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.
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
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