The traditional Risk Matrix is straightforward. It looks at the likelihood of an undesirable situation occurring and at the severity of the outcome. With it, we can easily come to two conclusions: activities with high probability and high severity require significant action to lower their impact, while activities with low probability and low severity would most likely require no or very little corrective action.

Companies, in their pursuit to lower the severity and the occurrence of an undesirable situation, very often under-estimate the problems caused byhuman factors in the equation. For example, miscalculation, states of mind or body, distraction and error are often overlooked human conditions which can have disastrous consequences for safety and expose people to risk.

The truth is that risk probability and potential severity fluctuate depending on how we interact with the hazard, with human factors significantly increasing or decreasing the risk.

This is the third dimension missing from the traditional risk matrix.

We face risk everywhere and every day to an ever-changing degree and avoiding all risk is impossible. In particular, a manager or supervisor cannot always know what mental or physical state an employee is in. Some work processes can be very tiring or frustrating, as can strained relationships with supervisors, co-workers, and even family members. And yes, these and other personal factors, some from outside of the workplace, intensify the risks involved in each task a worker performs.

However, as well as incorporating human factors into the design of work or equipment, there are also personal skills and techniques which can help individuals deal with the human elements that contribute to these risks, decreasing the exposure to, severity and occurrence of incidents.

It’s true that affecting the behaviours of individuals compromised by these factors is not easy (which is perhaps why we often choose to “fix” the equipment or procedure instead), but people will continue to remain exposed if we don’t do anything about it.

Schedule a free presentation to understand how you can tackle this very human problem and add the critical third dimension to your risk matrix and processes.


Watch David Hughes from SafeStart interviewing Carlo Bisio an internationally recognised expert in the Psychosocial aspects of Risk Management.

What is SafeStart?

SafeStart is an international company that has been operating for more than 20 years, taking a human approach to safety by changing habits and behaviours. The programme focuses on employees and their families inside and outside the work environment.

Since 2009, SafeStart has globally led the area of safety training, reaching over 4 million people in 3,500 companies in over 60 countries.

For more information on our Critical Error Reduction Techniques (CERTs) sign up for our newsletter!

Copyright ©️ by SafeStart. All rights reserved. SafeStart is a registered trademark of Electrolab Limited.