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We need a common sense approach to risk management

HSE InfoLine : 14 July, 2005  (Company News)
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath today called for a common sense approach to risk management as he formally launched a debate on the causes of risk aversion in health and safety.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath today called for a common sense approach to risk management as he formally launched a debate on the causes of risk aversion in health and safety.

Speaking at the launch organised by the Health and Safety Executive in the House of Lords he said:

'Since 1974 when the Health and Safety at Work Act was passed, the rate of workplace fatalities has dropped by two thirds. The hazards in construction have if anything got greater since the 1970's, but the rate of fatal accidents has fallen dramatically. But yet there is a perception that things are getting worse.

'We must concentrate our efforts on the big issues that cause real harm and suffering and remember that excessive risk aversion does damage too. It hits organisational efficiency, competitiveness, restricts personal freedoms and damages the cause of protecting people form real harm. We know that something is seriously wrong when we read stories of schools asking children to wear goggles to play conkers in the playground.

'It is my intention to bring about a balanced approach to risk that will have at its heart an emphasis on the importance of communicating risk effectively.'

As part of HSE's determination to build an integrated debate, today's launch includes a new web forum and discussion document. Providing an opportunity for everyone to be involved in the debate and take part in live discussions that will ultimately benefit UK society as a whole. The discussion document will provide an in-depth look at the issues and backdrop that has led to the perception of risk aversion.

Both the web forum and discussion document can be found at

The HSE is seeking to involve key opinion formers from all areas, including the media, CBI and Local Government through round table events, a web forum and other events designed to get people communicating and get to the root causes of risk aversion

HSE Deputy Director General Jonathan Rees added:

'HSE's approach to regulation is very much based on sensible risk management. Risk is ubiquitous. Some degree of risk whether financial, environmental or in terms of safety is necessary for progress. We are fortunate in the way the Health and Safety at Work Act was drafted over 30 years ago. In its concept, it is goal setting rather than prescriptive. It also lays the primary responsibility for ensuring health and safety on those who create the risk and those who work with them and not with the regulator. This approach therefore leaves room for innovation to take account of different circumstances such as the significant changes of the economy over the last thirty years'.
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