Saturday, March 16, 2013

Charlie Pitcher and the Risks He Took

We live in an age of regulations - regulations defined by the laws of the land, and regulations stipulated within work situations. Wherever we turn, we are governed by regulations or rules. When you think about it, all societies have their own laws or regulations, even within families and wherever two or more people engage in a common cause.

People are accountable in law to obey the law, and those who run organisations or events are responsible for the safety of people under their care. An important duty of organisers and managers is to consider and address the issue of ‘health and safety’. Those in charge must provide safe environments for employees and for all that have access to the domain of their responsibility, and to that end they must undertake ‘risk assessments’. Risk assessments are ongoing, because where people assemble or congregate, situations and circumstances change.

Wherever there is the risk of danger to health, life or limb, there are degrees of risk. The manager of a football stadium, for example, may face greater risks than the manager of a small shop. However, both managers must be satisfied that there are sufficient exits and safe routes for the evacuation of people on their premises in the event of an emergency. In the case of the football stadium manager, if there happened to be a fire or terrorist attack, there must be exits for spectators to leave the stadium in an orderly manner. To that end the public address system must function efficiently so that instructions can be given for an evacuation of the stadium. There must be clear signage for people to follow, and there must be safe assembly points where emergency services can attend if need be.

We all make continuous risk assessments. If we wish to cross a road, we undertake a risk assessment before doing so. If we want to walk from A to B when there is ice on the pavement, we make a risk assessment before setting out, and having started we continue assessing situations as they arise: “Does the ice look too slippery for safe passage? Should I risk walking on the road where there is no ice, but a car may come along?” and so on.

Life is like that. When we are tiny and we acquire the ability to crawl from one place to another we enter the process of assessing risks. Theoretically, the older we become the better we become at making risk assessments.

What are the most dangerous risks we take in our lives? Do we risk drinking too much alcohol? Do we risk overindulging ourselves in food? Do we risk not exercising our bodies? If we persist in these things we know of the likely undesirable consequences to our physical health, and we accept the risks.

Our physical health has a direct bearing on our mental health, because if our bodies through indulgence or neglect fail to function properly, we cannot think or act rationally.

Before setting out on his record-breaking row across the Atlantic, Charlie Pitcher subjected himself to preliminary risk assessments, and throughout his epic voyage he monitored risks as they arose: the risk of dehydration, the risk of punishing his body too severely by physical effort without rest, and the risk of continuing to row when sea conditions worsened in preference to setting a sea anchor etc.

He took risks and lived to tell the tale. He says he has learnt a great deal.  Are there lessons for us to learn too?


Atlantic solo row record: Charlie Pitcher 'knackered'

Charlie Pitcher Again

Five Steps to Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment

What is Risk Assessment and How do I Complete One?

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