Risk Exposure

This is a follow up article to Karel Simpson’s previous guest post entitled “Risk Perception & Tolerance” which you can view here.

Karel Simpson is Corporate Risk Manager at GardaWorld.

In my last article I raised the question on what affects risk perception and tolerance to which I alluded to some elements believed to affect this.  What I did not touch on was the effect on persons who live in amongst different types of risk and to which activities are habitual, just part of everyday life.

I have travelled through Kabul recently and watch the driving which is a push your way in to a gap that your vehicle virtually fits, no second thought to the risk of damaging the vehicle itself.  Then you watch the people who wander across the road in front of vehicles and do not seem phased by the closeness of the vehicles that pass.  Sometimes this is families with children and been sitting in the road to beg, maybe this is a means to an end and a choice taken away and therefore their tolerance is increased.  Is it the fact that they have lived through turmoil and that they do not perceive the risk in the same way as someone who is not exposed to these risks.

You can of course also draw conclusions from this that training and education may not be on road safety in a country such as Afghanistan as perhaps it is in somewhere such as the United Kingdom or the United States.

Take this to a work element that we are familiar with, particularly one I have seen through my own experience and that is roofers.  Roofers work on a roof at heights all day long and seem unphased to the risk of falling.  Not to say they do not take precautions and measures as needed.  I am sure though people have seen the guys I am talking about, sat perched on the roof without a care in the world, nothing to stop there fall and yet are not phased.  I climb onto a roof and let me put it this way. I am not one for heights. I feel uncomfortable, this is not my environment, not my comfort zone and I can identify the risks quite clearly.  So why do roofers not look or appear that this bothers them.

Is this because this is their habitat, where for 6, 7 or perhaps 8 hours a day they spend their time. Does something that surrounds you every day suddenly just become ‘normal’? Then if so how can this be prevented? After all the whole idea of understanding risk perception and tolerance is indeed to try and assist or improve a person’s judgement.  Do this and then the management of risk can come into play ensuring that people continue to work efficiently, effectively and safely, ready to return another day.

In the literature reviewed the exposure to risk was shown across various topics and specific areas to have an effect on how a person would judge risk, with the literature clearly drawing a comparison between exposure and judgement. Campo-Martinez et al. (2010) found in the research they conducted that when a tourist has already visited a destination then their perception of risk also declines for that destination of which is supported by the research of Fuchs and Reichel (2011).

Although in contrast, an interesting article on risk taking in extreme sports was reviewed by Peake (2013) in which looks at the recent study of risk taking behaviour by Dr. Erik Monaterio, a New Zealand based psychiatrist who studies risk. This research found that in extreme sports the risk taking is tolerated in order to gain that thrill and although a serious injury is expected every 200 – 300 jumps this was seen as part of the acceptance by the base jumpers questioned; even with 2/3rds of the jumpers suffering a serious injury already.

My personal conclusion is that two different elements come into play here.  In regards to the tourists it is their perception that is being affected, the more they are exposed to the risk and perhaps the lack of a threat being evidenced, they start to perceive a lower threat.  We can argue if this is right or wrong in a future article as this could be an uneducated guess or simply they feel more comfortable because surroundings become familiar.

The extreme sports element of perception is shown to be accepted and that the tolerance in fact is adjusted, why because they see a positive in the outcome in the thrill seeking experience.  This to me is risk management being used perfectly.  Risk can be positive as well as negative.  An assessment is made, a risk is identified in this scenario but the outcome from the risk is deemed to be a positive result and one worth taking.

This is a snapshot and of course other risk exposures exist that I will look to discuss at a later date.

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