Risk Culture and the Human Factor

By:  Geoff Trickey

Over three years, PCL psychologists have been researching human factor risk. This is a topic with a chequered and confused history. Neither academic psychology nor the risk professions had established a coherent conceptual framework or made any convincing contribution to the accurate and reliable assessment of an individual’s propensity for risk. Furthermore, this new fascination with Risk Culture of complete organisations represents a massive shift from the traditional focus on procedures and the regulation of risk; seemingly leapfrogging the vexing but crucial topic of ‘people differences’ in risk taking.

It is certainly true that culture is a current and deeply fascinating topic. There is no doubt about its importance but the complexities and abstractions involved make this a very challenging terrain and there is little consensus about its definition, its structure or how it might be shaped. On the other hand, we do know a lot about people and since, it has been argued, “the people make the place”, this is probably a good place to start in unravelling some of the complex issues raised by the concept of risk culture.

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