Layered protection is a concept borrowed from nature and replicated by humans as a design philosophy to minimise the risk of adverse events.
You may have heard of systems or things described as failsafe, resilient or redundant.
Our world has been revolutionised by being able to do things which are inherently dangerous because engineers have made things failsafe, resilient or redundant using layered protection. Read on for an example….
You probably take flying on a plane for granted. It’s fair to assume you will take off and land at your destination intact, uninjured and alive a few hours later ready to enjoy your holiday or your business trip.
How can you assume this? Flying is a perfect example of something which is inherently dangerous after all.
Flying has been made incredibly safe through the application of layered protection.
Every critical system on an aeroplane is replicated often multiple times, so that if a primary system fails a backup can take over. Often the backup uses different technology from the primary system, to limit the extent to which a single vulnerability can cause a critical failure.
From pilot checklists to triplicated computer systems, safe flying represents layered protection at its most optimised. As a result we can travel from place to place at velocities approaching the speed of sound in incredible safety.
Layered protection is found throughout nature. You don’t need to look far to find examples either. Just look at your own body.
How many kidneys do you have? How about lungs? And even if the answer is “1” this still proves the point!…. Layered protection is everywhere in nature, and that’s because it works really, really well.
Living with Covid is, in our view, a great example of something which should be managed with layered protection.
Covid is inherently dangerous, with the potential to cause death and disability. While post-vaccination most people who get it will suffer milder disease, there is a risk of adverse and long-term effects, such as Long Covid. In addition, there is increasing evidence that absenteeism due to Covid and its potential effects is beginning to harm businesses, services and infrastructure – including schools and other educational settings.
The risks it poses are both individual and systemic and are significant.
When you travel on an aeroplane you don’t notice all of the layered protection in place which make 40,000ft in the sky one of the safest places to be.
Protections which are inconvenient or require lots of compliance are less likely to be sustainable in the longer term – against a threat which, if we do our job correctly, will be diminished but which could keep coming back.
This is why we think clean air in shared spaces is going to be a critical layer in our protections from this disease. The air can be replenished and cleaned without people noticing, and without them doing anything to make it happen. In fact, clean air has so many benefits besides infection control that if people do notice it, it’s likely to be for positive reasons such as their allergies being less intense!