Safety management and public spaces: restoring balance

Risk Anal. 2013 May;33(5):763-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01900.x. Epub 2012 Sep 17.


Since 2000, the reputation of health and safety in the United Kingdom has been tarnished, so much so that it has become the subject of both a media circus and a government inquiry. This not only threatens the worthy goals of health and safety, but also impacts upon the associated tool of risk assessment itself such that "risk assessment" is increasingly seen by the public at large as a term inviting ridicule, even abuse. The main thrust of the government's examination of health and safety has been its concern that safety requirements were placing a disproportionate burden on business. However, there is another source of discontent, which is public chagrin over the impact of injury control measures upon life beyond the conventional workplace, in particular upon the public spaces that people frequent in their leisure time and on the activities they engage in there. This article provides a perspective on this second dimension of the crisis in confidence. It describes how many U.K. agencies with responsibilities for a wide portfolio of public amenities ranging from the provision of play spaces for the young to the management of publicly accessible countryside, the maintenance of urban and rural trees, the stewardship of sites of cultural heritage, and the pursuit of outdoor educational activities have responded to some conflicts posed to their services by the new safety culture. It concludes with a discussion of implications for the management of public space and for risk assessment itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Public Facilities*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety Management*
  • United Kingdom
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control