The pulley model aims to describe how people make decisions about health and safety risks. As a descriptive model, it attempts to combine several factors of decision-making – cultural, historical, social and cognitive in the analysis. At its broadest level, the pulley model aims to be considered like a ‘gestalt’, an overarching, consistent picture of decision-making about risk.
A pulley is a simple machine used to change the direction of the application of a force on a load. It is a combination of a grooved wheel on an axle, through which a rope passes. A load or weight is attached to one end and a force applied to the other end, moving the load. Individual pulleys can be linked together to create a mechanical advantage, reducing the force required to move the load. The combination of pulleys is known as a ‘block and tackle’. Making decisions about risks is considered analogous to this combination of pulleys.