As we organise expeditions, charity challenges, training weekends etc, we are always asked to provide our risk assessments. These two words, “risk assessment” strike fear into most people but we have a simple explanation of what it is all about from a story once told to us in Canada......... read on.......
The Story of the Lemons
It is a summer evening in
Northern British Columbia. The water is clear and glassy as the paddle stroke hums through the water. The Douglas Firs are reflected in the lake’s mirror like surface. The canoe is edging toward the end of a nine-day trip and the taste of our first cold beer is on the tips of our tongues. Not far now, the cedar deck is fast approaching with the promise of hot showers and a mattress.
Our party of four sit with post trip smiles studying the cold beers in front of us while the lodge owner joins us:
“You have an amazing place here, the lake is so beautiful and peaceful” Richard chirps up looking out over the picture-book view.
The weathered face turns slowly and considers, “It’s not always like this, last year two people had their lemons come up”.
We make eye contact around the group, perplexed expressions from all and Richard leads on, “How do you mean ‘their lemons came up’?”
She turns “well life’s like a one armed bandit slot machine, and if four lemons come up you’re out”
Still confused we press for more; “Sorry to be slow on this but we’re from the other side of the pond, could you explain about the lemons?”
“Life’s about looking out for lemons, each lemon is a hazard which unless it gets sorted could prove a problem. If you get four of these it is not looking good. The paddlers last year had the lemons lining up:
- They were novices and not confident swimmers - Lemon 1
- They were not wearing buoyancy aids – Lemon 2
- They ignored advice and were paddling in the middle of the lake - Lemon 3
- It was 4.30pm in the afternoon and starting to get dark, the wind picked up and they capsized - Lemon 4.
Four lemons and sadly they died.”
“So it is like a risk assessment looking at hazards and what can go wrong.”
“You can call it what you like, but it’s common sense - we just talk about looking out for lemons.”