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From Safety to The Risk Management Cycle

From Safety to The Risk Management Cycle

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Published by Dproske
Proske, D.: From Safety to The Risk Management Cycle. Journal of Medical Safety, June 2009, Tokyo, ISSN 1349-5232, Seite 1-10
Proske, D.: From Safety to The Risk Management Cycle. Journal of Medical Safety, June 2009, Tokyo, ISSN 1349-5232, Seite 1-10

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Published by: Dproske on Apr 08, 2010
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Journal of Medical Safety 2009 (2) p.**- p.** May, 2009
From Safety to the Risk Management CycleDirk Proske
University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Institute of MountainRisk Engineering, Vienna, Austria
The paper describes the development from the term “safety”, towards numerical expressions of it as“risks” and finally the emerging concept of “quality-of-life”; in order to prove the fulfilment of therequirement of “safety”. The paper starts with a definition of “safety”, but discusses also roughly theterm “optimal safety” and its limitations. The term “safety” is then transferred into the parameter of“risk”. Since the earliest numerical expressions of “risk” the concept has experienced significantdevelopment and many different risk metrics have been introduced subsequently. The evolution ofrisk parameters and the consideration of optimal safety have finally yielded to the development andapplication of “quality-of-life” parameters. It is worthwhile to note that this development has beenobserved in many different scientific fields such as economy, engineering, social sciences andmedicine. However, the application of “quality-of-life metrics” yields to the same problem as usingthe term “safety”. For a start it is extremely difficult to express “safety” in formal numericalexpressions. This is an unsatisfying situation since only formal decisions are testable. In contrast tothe common numerical time-invariant proofs of “safety” or the ultimate goal of “optimal safety”, thenew concept of “risk cycles” considers a never-ending development and change of conditions andactions and impressively illustrates the limitation of common safety concepts. Therefore in the lastyears the terms “risk management” and “risk cycle” have become widely applied.
1 Introduction
All human activities have to fulfil the requirementof safety. Such requirements can be found in theearliest law collections such as the one byHammurabi (Mann 1991). Therefore safetyconcepts were introduced historically in manytechnical fields; the first application of metricalglobal safety factors can be traced back to Philovon Byzantium around 300 B.C (Shigley &Mischke 2001). Since this time many differentnumerical safety concepts have been developedusing different metrics, such as probabilitymeasures or risk measures. An overview is givenin Proske (2008). However this development ofsubstitutes has yielded to a loss of the originalgoal, the provision of “safety”.
2 Concept of safety
The term “safety”
is often defined as a situationwith a lower risk
compared to an acceptablerisk:
existing permittedexisting permitted
Journal of Medical Safety 2009 (2) p.**- p.** May, 2009
or as a situation “without any danger impending”.Other definitions describe safety as “peace ofmind” (Proske 2008). The former definition whichuses the term risk is already based on asubstitution; therefore the latter term using “peaceof mind” is a better definition. The authorconsiders “safety” to be the result of an evaluationprocess of a certain situation done by everysystem that is able to perform a decision makingprocess, such as animals, humans, societies orcomputers. Whereas computers entirely useformal numerical representation, humans andsocieties may use informal measures and includecognitive errors. Whether it is true or not thathumans and societies can visualise more than justsystem borders in formal models is an importantissue but will not be discussed here (Proske 2008,Gigerenzer 2004). However since all decisionsare finally done by humans, their “safety” isunderstood as a feeling. Furthermore thedecision-making process deals with the question,whether resources should be spent to decreasehazards and danger to an acceptable level. Inother terms “safety” is a feeling, which describesthat no further resources have to be spent todecrease any threats. If one considers the term“no further resources have to be spent” as adegree of freedom of resources, one can define“safety” as a region of a function which includesthe degree of freedom of resources. Furthermoreone can assume, that the degree of freedom isrelated to some degree of distress and relaxation.Whereas in safe conditions relaxation occurs, indangerous situations a high degree of distress isclearly reached.The possible shape of the function betweendegree of relaxation which ranges from “danger”to “peace of mind” and the value of the function asdegree of freedom of resources is shown in Fig. 1.It is assumed here, that the relationship is non-linear with at least one region of over-proportionalgrowth of the relative freedom of resources. InFig. 1 this region of maximum growth (point ofinflection) is defined as the starting point of thesafety region:
{ }
= =
Fig. 1. Assumed function shape between degree of relaxation and relative freedom ofresources
The degree of relaxation (
) can be evaluatedbased on a function considering a number ofinfluence variables
a, b, c 
Journal of Medical Safety 2009 (2) p.**- p.** May, 2009
These influence parameters need to be chosen.As already mentioned, the term “safety” considerssubjective effects, such as trust, control or benefit.Wojtecki & Peter (2000) have tried to introducesome numerical equivalents for such conditionsand state that trust may shift the individualacceptable risk by a factor of 2,000. That means,if one convinces people through dialogue that ahouse is safe, a much higher risk (no resourcesare spent) will be accepted, whereas with only afew negative words trust can be destroyed andfurther resources for protection are spent. Manyadditional factors, such as voluntariness, benefit,control, age and experience can be considered(see Proske 2008 or Covello et al. 2001). Themulti-variability indicates that the mathematicalformulation of such a degree of distress andrelaxation is complicated and often the mostimportant factors are identified by surveys.At this point we should also look at “optimalsafety”. This term is widely used to assess theefficiency of certain protection measures. Mostlythe Pareto criteria or the Kaldor-Hickscompensation tests are used for the efficiencyassessment (Pliefke & Peil 2007). However suchmeasures are strongly based on formal numericalexpression and it is doubtful that such theoriescan be directly related to the issue of safety.Furthermore, in this instance “optimal safety” isdefined as a condition, which yields to a maximumperformance of humans, not a maximum utility.Such maximum performance can be described inrelation to different degrees of stress andrelaxation by the Yerkes-Dodson-curve and isshown in Fig. 2. It can be shown in the samediagram format as Fig. 1 (Proske 2008). Finallyone may argue that maximum humanperformance and maximum utility are the same.Indeed, the major differences are the timehorizons which cause completely different results(Münch 2005, Proske 2008). The questionremains, if “optimal safety” based on numericalexpressions is indeed related to “optimal safety”assumed by individual humans and humansocieties.
Fig. 2. Function between degree of relaxation and relative freedom of resources
Fig. 2 indicates that humans do not reach amaximum performance under extreme safeconditions or high degrees of freedom ofresources. Instead, humans tend to return toslightly unsafe regions leading to benefits notillustrated in the figure. Therefore a time-invariantoptimal safety can not be computed. This fits verywell to the statement by Arrow et al. (1996), thatno risk based decisions are taken by humans;only risk informed ones. However in engineeringsciences, subjective elements are usuallyneglected and only formal numerical expressionsare used, mainly to fulfil liability requirements.Here mainly risk parameters are used asnumerical expressions of safety. Some riskparameters will be introduced in the next section.

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