David Ball | Thoughts on Risk and Public Safety


David Ball

Professor of Risk Management at Middlesex University since 1997 and Director of Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management (DARM). Previously Director of the Centre for Environmental & Risk Management at the University of East Anglia from 1992 until 1997. Qualified physicist (B.Sc. 1965 and D.Phil. 1969) with experience in a very wide range of public safety issues since 1974, ranging from consumer safety, to transport, flooding, occupational, leisure and environmental safety.  Much of this work is now in the form of published reports and papers (see list).

Consultant for most government departments and safety regulators at one time or another, and for several international agencies and the private sector on safety issues. These include the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the Department of Health, DEFRA, the European Consumer Safety Association (ECOSA), the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1995/96 served on an HM Treasury committee reviewing the setting of safety standards in Britain.[1] Personally appointed by several Secretaries of State to lead risk assessment projects of national significance or participate on independent national advisory committees. Invited to join the UK Chief Scientific Adviser’s review on High Impact-Low Probability events in autumn 2010.

Ten years ago completed a major project for the Consumer Safety Unit of the then Department of Trade and Industry on methods of gauging the appropriateness of safety measures to protect consumers.[2]  Recently, in 2008-9, co-authored four reports for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (now BIS) on risks to the public, and two for the Department of Children, Families and Schools, and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, also on risks to the public (children in that case) resulting from non-work activities. In 2006 wrote a book ‘Environmental health policy’ at the request of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.[3]

During 2008-2009 was a member of HSE’s Technical Working Group on Societal Risk.[4] Prior to that produced reports for the HSE on societal risk, on societal concerns, a major review of the safety of children’s play and its management, on risk ranking and prioritisation, and on the differing perceptions of the professions on how risk management decisions should be made. All of this work has been published and most is available via the HSE website or from HSE Books.[5], [6], [7], [8]. [9]

One recurring area of work for over 20 years, from a risk perspective, is outdoor sport and leisure activities. This includes children’s play, the safety of a wide range of popular sports including conventional sports like football, adventure sports, and countryside activities more generally. During the last year an invited keynote speaker at many conferences and seminars on these topics on behalf of agencies such as the Countryside Recreation Network, RoSPA (at their annual conference on water safety), Play England, and the Association of the Heads of Outdoor Activity Centres.

David is Chartered Fellow of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). He established and teaches with Dr John Watt a postgraduate level course at Middlesex University on Risk Management at Masters and Doctoral level.

Acts as an expert witness. Recent cases include R(HSE) v Porter, Uren v Corporate Leisure & MoD and R(HSE) v North Yorkshire County Council.

[1] HM Treasury, ‘The setting of safety standards,’ a report by an Interdepartmental Group and External Advisers, 1996.  Available from Public Inquiry Unit, HM Treasury, 0171 270 4558.

[2] Report to DTI Consumer Safety Unit, ‘The optimisation of consumer safety,’ November 1998, ISBN 1 85924 154 9.

[3] Environmental health policy (2006) D J Ball, McGraw Hill Education and Open University Press.

[4] Societal risk is to do with the risk posed by major hazard sites such as chemical plant.

[5] Understanding and Responding to Societal Concerns.  D. J. Ball and S. Boehmer-Christiansen, HSE Report No. RR034, 2002. www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr034.pdf;

[6] Playgrounds – Risks, Benefits, Choices.  D. J. Ball, report No. CRR 2002/426, HSE Books and website http://www.hse.gov.uk/new/index.htm, 2002. ISBN 0 7176 2340

[7] Societal Risk.  D. J. Ball and P. J. Floyd,  Crown Copyright, available from Health & Safety Executive, Risk Assessment Policy Unit, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS.  1998.

[8] Diverse Conceptions of Risk Prioritisation.   D. J. Ball and L. Golob,  J. Risk Research, 2(3), 243-261, 1999.

[9] Risk Ranking.  D.J. Ball et al.  HSE Contractor Report 131/1997, HSE Books, ISBN 0 7176 1345 5, 1997.

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