The following essay is on the role of risk perception in the context of risk regulations and management. The discussion examines the contribution of risk regulatory bodies in control and management of risks. It also examines the role of risk management in creating awareness about potential risks. Occupational health and safety is important due to the emerging risks in the workplace.
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The work environment has changed due to the reduced compensation regimes on injuries especially during the global economic recession. In addition, different work arrangements adopted by organisations have led to emergence of new hazards with the most common being psychological hazards due to fatigue, overwork and low compensation. The government, insurance agencies as well as regulatory bodies are also concerned with increased cases of industrial explosions, injuries and deaths in the workplace (Reason 2008).
To understand the risk perception, it is important to describe risk awareness. This is the extent to which individuals acknowledge their awareness of risks around them by examining how well they respond to warnings and information that alerts them about possible risk situations (Waring 1996).
Risk management refers to the measures adopted to prevent occurrence of accidents in environments or situations that may be unsafe to the development of the possible risk situations (Kriebel & Moure 1998). Risk management involves risk assessment procedures to determine the possible risks that are likely to occur in any given scenario. Risk management is useful in environments such as hospitals, homes, offices, industries as well as recreational places (Reason 2008).
Once the possible hazards have been identified, it is easier to design ways of responding to the occurrence as early as possible. Risk regulations refers to the agencies that are involved in the inspection of the industries, offices and homes to ensures that they have complied with the regulatory policies that govern risk management in different situations. Every industry has its own guidelines, which determine risk management.
The risk management is critical not only in the prevention of hazards but also in preservation of human life and property (Turner 1978). Adhering to the set guidelines that determine risk management is imperative in determining the most convenient way of dealing with the possible risk situations. The other aspect that is of importance is the development of risk awareness (Kriebel & Moure 1998).
Role of risk perception in the broad context of risk management and regulation
Risk awareness is critical in mitigation of the risky circumstances. What risk perception does is to provide information to those involved in risky environments about hazards likely to occur and ways of controlling them. Risk awareness provides information about the development of the accidents and factors that may facilitate occurrence of such hazards. Risk perception alerts people who work in risky environments of the potential hazards that are likely to occur.
A good example is that of Hurricane Isaac in USA where workers were evacuated earlier as soon as warning reports were issued concerning the hurricane. However, it is not always possible that high level of risk regulation and risk management procedures imply that people in those environments have risk perception (Reason 2008).
The other role played by risk awareness is the formulation of risk management procedures that apply to each scenario where the hazard is likely to occur. The risk managers acknowledge that risky environments are common and risk management procedures should be specific to each scenario.
If it is the hospital, the risk manager should develop risk management procedures that apply to the medical equipments, medical waste and chemicals. In case of a mine, the procedures should relate to mine situations where the risk manager should have specific procedures that relate to mining (Reason 2008).
Risk perception has brought into perspective an aspect of occupational health and safety that involves psychosocial factors. These have been some of the major causes of injury in the workplace. The psychosocial factors in the workplace have not received the attention required in the development of policies critical to the prevention of health risks. The psychosocial hazards affect the mind, the health and physiological well-being of workers resulting to low productivity.
The psychosocial factors include the low wages, bullying in the workplace and overwork (Einarsen & Raknes 1996). In many instances, the psychosocial injuries are not compensated as they are assumed to be of no effect by the workers. In addition, workers do not have awareness of any regulatory inspectorate that assist workers who have claims of psychosocial injuries (Einarsen & Raknes 1996).
However, in many companies and work environments, the human resource departments have mechanisms, which deal with workers complaints of harassment and exploitation. Such issues are dealt with internally and usually there is no compensation for psychosocial injuries (Kriebel & Moure 1998).
An example is the case of Catherine Rosa in UK who sued her employer for paying her extremely low wages, which had led to her depression and eventual mental breakdown (Kriebel & Moure 1998). The human resource departments should also come up with specific job descriptions.
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They should match the job specification to a person who is competent and meets all the qualifications because it results in strained individuals. Risk perception in the area of psychosocial risks is imperative because of its effects on the society. It affects relationships due to increased family demands and responsibilities leading to ill health (Einarsen & Raknes 1997).
Risk perception in the context of the broad regulations and risk management has played a major role in the development of safety engineering. The industries have risky tools and machines such as blades, gears and presses that might harm the workers (Kriebel & Moure 1998).
Therefore, to minimise such risks, safety engineering assists in the formulation of low risk machines that have protective materials to prevent the worker from coming into direct contact with them. Safety engineering together with econometrics are applied in science proving the cost of safety measures that the company or industry have to apply to prevent injuries emanating from failure to put in place the safety measures.
A cost accounting method specifically looks into the occupation health and safety of a particular environment. Econometrics is the means of assessing the employees’ ability to work with the available resources without exceeding psychological and physiological capabilities (Kriebel & Moure 1998).
Risk perception also plays a critical role in creating awareness about the relationship between work environment, risk factors and diseases or injury. Different studies have tried to establish the causes of some patterns of occurrences of certain types of injuries in particular type of jobs (Waring 1996).
The most common type of injury in the industries is the repetitive strain injury. This results from overworking a particular body muscle repetitively, which leads to pain and eventual muscle injury. This type of injury is common in most developing countries especially in mining industries where ten percent of the workers fall victim of strain injury every year (Quinn 2009).
Amidst the regulatory bodies and inspectorates that assess the workers welfare, the repetitive strain injury has been on the rise. Some studies have argued that it is not that the regulatory bodies and inspectorates that assess the safety of workers in the work environments are negligent but it is because there are other factors that contribute to this injury (Turner 1978).
An example is the case of Upper big mine in West Virginia USA in 2008, which claimed the lives of twenty-nine people. Although the inspectorates had approved the mine’s risk management policies dissatisfaction among mineworkers may have resulted to negligence (Quinn 2009). The first one may be the psychosocial factors such as low payment, which leads to overwork or working for long hours (Turner 1978). The social factors involve the company or the group to which the person belongs.
There may be peer pressure to overwork or compete for something, which may make the individual to overwork resulting to injury.
The other factor may be the policies of the company or organisational factors that may influence or exert pressure on the individual to overwork and strain through direct supervision and high workload that is not commensurate with the workers capability like in the case of Ohio mines which had thirty strain injuries every year (Einarsen, & Raknes 1997).
When managing this type of risk it is imperative to consider all the factors that lead to the injury as this makes it easy to avoid such injuries.
The risk perception also creates awareness about the hazardous substances that the workers might come across in the workplace. This awareness has contributed significantly to reduction of occurrence of asthma diseases among workers due to fugitive asthma related gases in the workplace. In the year, 1992 there were 500,000 cases of Asthma resulting from occupations but the figure had reduced to about 50,000 by the year 2008.
The hazardous substances are usually because of nanotechnology, which is the technology behind polymers that are commonplace in the world today. The gases and substances released during the manufacture of such materials are harmful to the body. Prolonged exposures to such materials lead to the development of illnesses. Subsequent researches have shown that cancer results from exposure to such materials.
Exposure to asbestos is a major cause of cancer; two of three occupational cancers are due to exposure to asbestos (Waring 1996). Workers in such environments must be aware of the risks that such environments have. Although the inspectorates and risk regulation bodies have guidelines of safety measures to adhere to during such operations, it is imperative for the organisation to develop compensation regimes (Kriebel & Moure 1998).
Risk perception plays an important role in preventing occurrence of hazards in the work place as well as at home. Without risk perception, regulating and managing risks would be a difficult task for everyone. Risk perception has created awareness about risks and hazards that are likely to occur in work environments. Knowledge on how to deal with risks and contain risky situations leads to limited number of injuries.
Considering the context of risk management and regulation, it is imperative to increase the inspection of work environments and conduct assessments frequently to ensure that every possible risk is considered and appropriate measures are in place to contain it. It is also imperative to put in place measures to enforce those regulations.
Other than work or physical injury, it is also important to consider the psychological injuries that may occur in particular environments. There is need to create policies that show the magnitude of such injuries and how organisation should compensate them.
Einarsen, S & Raknes, B 1997, ‘Harassment in the workplace and the victimization of men’, Journal of Violence and Victims, vol. 12, pp. 247-263.
Einarsen, S & Skogstad, A 1996, ‘Bullying at work: epidemiological findings in public and private organizations’, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol. 2, pp.185-201.
Kriebel, D & Moure, R 1998, ‘Sustainable production: a proposed strategy for the work environment’, American Journal of Medicine, vol.4, pp.297–304.
Quinn, M 2009, ‘Occupational health, public health, worker health’, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 93, pp.526.
Reason, J 2008, The human contribution: unsafe acts, accidents and heroic recoveries, Farnham Surrey, Cincinnati.
Turner, B 1978, Man made disasters, Oxford University Press, London.
Waring, A 1996, Safety management systems, Prentice Hall, Cincinnati.