In this exceptional guest feature, Andrew  Sharman, who is on the Board of IOSH and holds the position of the Vice Chairman speaks out his professional and personal opinions with regards to management of different incidences of risks in his day to day life which includes swimming with sharks besides other activities.

Last weekend at a dinner party, our conversation slowly drifted, and we eventually started talking about work. He threw a question at me inquiring what I did to earn a living. I responded that I did work in safety. Thrilled, he promptly returned and so to say referred to me as the guy who stops people from doing things because they may be a danger to them. To this response, I realized that whatever we do commands our reputation even before our actual selves are known. As the conversation kept rolling, I asked him that as a senior employee of OSH, how many times in his line of work did he find his profession at the centre of a joke that implies that we are risk adverse, and action stopping do-gooders. His response was quite thrilling. He confirmed that as much as he is happy to see people sharing a good laugh enjoyable, there is a major misconception that often comes up. He clearly went on explaining his words by saying that if truly protecting people was their core job then facing the risk would be their major role but not walking away from it. Andrew Sharman then talked about his recent sharing with a TED talk where he was asked to give his views on safety  and risk. He went on to say that he specifically chose to use his very personal experience holding a central point that life is all about confidence development in appropriate risk management rather than avoiding risks at whatever costs. Most of us live in being comfortable and safe despite the society. Most of us seem to have built a culture centred in fear that highly encourages us to become overcautious and being very hesitant, and this can be clearly seen in our day to day lives at workplaces. The management at the top can always observe and see what is happening  from the top who are usually enthusiastic for safety and have the safety first attitude even up to professional peers which even triggers corporate agendas causing rifts as they push for safety and productivity.

Fear has clouded our minds that our perspectives on risk have drifted to the point that the real picture cannot be painted. Media have contributed in the manipulation of trends in objective thinking and decision making. They always depict how safety has played its role in the prevention of something. This has significantly developed the attitude of ‘what if..’ in people. All these have been caused by fear rather than risk management. A movie released by Hollywood forty years ago had a great impact in which it brought so much fear among the people of the UK. . Millions of people in the society were left in a panic every time they went to the seaside. That thought goes through our heads as we swim in deeper waters.

This is the same fear that Andrew Sharman spoke of in his TED talk. In this context, his fear was not of the water but rather whatever that is in the water was the cause of the fear. He explained how he was fascinated by sharks from his early age but not afraid of them. This fascination drove him to work on overcoming his fears and perhaps even geared him towards becoming a risk management professional.

Even though all of us have fears, we can become enabled in achieving our goals which in our opinion seemed unattainable only if our source of concerns is freed from us. For OSH professionals, the real value of their proposition is to choose a risky human undertaking and use their unique skills to ensure success without loss.

This is only possible if there is language transition from the saying ‘what if.. .’ to  ‘what if we could..’. from here then we can demonstrate the possibilities that can be considered to an acceptable level. Employees and leaders are engaged in choosing actions and making decisions that not only increase chances of success but also to a great extent reduce the likelihood of risk. The risk problem is defined ,and then the partnership is made with the people and then they are helped to solve it. This is done with caution to be by the organizational needs and expectations. Sincere efforts are made to make changes in our corporate culture from polarized perspectives on risk management to a probably well informed and critically thought upon balanced decision making with regards to the risks that occur in our daily lives.

There is a pressing need to become more energetic advocates regarding profession and should at all costs be among the team of facilitators of Risk Based Decision – Making. The Risk Based Decision – Making  involves a systematic way of critically identifying the hazards that may be involved with work. This  is followed by a carefully planned assessment of the degree of the risk and then determining the best decision on the course of action to implement such that all the goals set can be realized with an acceptable level of risk. The U.S Department of Energy have used the word safer and the acronym has been one of the most helpful tools in implementing the method of Risk Based Decision Makin. These steps are outlined below

The first step is to summarize in this step all the critical steps are outlined in brief.The anticipation and discussion of errors for each of the key steps described above are done and the relevant, or possible causes of the errors identified. The prediction is made or foreseeing it is essential to forecasting the most probable and directly ordinary consequences that can arise from each of the significant steps summarized. It is followed by the most important measure which mainly involves evaluation a careful evaluation is done and then controls should be carefully put in place at each critical stage to serve the purpose of prevention, catching and recovering from errors that were outlined for reduction of their consequences. Finally, the last step is to review the previous experiences and lessons that have been learnt which should be relevant to the particular task and critical steps are evaluated.

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