The regulation of risks to health and safety is a particularly tricky policy area. There are constant complaints that we are paying far too much attention to health and safety, and producing dull young adults who are risk- and exercise-averse. However ...
- there are now less than 2,000 deaths on our roads every year, compared with around 8,000 in the 1960s, and
- we have cut child deaths as a result of preventable accidents from 1,100 in 1979 to less than 200 in 2011.
There aren't many parents who would turn back these particular clocks.
On the other hand - the UK invests heavily in automatic train protection (ATP) where every £5 million saves one life - but it could save 50 lives on the roads. How can this make sense? The answer may perhaps be found in this note about how Government should respond to concerns about risks to health and safety.
And it is fascinating to read Christopher Sirrs' description of the background to the introduction of modern health & safety legislation in his - Accidents and Apathy ; The Construction of the 'Robens Philosophy' of Occupational Safety and Health Regulation in Britain, 1961-1974
A more general discussion of the effective regulation of large and small firms may be found here and here. Other interesting documents include a Review of Risk Case Studies and the October 2006 report by the Better Regulation Commission: Risk, Responsibility, Regulation: Whose Risk Is It Anyway?.
Communicating Risk and Uncertainty
Radiation and radioactivity are particularly scary concepts for a large part of the population. Here is a useful note about the link between radiation and cancer and also a review of what happened when radiation and risk came together in the 2001 depleted uranium scare.
Follow these links to access:
- The Cabinet Office's Communicating Risk Guidance
- authoritative guidance on communicating risks which is applicable to virtually any risk bearing issue
- David Spiegelhalter's 2017 paper Risk and Uncertainty Communication
Other Useful Stuff
The website of the Health and Safety Executive which contains interesting documents such as Reducing Risk, Protecting People and the As Low as Reasonably Possible (ALARP) Guidance for HSE staff, both of which provide an insight into HSE's approach to risk management and control.
Follow this link for a summary of basic scientific facts, figures and relationships:- essential reading for all GCSE and A level students as well as civil servants trying to make sense of scientific papers etc.
The Institute of Physics offers a very good, jargon-free website which will answer many of your science-related questions. It is ideal for those questions that you don't like to ask in the office for fear of betraying your lack of scientific knowledge!