Fifth step in becoming a scientific parent: Do a Risk Assessment
In this series, I will be reviewing the basic concepts in thinking that will help you become more scientific or evidence based in their parenting.
Many people think that being an evidence based parent means being pro-vaccine or following accepted wisdom (which may not even be scientific) about parenting decisions. I disagree, I believe that being an evidence based parent refers to applying a scientific method of thinking to your parenting decisions, that includes looking at the evidence on parenting objectively.
This does not mean you always have to do what the science says, but accepting what the science says and considering it alongside your own personal beliefs and circumstances is essential to being an evidence-based parent.
Risk assessment is a systematic approach to hazard identification and control. It can help you identify what elements of an activity can cause injury and provide methods in which to make it safer. Your goal in a risk assessment is not to totally avoid a risk but rather to bring it down to a manageable level.
These are the steps to follow.
1. Identify the hazard. When looking at the hazard involved with an activity you need to think about the people involved, the equipment they are using, the materials used and the environment that it is taking place in 3,
2. How severe the harm could be. Keep in mind that harms may occur immediately or make time to become apparent.
- What sort of harm could occur? We often consider only physical risks but psychological and social risks should also be considered.
- How severe is it? Could it cause death, serious injuries, illness or only minor injuries requiring first aid.
- What factors could influence the severity of the harm?
- How often is the task done? Does this make the harm more or less likely.
- How often is your child near the hazard?
- Has the even ever occurred before? How often?
You can rate the likelihood as one of the following:
- Certain to occur - expected to occur in most circumstances
- Very likely - will probably occur in most circumstances
- Possible - might occur occasionally
- Unlikely - could happen at some time
- Rare- May happen only in exceptional circumstances.
In order to be adequately assessed, these three factors need to be combined in order to consider whether it is necessary to use a control measure. The below graph from For the Science does a great job of illustrating the combined effect.
3. Work out a control measure. Your goal in a control measure is not to make the hazard completely risk free but to bring it into at least the control zone. The most effective measure is obviously totally eliminating the hazard and its associated risk. However many things that appear to be hazard, have benefits and may even reduce risk down the track. For example, a swimming pool has a real risk of drowning and you could avoid this risk by ensuring your child is never exposed to one (or any other large body of water), however this would prevent them from developing swimming skills, a lack of swimming skills could affect them socially throughout their life and could also place them in serious danger later in their life.
A risks which has an associated benefit, should be dealt with via other safety measures to bring it to a reasonable level in relation to anticipated benefits.
Ways to do this include:
- substitution of the product for something safer
- Reducing the amount of exposure your child gets through the hazard
- Using other equipment to reduce the risk
- Using supervision to reduce the risk
- Providing personal protective equipment 4.