Is society becoming too risk adverse? Sensible risk managment is the solution, explains Steve Pearson.
For the villagers of Bromham, this year’s St George’s Day should have been greeted with a hearty English breakfast to raise funds for a local primary school. Instead, according to the Daily Mail on 24 April [Ref. 1], the event was cancelled at the last minute because of health and safety concerns about untrained volunteers preparing fried eggs. More specifically, it would seem that local county council guidelines regarding the storage and preparation of food were being rather zealously enforced.
The news article provoked colourful reaction from the volunteers themselves, the general public and Tory MP, Philip Davies, who said, “It is barmy that parents who want to celebrate St George’s Day and raise a bit of money for their local school are prevented from doing so by ridiculous rules and regulations.” The next day the Chief Executive of the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Geoffrey Podger, wrote to the Daily Mail to make it clear that the HSE were not involved, and “have no interest in making people extensively risk averse” [Ref. 2]. What this and other similar stories portray (see Table 1) is a society where risk is not necessarily balanced by reward in the decision making process.