The dangers of ‘risk-based policy’: Lessons from Löfstedt

An analysis and critique of Loftstedt's recommendations for risk-based health and safety policy.

In a new IER briefing, Philip James, Professor of Employment Relations at Brookes University, analyses Professor Lofstedt’s review of how his recommendations are being implemented by the government, and warns against government policies that describe themselves as “evidence-based”, or “risk-based”.

Professor James cautions that Lofstedt’s review “highlights how an apparently unobjectionable desire to deliver an ‘evidence-based and risk-based’ legislative framework can conceal a rather more subjectively driven programme of reform.”

The academic notes that Lofstedt’s original report – Reclaiming Health and Safety for All – there are some good points, but that for a paper that claims to make objective assertions, it is lacking in supporting evidence.

“It needs to be very much borne in mind that risk-based analysis should not only incorporate relativist comparisons of risk but also be firmly and soundly informed by considerations of desired outcomes or performance. For it can otherwise potentially lead to the ‘objective’ justification of ultimately harmful reforms,” Professor James advises.

“After all, on the basis of what has been said, it would appear logically possible to have a risk-based programme of inspections that only extends to cover just a handful (of very high risk of course) workplaces!” he adds.