- This is generally a process about how we as human beings judge risk.
- At the outset people may see the nature of the risk in its reality.
- But experience tends to suggest that the more familiar with the come with the risk the less they really understand its reality.
Owning or operating a farm, as well as working on it, poses real challenges in terms of understanding the nature of risk, the implications in terms of injury or fatality of certain risks, and how best they can be managed.
A key element of this is how we as individuals, or as human beings actually see risk a process commonly referred to in psychology as risk perception. There are a number of reasons why people either do not see risk accurately, or diminish its potential for damage or denied altogether.
This can apply to whether a risk is fairly minimal or much more serious. This is generally a process about how we as human beings judge risk. Understanding this allows us to change our attitudes, which in a work environment, especially on a farm or in an agricultural business can be a life-saving undertaking.
There tend to be three main things that affect people’s judgement about risk.
Firstly is a sense of how familiar people are with the nature of a hazard or a risk, or the likelihood of something happening. At the outset people may see the nature of the risk in its reality, but experience tends to suggest that the more familiar with the come with the risk the less they really understand its reality.
Perhaps a simpler way of putting this is that the more familiar people become with a particular risk, the more comfortable they become with it, and the more they think they can deal with it in a way that is not proportionate to the risk itself.
On a farm, this often presents itself in areas such as operating machinery or driving tractors, which are day to day operations, but retain the same level of risk each time they are used.
This process can easily happen over a period of time, and is a fairly understandable point of view, but one that needs to be challenged in terms of some way of referencing the reality of risk itself, irrespective of how long someone has been managing it, or how familiar they are with it.
The second thing that tends to affect people’s perception of risk is the level at which they consciously decided to interact with it.
There is a tendency to believe that if people deliberately decide to get involved with the risk, they have a greater chance of managing it or dealing with it, as opposed to being faced with exposed to some risk that they didn’t want.
This is really back to the issue of being in control, and the belief that if people get involved in something through their own choice, then they have a much greater sense of control over it. This may be true in the sense that they have a greaert control of managing it, but the belief tends to be more different to that.
The belief tends to be that if someone actively gets involved in a risk, it somehow minimises the risk itself. This of course is not true. The risk is the risk itself, whether big or small, and does not get minimised because of someone’s involvement.
The third factor, and possibly the most important is a belief that the greater the consequence of the risk, the more seriously people take it.
A good example of this in farming, where some older tractors were manufactured without an ROPS, something which is standard, and normally a legal requirement, on most modern day tractors, lawn and garden tractors, zero turn mowers etc.
That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, what it also means is that people will then underestimate risk that has perhaps slightly less severe consequences, but actually had a greater chance of happening.
The importance of all of this is that there needs to be a clear process of how risk is assessed. On a farm or in an agricultural business this can be quite difficult given the nature of the work.
What is important is that the risk must be clearly identified and understood, both in an objective sense by the business, but also by any individuals who are undertaking the work itself.
There must be an understanding of the probability of any danger, and an understanding of what the consequences of the risk could be both to the individual and to the business. This is all about judging risk.
When the reality of the risk is understood both in terms of its likelihood and its consequences, then a reasonable judgement can be made about how best to manage it, or what action can be taken to minimise the worst possible effects if anything were to go wrong.
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