There is a move within regulatory agencies and standards making bodies towards incorporating the concepts of risk assessment into rule making. Thisfollows a more generalized trend within many local jurisdictions and public and private corporations to utilize risk assessment in process risk management decision making. Most risk assessment language and proposed standards are subjective by definition, lending a perception that these efforts covet junk science and statistical manipulation as they are applied to risk management decisions. Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) professionals have always been challenged with maintaining compliance to prescriptive standards, and now face additional challenges in determining effective methods of organizing and implementing risk management programs driven by risk assessment requirements.
This paper will present several methods that are being used to successfully meet the challenges of these regulations and standards relative to their risk assessment requirements. Alsopresented is a discussion on the integration of risk assessment into the design and development phase of complex equipment and systems.
In all aspects of our personal and professional lives we deal with risk decisions constantly. In fact, most of the risk decisions we make are without awareness that we have just made a choice between two or more competing alternatives. This does not necessarily mean that we are blatantly ignoring risk, but are choosing to view the potential consequences as acceptable or, are assuming a perceived lesser risk due to a lack of knowledge. Accepting risks unknowingly is the most common alternative we choose. There are so many risks facing us on a daily basis that careful study and evaluation of every risk situation we encounter is impossible. Situations which yield higher degrees of perceived risk are the ones which occupy more time for conscious assessment. The key is to gain knowledge of risks which are relevant to our situations, and to make informed and resourceful decisions.
The desire and need to assess risk is not a new concept. Some of the earliest known instances of risk taking involved games of chance which were recorded on Egyptian tomb paintings and pictures formed on Greek vases. Afterthe invention of printing, card games and their associated games of chance became popular in Europe. But the serious study of risk began during the Renaissance, when people broke loose from the constraints of the past and subjected long-held beliefs to open challenge. It was the challenge of a several hundred year old mathematics puzzle poised to Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat, that provided the first breakthrough in the discovery and understanding probability theory, the mathematical heart of the concept of risk. Since that time, entire professions and industries have evolved with their charters and goals aimed at identifying, quantifying, managing and reducing risk.