Risky Business

Hand stopping dominos

In our Health and Safety studies, we focus heavily on the systematic need to understand the links between hazard recognition, risk assessment, and controls. Each of these three elements must be in place in order to ensure a safe workplace for our colleagues. Of these three, risk assessment may be the most challenging to manage as it is based on degrees of probability.


To use a very simple example, when one sees a worker attempting to climb up a ladder that is not secured, the risk-related question is, what are the chances that the worker will fall off that ladder? As the probability, and therefore the risk, is high we must take action by controlling the situation and preventing the worker from going up the ladder until it has been properly secured.

When this happens, the intervention is not always perceived by the worker as necessary or even helpful. Often the person providing intervention is viewed as being overly dramatic, rigid and controlling. When that person is the Human Resources practitioner, their professional responsibility lies in preventative intervention based on the best of intentions and sound practices to ensure employee protection.

Are Human Resources professionals who work in the field of Health and Safety overly cautious and highly risk averse? Based on a recent psychological study published by Geoff Trickey of the UK, it seems that there might be some merit to those claims.

Click here to read the article.

Rather than viewing the tendency for risk aversion by Human Resources professionals from a negative perspective, the author characterizes this tendency in a positive way, as one that is prudent. The prudent risk type is one that is “systematic, orthodox and detailed.” The HR professional with a high tendency for prudence relies on clarity and order. This helps to reduce organizational risk. It seems that our ability to focus on details and apply an organized, systemic approach is essential to promoting a culture of health and safety in the workplace.

Let prudence prevail!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you characterize your own approach to taking risks?
  2. From a Human Resources perspective, how do you rate your own psychological characteristics against the author’s findings?
  3. Do you agree or disagree with the characteristics and tendencies that the author provides? Why?

Leave a Comment