One of the most interesting aspects of the precautionary approach to safety risk is that innovation is encouraged, whilst with the hazard based approach using tolerable or acceptable risk levels, innovation falters and festers.
The reason is simple. Having demonstrated that an acceptable target level of risk or safety has been achieved, annual safety reviews become a chest beating exercise to show why the previous analysis was numerically in error, and that, as a consequence, more needs to be done. If this can’t be demonstrated, then the review becomes a repeat of prior work, which on the 5th or 6th iteration becomes quite meaningless and completely alienating to the workforce.
On the other hand the precautionary approach always tests for what else can be done. It keeps testing and changing and innovating. It looks for the application of new technology and work methods to improve things. It engages those at risk and keeps the safety message on the boil. It reinforces the fact that safety precautions are there for a single purpose – to save those around you from death and maiming.