Risk and Culture

Risk, most dictionaries agree, involves exposure to the possibility of loss or injury. Perceptions of this possibility are embedded in culture and vary enormously over space and time. One frequently encounters the contention that it is important to distinguish between “real”, “actual”, “objective” risks and those that are merely “perceived”. But all risk is perceived. Risk is a word that refers to the future, and the future exists only in the imagination. And the imagination is a product of culture.

Opening paragraph of Chapter 7 of  Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies – click here for the complete chapter


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  1. Dave Hope says:

    Thank you so much for this post John. In my world, where I am the purveyor of safety for those involved in the global shipping industry, culture play an all embracing role in fatalities. Yet the attitude of governing bodies towards accident reduction does not reflect this, rather continuing to focus on more regulation, more committees and more standardized training that requires constant repetition. Couple this with increased reporting and more regular audits and the result is a significant decline in motivation, thence awareness and an increase in complacency. These factors are compounded by increased technology that provides the mundane but requires attentiveness. This is continually reflected in investigation as being the root cause most incidents. Most are inherently systemic in nature that peripheral safety training will only briefly deal with. Certainly there are many employers, bound by increasing competition and having to resort to a global cohort of recruits, have identified the cultural issues that they face and made strides to address it. However results do not look promising. I fear this may take many generations before this will resolve.

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