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Topic Title: Why engineers need to *learn* to take risks
Topic Summary: The UK Infrastructure Risk Group reports on ways to save billions on the costs of major infrastructure projects
Created On: 09 November 2013 09:11 PM
Status: Read Only
Related E&T article: Why engineers need to learn to take risks
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 25 January 2014 02:57 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: kengreen
As I have said - this is getting too silly.
Read - with care - my opening post.
Ken


"in my world risk-taking is a no-no.
However, we are all likely to make mistakes; the trick is to benefit from the lessons that accrue?
Ken Green"

By the fact that you live in life and have made it thus far you both took risks and accepted risks and therefore in your life risk taking was a yes-yes. Now whether or not you were consciously aware of the full extent of those risks is of course another matter; you seem to have your own 'ken' version of it which is at odds with everyone else. Can I enquire as to what you achieved as an engineer with the 'no-no' approch to risk taking? If maybe you can give us some significant examples then maybe we can ask you some questions and you can then educate us on what your considerations were in relation to the hazards and risks and how you then overcome them such that they were reduced to zero and which allowed you to proceed.

If your world was working with well established technlogy and for example were making cotton wool balls then I can see how the no risk taking approach could work but if for example you were working at the coalface and developing new technology then I fail to understand how you were able to apply a 'no-no' approach. However I am of course happy to be educated and have no issue with that approach; maybe we will all learn something from it.

I tend to think you were probably referring to not taking known significant risks where action could be taken to eliminate them, as opposed to not taking any risks at all?

Regards.
 25 January 2014 03:23 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1041
Joined: 05 September 2004

Perhaps Cranfield University will allow an engineering representative or two from the IET to Audit their three day course on risk (I link to below)...generally the people government officials listen to most are not experienced engineers working at "the coal face", from Institutions like this one...they are scientists talking about risk from much more abstract perspectives, perhaps ignoring or underplaying the benefits that managed risk taking can bring.

What is the point of engineers "learning" to take risks "at the coal face" so to speak, if we don't have the communication skills necessary to persuade the rest of society that these are risks worth taking more abstract debates?
What happens when "expert" scientists, to some degree taking on the role of dilettante engineers, advise government on the topic of engineering risk in a way that the majority of us would disagree?

I think the engineering community need to monitor and audit what other people in society are saying and teaching in regards to abstract notions of risk...because what they might be saying in effect is, 'ban engineers' because all of the risks they advocate are not worth taking based on our expert specialist knowledge and associated abstract risk calculus.

https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/courses/training/understanding-and-communicating-risk-and-uncertainty.html

"Understanding and Communicating Risk and Uncertainty"

"Event Date:

Tue, 11/02/2014 - 09:00 to Thu, 13/02/2014 - 17:00

Cranfield University is running a three day course on Understanding and Communicating Risk and Uncertainty from 11th - 13th February 2014. The course is open to all PhD students within the Environment and Natural Sciences and Engineering. Funded by NERC, the course (including course fee, accommodation and reasonable travel costs) is free of charge for NERC-funded PhD students.

Upon completion, attendees will be able to:

· Understand the concept of risk and uncertainty across the environmental domain
· Use a number of quantitative and qualitative tools to measure risk
· Identify and apply the appropriate tool to any given risk; measure uncertainty
· Communicate risk and uncertainty
· Understand the role of risk-based evidence in policy making
· Identify evidence appropriate for supporting environmental policy
· Develop effective strategies for communicating risk and uncertainty"


".Day 1: Fundamentals of risk assessment: Problem formulation (hazard identification, source-pathway-receptor models), consequence assessment (fault-tree analysis, Monte Carlo simulation, risk ranking, expert judgment), probability assessment and measuring uncertainty
.Day 2: Risk and uncertainty management: Risk characterisation (comparing chemical exposure limits, understanding spatial and temporal extent, assessing cumulative risk), dealing with uncertainty (uncertainty factors, probability density functions), appraising management options and understanding the principles of risk management (ALARP, Precautionary Principle)
.Day 3: Environmental decision-making: Structuring the environmental decision process, (multi-dimensional considerations, multi-criteria decision analysis), stakeholder and public engagement, implementing risk management, monitoring residual risk, risk and uncertainty communication."




-------------------------
James Arathoon
 25 January 2014 04:13 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1041
Joined: 05 September 2004

"Qatar World Cup: 185 Nepalese died in 2013 - official records"

http://www.theguardian.com/wor...ese-workers-died-2013

I would not personally advocate that we continue with World Cup tournaments, if more people have to die building stadiums than there are footballers on the pitch playing football. Already over half the world cup football players will have to wear black arm bands, if this was to be allowed by Sepp Blatter and his cronies!

I think the Swiss Authorities together with the European Union should send Sepp Blatter and his cronies to Health and Safety equivalent of the Hague.

We need to be able to learn to take risks but we also need to be able to recognise when managers and administrators, like Sepp Blatter, put greed and their own self-aggrandisement above the lives of a large number ordinary working people.

This was a chance for the world to help the Qatari's improve their Health and Safety standards and working practices, but Sepp Blatter has completely blown it - to the Health and Safety Hague with him.


-------------------------
James Arathoon
 25 January 2014 06:47 PM
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kengreen

Posts: 400
Joined: 15 April 2013

I find it difficult to remember ha I am arguing in a professional gathering! What has all this guff to do with my statement that I do NOT accept risk taking? If a perceived risk can be mitigated then it belongs in the past and is no more?

To assess risK is N OT the same as to accept a risk. Of course I have taken risks in my time but not knowingly where others were involved.

I risk being misinterpreted each time I entrust my reputation to this expensive heap of junk - get busy with the whetstones :-)

Ken
-)

Edited: 25 January 2014 at 06:54 PM by kengreen
 25 January 2014 07:01 PM
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Zuiko

Posts: 521
Joined: 14 September 2010

mitigate is not the same as eliminate!

You have mentioned the Fukishima disaster - the sea wall in particular - as an example of engineers taking a risk.

Japan is a modern country, and people require modern infrastructure. The Japanese do these things much better than we do here in Britian, despite, or in spite of, the natural disasters that beset their islands.

If you were an engineer working in Japan, what would you do to elimate the risk of death because of an earthquake? If a structure needed your sign off, would you only do so if you could guarantee that nobody would die because of that structure failing in an earthquake? I suggest that you could not eliminate all risks so therefore you would sign nothing off. You would soon be sacked. If Japanese engineers were as risk averse as you, the nation would not be the most developed in the world with the third biggest economy, it would be impoverished.

People in Japan live with very real risks every day (children in British schools do fire drills, Japanese children do earthquake drills and hide under their desks). There will be another massive earthquake in Japan, and it will kill hundreds, possibly thousands. This is a guarantee.



RE:To assess risK is N OT the same as to accept a risk

Again, I think you are getting the defintions confused. The risk is assessed and methods are put in place to mitigate that risk. It may be the case that there is residual risk after the methods put in place. If the job goes ahead, the risk is accepted.

Edited: 25 January 2014 at 08:20 PM by Zuiko
 25 January 2014 07:20 PM
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kengreen

Posts: 400
Joined: 15 April 2013

'Twould seem that, if the chicken refuses to accept the chopper, there is nothing for it but to release it?

Enjoy your Ken-bashing.

Ken
 25 January 2014 08:02 PM
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jimmcconnach

Posts: 109
Joined: 10 July 2002

I have been following this discussion line on and off for some time with some amusement. The reality is that risks pervade our lives from the moment we are conceived until the moment we die (and even our conception may have been due to risk taking!!)
Anyone who does not accept risk, therefore does not accept a basic reality of life.
I think it about time to close this topic - it has been fun but enough is enough. Cheers

-------------------------
Jim McConnach
Past TPSB Rep on Council
Past Member, PTCN Exec Team & MN Exec Team
 25 January 2014 09:16 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1041
Joined: 05 September 2004

Originally posted by: jimmcconnach

I think it about time to close this topic - it has been fun but enough is enough.


This seems like a much more important topic to generate new ideas about than most. At the moment not even the originator can close a topic down once it has been started.

http://www.theiet.org/factfile...h/risk-comms-page.cfm

"Recommendation 1: A group representing professional bodies is established to provide good practice guidelines to engineers and safety professionals to improve awareness, facilitate improved analysis of the issues and improve communication. This could draw on existing material whilst promoting the development of any further tools which may be required. It could include advice on the circumstances in which wider communication about risks might be appropriate."

"Recommendation 2: Initiatives to develop innovative and engaging teaching material (such as the HSE/IIG work to teach risk concepts to undergraduate engineers in a health and safety context) should continue to be endorsed and supported by the professional bodies and used, where appropriate, in ensuring that such issues receive due attention in accreditation. As a broader objective, support should be given to drawing together current developments and sharing of good practice to provide a portfolio of materials which can be presented to a wider audience in education, industry and potentially more broadly as an input to developing a more risk intelligent society."

"Recommendation 3: The professional bodies, both individually and collectively, should further consider how they can play a role in the wider debate on risk issues which has been proposed in the Löfstedt Report and elsewhere. In particular, they may wish to consider whether the engineering and safety community can be more effective in challenging claims which are at odds with the evidence and, where appropriate, in supporting those in the engineering community who attempt to challenge such claims."

There is lots more to talk about...

-------------------------
James Arathoon
 25 January 2014 09:37 PM
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jimmcconnach

Posts: 109
Joined: 10 July 2002

Your Recommendations are good Jarathoon, but this Discussion Line is not the appropriate Forum to carry them out.

-------------------------
Jim McConnach
Past TPSB Rep on Council
Past Member, PTCN Exec Team & MN Exec Team
 25 January 2014 10:24 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1041
Joined: 05 September 2004

For the record they are not my recommendations they are the recommendations of the "Inter Institutional Group on Health and Safety"

In the pdf document on the previous page I linked to

"Risk communication and professional engineers"

http://www.theiet.org/factfile...h/risk-comms-page.cfm

If you do not believe this is the appropriate forum for this discussion then please could you suggest a public forum that is.

I wanted to further pick up on what is happening in Qatar in regards to world cup preparations and stadium building. Perhaps it is better to employ lots of people on building sites, and in so doing, increase the chance of death and injury, rather than to leave lots of people unemployed for vast periods of their life unable to contribute to society, because machines did all the work. Various people are now talking about ways of maximising the employment of people in the government funded HS2 project. Perhaps that is a false balance to make, and perhaps I am the least able to make it.

The risk is we get the risk assessment wrong and leave millions of youngsters without a job and estranged from the rest of society, because it becomes too expensive to employ anyone.

-------------------------
James Arathoon
 25 January 2014 11:17 PM
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jimmcconnach

Posts: 109
Joined: 10 July 2002

An IET Standards Working Group (WG), IEEE Standards WG or Other Institution WG may be the best way to go to explore the development of a Standard or Best Practice document..

Contact info for IET Standards is:

IET Standards
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Michael Faraday House
Six Hills Way
Stevenage
Hertfordshire
SG1 2AY

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767684
Fax: +44 (0)1438 765563
Email: ietstandardsenquiries@theiet.org


Contact for for IEEE Standards is at: http://standards.ieee.org/contact/index.html

Developing a Standard or Best Practice for Risk Assessment may be a worthwhile project to pursue.

Best regards.

-------------------------
Jim McConnach
Past TPSB Rep on Council
Past Member, PTCN Exec Team & MN Exec Team
 26 January 2014 02:34 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: jarathoon
Various people are now talking about ways of maximising the employment of people in the government funded HS2 project. Perhaps that is a false balance to make, and perhaps I am the least able to make it.


That's because the politicians want to be able to then sell it as a project which created a lot of jobs and then tell us how wonderful they are. It's an overpriced project, whichever way we look at it but it's going ahead so best make the best of it.

On your second point - you/I will not be making those decisions; they are above our pay grades.

The risk is we get the risk assessment wrong and leave millions of youngsters without a job and estranged from the rest of society, because it becomes too expensive to employ anyone.


If we look at the H&S statistics for the UK then overall I think we do a pretty good job of it. In addition based upon the statistics and from what I have personally seen etc., we in the UK apply generally a good standard of engineering in design, build, installation, maintenance etc., so maybe if Brazil or Quatar etc., want to improve their standards they can employ UK engineers and/or safety advisors and apply the same standards we do; it's their choice is it not?

With regards to the expense of employing young workers, for example, there are many reasons as to why we are now where we are; UK Health, Safety and Engineering standards are so far down on the list of reasons as to be insignificant.

Regards.
 26 January 2014 04:31 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1041
Joined: 05 September 2004

I am not advocating relaxing the rules. I have worked on sites where serious accidents have happened; harm is not a pleasant thing, it is extremely upsetting, it makes the workplace an unpleasant and sad place to be.

As with most things a law of depreciating returns applies. How do we gauge when we have all spent enough? Why are some people's lives worth more than others? and Why is it that the same person's life can be worth a completely different amount in one context, compared with another?

If the costs of health and safety are insignificant why not double them or quadruple them, to prevent harm, and resultant sadness and depression in the workplace.

Why should not low margin businesses have the same minimum safety standards as high margin businesses? Are people working in the aerospace industry worth more than people constructing homes, factories and football stadia? There may be reasons why we can't bring all industries up to the levels of safety obtained in the best high margin businesses. Costs that are insignificant for one industry may not necessarily insignificant for another. However minimum standards can apply to all businesses both here and abroad.

If the lives of UK employees are valued too highly relative to the self employed or to foreign workers, then there may be a tendency for the latter two classes to take most of the risks. Within the UK this is avoided to some extent, because in the eyes of the HSE it is the site owner's responsibility for managing the risks associated with all work carried out on the site, even if contractors carry out most of physical work. However if work moves off site the protections are lost.

I personally think it is Sepp Blatter's ultimate responsibility to manage the heath and safety of the World Cup preparation and construction tasks, no matter how many layers of contractual insulation are between him and the people actually dying at the coal face. If he stands to go to prison for his inaction, then things will change and awful lot quicker than if the IET were to issue a new standards document.

If there are to be new IET standards then they should first deal with the issue of minimum levels of protection (for employees, contractors and foreign workers) and who is responsible for maintaining them.



-------------------------
James Arathoon
 27 January 2014 04:29 PM
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jimmcconnach

Posts: 109
Joined: 10 July 2002

Jarathoon;
Another contact you can try is Azad Camyab.
Azad is a Fellow of the IET and is an Expert in Risk Management.
His e-mail address is: ACamyab@storgeneration.com
Cheers
Jim

-------------------------
Jim McConnach
Past TPSB Rep on Council
Past Member, PTCN Exec Team & MN Exec Team
IET » Management in engineering » Why engineers need to *learn* to take risks

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