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.
Any understanding of farm safety can only really be based on some type of risk management process, either done in a formal sense, or by some other more experiential way.
However the risk management process is undertaken, there are a number of ways of structuring it, one of the most common being that of understanding and identifying the consequences of those risks.
This is a different process to risk analysis by determining what exposure to risks the farm or business has. Risk exposure is normally a part of any risk management structure, and is often done in conjunction with classifying and assessing risk by the nature of its consequences.
Taken together, these two approaches to risk unable any business to manage risk, firstly by understanding what exposure to risks the business has, and their severity, and secondly by assessing the potential consequences of risk, irrespective of whether the perceived exposure is great or small.
Any risk assessment procedure can seem a bit formal, and a bit like a tick box exercise. Any tool for assessing risk, however it is done, should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. The value of a risk assessment model is that it can help take the perception of risk away from the day-to-day reality of the business, and put it in a different context, in a more objective way.
A good example of this on farms is the likelihood of young people driving or using machinery such as tractors, either on farmland or on public highways. Whilst many people would consider this risky, it is common practice on many farms given the nature of the industry.
This allows the business owner to make a value judgement about the type of risk in the business, how it can be minimised or mitigated, how it can be managed and how to deal with any potential consequences in the event of the risk being too severe to handle.
Risk exposure by consequences is often used within different models, but there are three or four of the most common types of category that can become a structure by which someone can assess the level of risk.
Firstly risks that are deemed to be of catastrophic severity. These are risks that can involve death or fatality, or serious injury to one or more people.
The most common example given in relation to farming is that of a tractor operating without a ROPS, where the probability of death is highly likely if the tractor overturns. Many older tractors did not have an ROPS fitted as standard, although it has now become law in most countries. A good example of risk management is where these older tractors would subsequently have had one fitted.
Given that small tractors and small mowers are often used on uneven or hilly ground, this can be a real risk especially for older models of tractors which would not have had one fitted before it became mandatory.
The second category of risk are those that are looked at as of critical severity. This is one marker below death or fatality, and normally refers to the possibility of some type of permanent injury that is pretty severe, often leading to permanent disability or a long-term illness.
An example of giving is of people who try to clear snow away from the blade of a snowblower, when the snowblower has been turned off.
People do not realise that to a charge of energy with in the blades and they can still be active even when the machine was turned off. This often results in numerous severe injuries to people’s hands and arms and upper limbs.
This is a good example of fully understanding snowblower safety. Snowblowers are generally considered safe if used properly, but a simple misunderstanding like this can lead to serious injury. Good risk management would imply a reading and understanding of the snowblower manual prior to use.
A somewhat dubious category that is often used is what is referred to as marginal severity. This really refers to any loss that is not as bad as it could otherwise have been. This is quite a subjective view, and it difficult to quantify in terms of actual specific risk.
The last category that is used is fairly self-explanatory, and prefers to risks that are deemed to be of a negligible severity.
This would refer to injuries or accidents that require minimal intervention such as first aid, or to damage to property that could be easily repaired. It
It should be understood that categories of riskare in their own way as important as other measurements of risk, but should not be taken as absolutes.
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