IOSH April Safety Talk

During IOSH’s Singapore branch recent event in April, the lively presentation by Shamsul Huda, dived into the field of behavioural psychology in relation to risk perception and decision-making. This is a complex and evolving concept. As extracted from the presentation and for the simplicity of this brief article, we will only focus on the Johari window of known knowns.

The proposal was vivid, set against the wide and familiar background cast by the industry’s current risk assessment and matrix; its categories of probability and levels of consequence. The underlying assumptions were suggested as limiting, with missing links in the causative chain.

Utility economics and embedded subjective judgments were recommended for sharpening the tool matrix. Kahneman and Tversky (1979), Nobel-winning economists of Prospect Theory, were demonstrated as to how people make decisions in an environment of risk; how more often than not, we impose our biases and skewed decision-making and perceptions. The human mind is less rational compared to what we originally believe or want to believe. These thoughts were combined with Slovic’s argument on how risk communication persuades our perception of risk (Slovic, Fishshoff and Lichenstein, 1982); the central elements include attitudes and interpretations of risks that differ between experts and workers.

There are a number of ongoing arguments around the treatment of the current risk matrix and its impact on loss. This presentation encourages us to explore some entrenched beliefs and practices we may have; it raises questions on the evaluation and implementation of the systems we design. Exposing such concepts is necessary at a time when we need to consider variations and influences on employee understanding, behaviour and decision-making. How to re-think, re-tool and recalibrate our assumptions, so that we can be versatile at adapting to the onslaught of asymmetric information, new environmental/technological changes and uncertainty.

Yvone Foong is the CEO of Chektec Pte. Ltd.