Risk perception and risk management

  • Risk management
  • Identifying risks
  • Risk management and planning
  • Matching groups to trips
  • Ongoing monitoring and strategic planning
  • School groups

Risk is the potential to lose something of value, which could be physical (such as mobility from broken bones); mental (such as psychological stability); social (such as confidence through embarassment or disgrace; or financial (such as loss of or damage to possessions). The presence of risk creates uncertainty - taking a risk involves the possibility of negative outcomes. Outdoor activities described as 'adventure' activities are usually considered so because information concerning conditions to be encountered may be missing, vague or unknown. Participants take a risk, because they do not know for certain that they will end the adventure safe and unharmed, with all their possessions and confidence intact.

There are several types of risk worth thinking about:

  • Perceived risk is the individual’s subjective assessment of the risk present. This perceived risk will vary between individuals undertaking the same activity, and may be much lower or higher than the real risk. For example, the parents of a teenager on a youth-group trip may have a quite different perception of the risk to that of the teenager, which may be different again from the trip leader’s perception. As leader, you should help the individuals in your care arrive at a realistic perception of the risk for the activity you are leading. However, you must also realise that their perception of the risk may be quite different from yours.
  • Absolute risk is another category of risk, which for a given point in time and activity specified, is constant. It is the uppermost level of risk which could be present, before the impact of any safety measures or controls are considered. (Haddock 1993; Priest 1990b).
  • Real risk is the absolute risk adjusted by the effect of safety controls and measures. In outdoor situations, real and perceived risk are generally of greater importance than absolute risk in assisting with the management of risk.