Public Safety and Risk Assessment
Improving Decision Making
Routledge – 2011 – 206 pages
Series: Earthscan Risk in Society
This book aims to encourage a more reflective, multidisciplinary approach to public safety, and the 'reenfranchisement' of those affected by this new phenomenon. Over the past decade health and safety has become a major issue of public interest. There are countless stories of health and safety activities interfering with public life, preventing some beneficial activity from taking place – even creating absurd or dangerous situations. On the one hand, risk assessment, properly conducted, is highly beneficial – it saves lives and prevents injuries. But on the other, it can damage public life. Why has this come about, and does it have to be like that? The authors examine the origins of the problem, look critically at the tools used by safety assessors and their underlying assumptions, and consider important differences between public life and industry (where the approaches largely originated). They illuminate the whole with an analysis of legal requirements, attitudes of stakeholders, and recent research on risk perception and decision making. The result is a profound and important analysis of risk and safety culture and a framework for managing public safety more effectively.
'Many myths focus on issues where health and safety is apparently responsible for curtailing beneficial public activities. This has been reflected in the evidence I received. Some are concerned that health and safety law is now being applied to situations for which the original legislation was not intended (for example operational activities of the Emergency Services, the education sector and public events). Ball and Ball-King’s recent book helpfully summarises the key issues surrounding the risk assessment process in the context of public safety.'
- Ragnar E Löfstedt, Reclaiming Health and Safety For All: An Independent Review of Health and Safety Legislation, Crown Copyright 2011
"So many worthwhile activities are banned or rejected in the name of Health and Safety. Everyone should read this book to see that very often these bans are not justified" - Sir Chris Bonington
"This book strips away the mysticism and jargon from health and safety, subjecting it to rational analysis. It shows that safety precautions always have to be paid for, in money and lost opportunities, and involve choices which cannot be left to experts but should concern all members of a democratic society"- Lord Hoffman.
"Safety is important, but it is not paramount. This book exposes the myths and reinstates the choices we have in determining our lives. Trade-offs are unavoidable. We need to make them with as much care and understanding as we can muster. Read how" - John. D Graham, Dean, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University.
Preface 1. Clear and Foreseeable Danger 2. Risk Assessment - A Simple Tool? 3. Is Safety Paramount? 4. Risk and Safety - A National Philosophy 5. What Works in Public Life? 6. Legal Matters 7. Advice - Whose Advice? 8. A Closer Look at Decision Making 9. Adventure Activities - A Hard Case 10. Risk-benefit Assessment 11. In Search of a New Agenda 12. Final Thoughts and Résumé
David Ball is Professor of Risk Management and Director of the Centre for Decision Analysis & Risk Management at Middlesex University, UK. Previously he was Director of the Centre for Environmental and Risk Management at the University of East Anglia, and before that worked as a scientist in local and central government and the private sector in Britain and the USA. He is a regular consultant to government departments and regulators as well as international agencies.
Laurence Ball-King has a Masters degree in risk management and a BA in economics and politics. He has worked in credit risk management within financial services and on a variety of non-financial risks including adventure activities and public safety more generally.