Voluntary Risk vs Involuntary Risk

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As I have progressed through the vast amounts of literature researching the role of Human Factors in Diving Incidents and what the sport diving community can learn from other more environments which have a more developed Safety Culture, I stumble across some nuggets.

This piece (Social benefit versus technological risk. What is our society willing to pay for safety?), by C Starr in 1969, identifies the difference between the acceptance of voluntary risks and those of involuntary risks. The conclusion reads

The application of this approach to other areas of public responsibility are self-evident. It provides a useful methodology for answering the question “How safe is safe enough?” Further, although this study is only exploratory, it reveals several interesting point!

(i) The indications are that the public is willing to accept “Voluntary” risk roughly 1000 times greater than “involuntary” risks.

(ii) The statistical risk of death from disease appears to be a psychological yardstick for establishing the level of acceptability of other risks.

(ill) The acceptability of risk appears to be crudely proportional to the third powcr of the benefits ( real or imagined ).

(iv) The social acceptance of risk is directly influenced by public awareness of the benefits of the activity, as determined by advertising
usefulness. and the number of people participating.

This poses an interesting question regarding the acceptance of perceived or real risks when undertaking an activity which by the nature of the activity takes place in an environment which is not life sustaining without technical or mechanical life support.

The survey I will be conducting shortly, now that I have validated the model and have all of the causality factors included, will look at the prevalence of these factors in diving incidents, the reasons why the divers made the mistakes using a combination of HFACS and ETTO. The survey will also ask respondents whether they had consciously considered the risk of their incident of occurring before they undertook the dive. I have a feeling that the majority of risks are not consciously considered by divers…

Safe diving…

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