Risk assessment


When abroad, you have to circumnavigate and adjust to new risks. You have to decide what activities are worth the dangers and what is wise to avoid. Obviously, it’s worth seeking the wisdom of those who have been in the country longer than you, but often these decisions are subjective and individual. What seems dangerous for one person may be fine for another. Everyone has their own set of criteria of what constitutes something that’s too risky. (Of course, there are things that a just deadly and if you think it’s fine you’re a moron.) These ideas are often subconscious and you don’t even realise why, for instance, you’ll skydive but not hold a pet rat. It wasn’t until yesterday until I realised my risk assessment process.

I’m currently in Kampot, and yesterday evening I was exploring the town. I decided to walk down to the night market and to my excitement they had a fairground. Now, I love a good fairground. I was particularly enthralled by a “pirate ship” ride (you know those rides with a gondola with rows of seats and it swings). The best thing is that it wasn’t shaped like a pirate ship; it was a giant, lit-up chicken. My initial thought was: “That is amazing! I must go on!”

Then, the risk assessment part of my brain kicked in. Simply what happened was a newspaper headline flashed through my mind:

Brit Dies Riding Giant Chicken

That was it. That was enough to stop me from going on it. The thought of the story being reported in the Daily Echo prevented me from trying it.

Then I realised, that’s how I assess danger. It’s not the likelihood or severity of the risk involved (which is the criteria of most risk assessments in education), but it is how a potential death would be perceived. It’s how the rest of the following conversation plays out that determines whether I consider something hazardous or not.

A: I’m afraid Thomas died last week.

B: Oh no! What happened?

Now, the thought of dying in a traffic accident doesn’t worry me. That’s because, although tragic and horrible, it’s a perfect explicable way to go. The same goes with electrocution (I’ve been known to think “That plug doesn’t look too safe. Oh well.”) and even being attacked by thieves.

However, I know I’m often cautious (although it doesn’t seem like it) about trying street food or eating things I’m not sure about. This is especially true of ice. I realised it’s because I’d hate the conversation to go like this:

A: I’m afraid Thomas died last week.

B: Oh no! What happened?

A: Chronic diarrhoea.

How awful would that be? So that’s why I often have to mentally prepare myself for eating various foods and to bite the bullet.

It also suggests I care a lot more about what others think than I initially believed.

3 thoughts on “Risk assessment

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