The International Standard ISO 31000:2009 Risk management – Principles and guidelines describes the process for risk the assessment and the requirements for establishing the context and incorporation of external influences as a basis for the assessment. However, the understanding and interpretation of risk differs depending on the groups undertaking the assessment – an Operator, the Regulator or the general public. An Operator proposing an activity with environmental impacts and risks needs to recognise and understand that the different groups with whom they interact view and interpret risk from differing perspectives.

The understanding and interpretation of risk differs depending on the stakeholder or individual undertaking the assessment primarily based on knowledge and perception. This paper explores areas of misalignment between risk levels between Operators, the Regulator conservation advocates and the general public. It identifies motivating factors and presents opportunities for Operators to bridge perceptions on acceptable management of identified risks, manage and constructively address Regulator and stakeholder expectations.

It can be suggested that the cause of the misalignment may be the result of a number of factors, including:

  • The Operator is likely to have a more detailed understanding and therefore reduced uncertainty about the measures in place to reduce consequence or the likelihood of an event occurring;

  • Operators and Regulators will have differing levels of risk acceptance criteria, particularly in areas of heightened community interest and concern;

  • Operators generate the greatest benefit from the activity and generally accept a higher level of potential risk to derive the benefit compared to other stakeholders;

  • Differing levels of understanding as to what contributes to an acceptable level of impact or risk;

  • A greater emphasis on consequences rather than likelihood or exposure.

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