Following on from recent posts on risk from myself, Dom and JP on the subject of risk, quantification of risk and the management of risk I had the great misfortune to come across a specific instance of the null model of risk management.

My son (10 years old) plays football in a team on Friday evenings. He plays with a number of his friends and many of the parents come along to watch. One parent, a close friend of ours, was taking pictures of his son playing during the game. As he was taking his pictures, the referee halted play, ran over and informed him that he was not allowed to take pictures of the game due to “Child Protection Agency” rules.

Have you ever, ever heard of anything more ridiculous.

The previous game I was taking some pictures and was asked by someone as I was taking the pictures whether I was a parent of one of the players. When I answered yes he apologised and hoped I understood that they had to be careful.

So we have two instances: one where because a rule has been set no pictures are allowed and another where the community around the players and the game informally “police’ the environment themselves.

Which do you think is best?

The problem here is not with the referee it is due to common sense being codified in rules, guidelines or law. Once this happens, as people generally err on the side of caution when faced with rules, a strict interpretation of these rules will govern peoples behaviour.

Moreover, it is possible through Catch-22 that the very existence of the guideline, rule or law that the general level of risk increases rather than the intent embodied within the law to decrease risk. This is because common-sense (which usually guides you through all risk situations) will diminish as increasingly responsibilities of care and prudence are delegated to Government or to society. Individual responsibilities decrease. General responses to risk situations become impaired. Risk increases.