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Risk management culture

Culture is the set of encouraged and acceptable behaviors, discussions, decisions and attitudes toward taking and managing risk within a group.

Automaticity is the term psychologists give to the skilled action that people develop through repeatedly practising the same activity, for example, driving a car. Behaviors learned to the point of “automaticity” are not easily changed by conscious control.

High-Reliability Organizations (HROs) have successfully avoided catastrophes in an environment where normal accidents can be expected due to risk factors and complexity. Five characteristics of HROs have been identified as responsible for the "mindfulness" that keeps them working well when facing unexpected situations.

  1. Preoccupation with failure: HROs treat anomalies as symptoms of a problem with the system.

  2. Reluctance to simplify interpretations: HROs take deliberate steps to comprehensively understand the work environment and specific situations.

  3. Sensitivity to operations: HROs are continuously sensitive to unexpectedly changed conditions.

  4. Commitment to resilience: HROs develop the capability to detect, contain, and recover from errors.

  5. Deference to expertise: During a crisis, decisions are made at the front line, and authority migrates to the person who can solve the problem, regardless of their hierarchical rank.

Risk Homeostasis Theory (RHT) was initially proposed by Gerald J.S. Wilde, a professor at Queen's University, Canada in 1982. RHT proposes that, for any activity, people accept a particular inbuilt level of subjectively-evaluated risk to gain from a range of benefits associated with that activity. This level varies between individuals. When the acceptable risk level in one part of the individual's life changes, there will be a corresponding rise/drop in acceptable risk elsewhere.

Sense-making is the process by which people give meaning to their collective experiences. The ongoing retrospective development of plausible images rationalises what people are doing.

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