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Kate  
#1 Posted : 14 May 2020 05:18:48(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Kate

The concept of 'zero harm' has been contentious in the H&S community for many years.

Interestingly, in section 2.4 of the UK government's current strategy document, they say, in the context of "novel technologies":

"A 'zero risk' approach will not work in these unprecedented times."

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy

Discuss ...

thanks 1 user thanked Kate for this useful post.
Kim Hedges on 18/05/2020(UTC)
AcornsConsult  
#2 Posted : 14 May 2020 06:49:33(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
AcornsConsult

As I read it, any decision or course of action may or will mean some fall between the gaps and be at risk.  I kind of agree, we would not expect them to wait on a decision whilst they cheat a document that deals with all possible permutations to creat a zero risk position.

andybz  
#3 Posted : 14 May 2020 07:17:44(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
andybz

I am not sure what there is to discuss. There is no such thing as a "zero risk" option in anything that we do. Thinking there may be leads to risk aversion, which is never safe especially over the longer term. It is much better to recognise that risks exist and then we can start to manage them as best as possible.

We need to acknowledge there will be many more casulties. These include death due to the virus, other deaths due to unrelated illnesses (physical and mental) that do not get treated due to actual or perceived limitations on resouces, failed businesses, failed relationships etc. We have to remember what being human is all about. We cannot stay in lock-down forever but we need to be agile and responsive; take opportunities where we can but be ready to change our course as we learn more.

A Kurdziel  
#4 Posted : 14 May 2020 08:46:59(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

I think this is simply a reassertion of what we as H&S professionals who manage risk all the time have always known but  the great British public have not grasped: there is no such thing as ‘zero risk’. Furthermore their perception of risk is very distorted. I saw someone riding along the road in the dark on their bike who had a face covering, which he had lowered so that he could smoke his cigarette. It was getting dark and he was dressed all in black and the bike did not seem to have any lights. I think he was worried about the coronavirus; I’d be more worried about the number 6 bus and then lung cancer from the cigarettes and vehicle fumes rather than the virus!

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CptBeaky on 14/05/2020(UTC)
chris42  
#5 Posted : 14 May 2020 08:50:45(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
chris42

It has always been just about slowing infection rates down, not stopping it. I believe most people will get it before a vaccine or good treatment is found. We have to accept that measures we put in place will fail and it is quite possible someone will die as a result; we will never know for sure. However, we can only do what is practical to allow life to continue, it is part of nature. Someone had to be the first one to eat the red berry to see if it killed you, the slowest / weakest became dinner for the lion.

We can only do what is practical, because most of those we are trying to protect would not want us to go further and accept a level of risk. That level is different for everyone; hence we have seen pictures on tv of the idiots, and on the other end of the scale people who will not want to leave their house again.

We have to plan for the majority, we should be allowed to allow people to use their own sense to an extent, but we do have to try and protect the majority from the idiot. The porridge mix has to be just right and not to hot or cold.  Nearly all of us are going from a standing start on this one and trying to assimilate as much, often conflicting information as we can. People are looking to us to guide them.

thanks 2 users thanked chris42 for this useful post.
CptBeaky on 14/05/2020(UTC), A Kurdziel on 14/05/2020(UTC)
Mark-W  
#6 Posted : 18 May 2020 09:19:58(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Mark-W

It's an interesting concept. Zero Harm. We all know that in life there will always be harm of some sort inflicted upon us. Be that social or work related, it's how we deal with it that matters.

With C19 pandemic, we try and reduce the harm of ifection by "lockdown". But that then causes harm due to self isolation and feeling helpless against the virus.

I always used to joke that we can remove all harm and risk from the workplace by wrapping people in bubble wrap and make them stay at home. This is causing just as much risk in my minds.

A social media post that amused me the other day was a petition asking for nurses and other frontline staff to receive the same level of support for PTSD as sodiers returning from foreign lands. From experiences of friends, not me, there are far to many falling through the cracks, so if the NHS want that level of support then I would be worried

Kate  
#7 Posted : 18 May 2020 10:01:16(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Kate

For me, a zero risk approach does not work full stop - it is nothing to do with the unprecedented times!

I agree that the military level of support doesn't seem to be the right benchmark.

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Kim Hedges on 18/05/2020(UTC)
chris.packham  
#8 Posted : 18 May 2020 11:18:15(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
chris.packham

One problem that I encounter with the concept of zeruo harm is that with occupational health the consequences of contact with a harmful substancee is often chronic. It may not become apparent for some considerable time, perhaps years (asbestos comes to mind here!). So how would you know whether the fact that no-one has reported any adverse health effect at any given time really was zero harm?

peter gotch  
#9 Posted : 18 May 2020 16:14:08(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
peter gotch

Chris - it's quite simple - advocates of Zero Harm count numbers of acute casualties but rarely look to the long term.

When someone is then diagnosed with e.g. lung disease 20 years later, it is very easy to argue "it wasn't us".

Lawyers have honed their skills in this for decades (as you know).

Kim Hedges  
#10 Posted : 18 May 2020 17:48:42(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Kim Hedges

There is no such thing as zero harm, reduced harm maybe.  99.9 % of germs can be killed it says on bleach. 

Edited by user 18 May 2020 17:51:24(UTC)  | Reason: Edited

CASSIDYP  
#11 Posted : 06 July 2020 10:00:20(UTC)
Rank: New forum user
CASSIDYP

Zero Risk is impossible however zero harm depends on whether all risk can be managed. Perhaps bleach does kill 99.9% of germs. The question is then how harmful is the remaining 0.1% and whether the likelihood and consequence of this harm occuring merits further controls?

I work in a hazardous process heavy environment. I often ask the workforce if they believe in zero harm, quite a few will state that there is no such thing because "accidents will happen."

I ask them to give a show of hands to the question "who believes they are going to get hurt today?" I don't usually get many takers for this one.

I then ask "who believes they will be the cause of someone else being hurt today?" NOBODY ever believes that they will be the cause of someone else coming to harm.

Conclusion nobody will come to harm or cause anyone else to come to harm so there will be zero harm.

chris.packham  
#12 Posted : 06 July 2020 11:03:45(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
chris.packham

As it is impossible to measure nothing, only down to the lowest detectable level, how can we have 'zero risk'?  There may well be some risk that we cannot yet6d detect. So perhaps 'zero detectable risk' might be more relevant.

Kate  
#13 Posted : 06 July 2020 11:09:26(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Kate

Any day you ask me, "Do you think you will die today?" I'll say "No."

I'm still going to die some day.

peter gotch  
#14 Posted : 06 July 2020 11:20:21(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
peter gotch

Chris, whilst fulling taking the point that there are some risks that we don't sufficiently understand I think that the whole concept is fundamentally flawed.

We accept that life involves risks. If we wrap people up in comfort blankets and don't let them outside then their physical and mental health with suffer. So all we do is remove one set of risks and introduce another.

It is said that "you can't put a value on a life" but we do precisely that.

There are official UK Government figures for the Value of Preventing a Fatality (VPF) and for various severities of injury and ill health (VPIs).

So, when as example there is a project to convert a single carriageway road to dual carriageway, one of the project objectives might be to reduce the number of incidents AND/OR the severity of typical carriageways, it is never done with some misconception of reducing road risk to ZERO. 

We can make that road even safer for its users by converting it into a Motorway, but at the social cost of excluding some members of the community such as pedestrians from using the road. Less pedestrians means less accidents AND reduced (average) severities. One of the unintended side effects (sometimes recognised, sometimes not) might be to put those excluded at greater risk if they are then forced to travel by alternate routes.

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