The zero risk psychosis


John Adams has an interesting take on the bureaucratic approach to risk management in his post reducing zero risk.

The problem is that each decision to further reduce an already acceptably low risk is always defended as being ‘cheap’, but when you add up the increments it’s the death of a thousand cuts, because no one ever considers the aggregated opportunity cost of course.

This remorseless slide of our public and private institutions into a hysteria of risk aversion seems to me to be be due to an inherent societal psychosis that nations sharing the english common law tradition are prone to. At best we end up with pointless safety theatre, at worst we end up bankrupting our culture.

One response to The zero risk psychosis

    Mike Flannery 16/01/2014 at 8:59 pm

    I would love to think that this is a real “one-Off”. Unfortunately, the safety architecture of the UK is such that this particular manifestation is just the latest fad in the natural progression of a well-meaning but flawed approach to the concept of risk. A simple review of the existing guidance such as HSG65 (still available on ) and HSG245, provides ample evidence that any failing will be treated as a management failure and consequently liability will apply. If you have been trained in the UK during the last 20 years, you will have had unnecessary construct of ALARP drummed into you. The combination of just these two elements of the architecture really means that if you are working for an organisation where there is no upside to risk, then you might reasonably feel that you’re not being paid to permit any downside risk, irrespective of how remote that might be. It is therefore only logical to try and eliminate all risk, so you can be sure that nothing will go wrong on your watch for which individual culpability might attach.