In risk management, the choices of how to deal with risk include an option to tolerate risk, rather than to eliminate the risk, treat the risk or transfer the risk to another party. To tolerate a risk doesn’t mean that one like to have the risk around, nor does it mean that one never means to reduce the risk or that it impossible to deal with. It simply means that from the moment, it may be impractical, unaffordable or that technology or circumstances are such that I am willing to live with the risk for the moment, and maybe even over longer periods.
The problem arises when risks with a higher likelihood of occurrence is tolerated, or when risks with a low likelihood but potentially hi severity is tolerated because “it won’t happen to me”?
Employers often assume that safety training facilitates safe behaviors. This assumption does not account for the role that risk tolerance plays in workplace decision-making.
According to a study by Carolyn C. Lehmann, Joel M. Haight, and Judd H. Michael (Effects of Safety Training on Risk Tolerance: An Examination of Male Workers in the Surface Mining Industry) this assumption does not account for the role that risk tolerance plays in workplace decision-making.
The study investigated whether there is a relationship between the quantity of safety training a worker has had within the previous 24 months and that worker’s risk tolerance.
A survey was used to assist in the evaluation of risk tolerance levels for stone mining workers in Pennsylvania. Results indicate that workplace safety training is not related to a worker’s risk tolerance and that as the reported number of hours of non-workplace safety training increases, so too does a worker’s tolerance for high personal risk situations.
No relationship was detected between a worker’s risk tolerance and self-reported safety-related events. Workers with non-workplace safety training are more risk tolerant than their counterparts who did not report non-workplace safety training.
Workers with dependents were less tolerant of high personal risk situations than those without dependents.
These results suggest that workplace safety training alone should not be used by employers to ensure appropriate risk-related decision-making by employees.
A comprehensive approach is thus required, that does not exclude training, but also depends on other elements of an organisations safety management system in order to control risk in the workplace.