Safety Moment #5: Grand Canyon Leap

Risk subjective

Taking a Risk

Risk subjective. We have prepared a set of Safety Moments that can be used in meetings and presentations. Some of them are to do with the process industries, both onshore and offshore, and others are more to do with events in everyday life. We use these Safety Moments to provide insights and thoughts to do with the management of risk and safety at energy and process facilities.

This particular Safety Moment, "Taking a Risk", is a YouTube video consists of a sequence of photographs showing a photographer taking extraordinary risk just to get a better photograph. However the situation may not have been as dangerous as it looks ("The camera never lies"). The (non-)event illustrates the subjective nature of risk.

The storyboard for the video is available here.

Lessons Learned

There are two lessons to be learned from this event. The first is that risk is fundamentally subjective in nature. Most people would consider the man’s leap as being much too risky, given the potential reward (a slightly better picture). However, looked at subjectively, the camera man presumably felt it was worth taking a chance of falling to his death in order to gain a better picture.

The second lesson is that the “camera can lie”. Invisible to the viewers is a ledge below the rocks that the man is jumping from. Therefore, had he fallen, he would probably not have fallen all the way to the bottom of the canyon. This is not to say that his actions were not foolish, but it may be that the perceived risk is higher than the objective risk.

Process Risk and Reliability Management

Risk SubjectiveOur book Process Risk and Reliability Management and the associated ScienceDirect ebooks provide further guidance to do with understanding the subjective nature of risk.