Ne'er Cast a Clout til May be Out!

This saying is something we mutter in my family as the seasons begin their shift, the barbecue devotees wheel their squeaky metal alter out from the shed and prepare to scrape, brush and cook off last years’ burnt offerings. May is the month that really begins to bewitch us into thinking that we can pack away our winter woollies and slip on the flip flops.

May can be a sunny month, or it can be one beset with torrential rain, the odd hail storm and some surprisingly chilly temperatures, nonetheless it is one of my favourites! At the fall of a mere rain drop or the swirling of a dark cloud, I will utter (usually under my breath in a ‘told you so’ fashion) ‘ne’er cast a clout til may be out’ in my best effort at my father’s Scottish accent. At the heart of the sentiment there is an underpinning principle, be ready to respond to change, be prepared and don’t let sunny skies fool you into relaxing just yet!

With this in mind, I have moved into adult life with a tendency to over pack, umbrellas (just in case) jumpers (just in case), mittens (just in case) oh and don’t forget the sun screen (just in case)!

When we risk assess, and in particular when trying to determine what could reasonably be expected to cause harm, we would do well to consider the spirit of this proverb, ‘stay prepared’. Taking this into account there are some simple Do’s for risk assessing;

  • Do plan your risk assessment well, you will after all be attempting to forecast ‘what could change here?

  • Do consider the current conditions and take those as they may well be, just a snapshot in time, rather than a projection of what the future holds.

  • Do think the unthinkable, then think it again, and finally based on your planning, consideration of the conditions and information you have, ask yourself, it this really the ‘unthinkable’ or just the ‘unexpected’.

Speaking with multiple users, operators and employees who engage with the systems, activities or areas that we are assessing, ensures that we gather a richer pool of information to draw our conclusions from. After all a more informed and well-constructed theory of future outlooks will present us with more accurate strategies to prepare ourselves with.

So when you risk assess, avoid the need for multiple contingencies where you can, plan your assessment, gather information and take some time about it, if the conditions are right, slip slop slap and don’t forget your hat but if you still need to, pack your umbrella.

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