Safety and Proportion: A Qualitative Study of Expert Perceptions of OSH Decision Making in the UK

  •  Laurence N. Ball    


Since the early 1970s the UK has been a global pioneer of a risk-based approach to OSH, a key element of which is that duty holders are responsible for assessing risks and on that basis determining which controls are necessary. According to the accompanying legislative doctrine, duty holders may be penalized if there is a failure to implement necessary controls. Events have also shown that duty holders who implement controls which are deemed to be disproportionate may also be criticised. This paper describes an investigation of how the risk-based regulatory regime is perceived 50 years on by a cohort of UK experts, and the nature in their view of any difficulties encountered by duty holders in achieving proportionality. It is concluded that while the risk-based approach continues to enjoy widespread support, duty holders face a challenging task in striking an appropriate balance, and some system-related perils render this task problematic.

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