols seem either too lax or too strict. This is abou perception, which is more subjective than the reality.
And in some circles – especially in safety – perception can often mean just about everything. It is hardly about what the hazards are or the controls that are in place; it’s often about how the employees or workers perceive both the hazard and the control that determines their level of safety.
To quantify the level of risk, there is a common formula for mathematics that seems to apply in these situations, and it goes something like this:
R = H/C
In this case, H stands for the hazard, R stands for the risk of that hazard (whether actual or perceived), and C stands for the safety controls that are in place for that hazard (again, whether actual or perceived). When mathematically assessing the risk, the resulting answer can be put onto a graph with four quadrants (this was touched on briefly in the first post of this series). The horizontal axis (the x axis) is for the hazard, and the vertical axis is for control (the y axis). The four resulting quadrants are as follows:
- Low hazard/high control;
- Low hazard/low control;
- High hazard/high control; and
- High hazard/low control.
There are some other formulas to consider as well, especially when establishing the difference between actual and perceived hazards and controls, which affect actual or perceived risk.
Hp = Ha x Ph (Hp is perceived hazard, Ha is actual hazard and Ph is perception of the hazard)
Cp = Ca x Pc (Cp is perceived control, Ca is actual control and Pc is perception of the control)
Once you have established your risk on your graph, you can determine the correlated reactions to the safety programs from the resulting risk in which quadrant:
- LH/HC (low hazard/high control) results in annoyance.
- LH/LC results in compliance and neutral responses.
- HH/HC results in support from may levels of the company.
- HH/LC results in fear and outrage.
Remember, this can also apply to the perception of high or low hazard and high or low control. There is a general presumption that no matter whether the hazard is actual or perceived, the support will be there if the safety control is deemed to be “reasonable” in proportion to the hazard. If the control is too low, support for the program will dwindle and workers may put themselves at even more risk. And if the control is too high, workers may rebel and cut corners or evade or ignore some controls and put themselves at greater risk.
You can see where this is going.
On the other side, it isn’t just about the control being reasonable for the hazard. If the control is not chosen coectly and applied in a consistent way that is easy to understand, workers will even abandon a “reasonable” control if it’s difficult to comply with or is not enforced consistently.
Next up, we’ll look into more details about these four quadrants and show some examples from Ivensky’s article so you can note some real-life scenarios to help you understand whether your controls are reasonable for the hazards your worksite presents.