What Is A Risk?

Some people see mission accomplishment and safety at the opposite ends of a continuum. These individuals view safety as an impediment to mission accomplishment while quietly harboring the belief that mishaps are the natural by-product of doing business. Holders of this mindset typically pay lip service to accident prevention, thereby putting personnel and equipment at needless risk. The problem lies in a failure to integrate the requirement for safety with the demand for successfully doing the job. The job can be done with an acceptable risk factor. Safety is a by-product of risk reduction.

Society’s Acceptance of Risk
A significant societal viewpoint on risk is the discrimination our society makes between a voluntary accepted risk and an imposed risk. Society is willing to let individuals voluntarily accept extraordinarily high levels of risk. Thus, we tolerate, and even financially reward, the daredevil. These individuals accept risks involving a 1 in 5 or higher risk of death, and spectators pay to watch. On the other hand, society does not normally accept much higher than 1 in 10,000 chance of death when risk is mandated. Risks greater than a 1 in 10,000 chance of death are normally compensated for by some sort of premium or hazardous duty pay. One problem often encountered in working with risk estimates is comparing the risk over time for events, which occur very rarely, but involve extraordinary risk, to events, which occur very frequently, but involve only minimal or moderate risk. The concept of average annual risk of death/injury (AAR) assumes that what really matters to the individual is the risk of an activity over time, in this case, a year. Individuals perceive that at the end of the year it does not make any difference whether you are dead because you performed a very high-risk activity once, or because you performed, a low-risk activity many times dead is dead. What matters is the chance of being dead at the end of the year that counts.

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