Risk Management

Risk Management is the process used to reduce exposure through policy changes. A risk assessment is a scientific process that concludes with risk characterization or a description of the probability of harm to human or ecological health. Once the risk is characterized, how the risk is approached, or managed, becomes a political choice. Approaches can include changes in industry practice, changes in human behavior, or changes in government interventions.

When the driving forces are political, the issues are often balanced in compromise. Regulations are developed because environmental protection efforts are rarely voluntary because of the short-term costs. Legislation results from a political compromise between public outcry vs. the response of responsible parties. The process is subject to all of the idiosyncrasies of political decision-making and there is an extensive set of checks and balances.

Political approaches to risk management are based on common environmental values, such as:

  • no adverse affect on our personal health
  • minimal or no affect on public health
  • worthwhile to protect species and natural environments
  • minimize the constraints placed on individual liberties
  • consider both the costs and benefits of environmental protection efforts.

One way risk is managed is through industry regulation. In order to protect the public health, the EPA has rules that require companies that use extremely hazardous substances to create plans to prevent accidents and respond to emergencies. These companies are required to assess the potential for an accident, develop a prevention program and design an emergency response program. These programs would include employee training, health and safety procedures and identifying public information systems.

Risk Management Programs also include local plans that fire, police, and emergency response personnel use to prepare for chemical accidents. Risk Management Programs are available to the public.

For the other risk-related pages, please see:

Click here for Steps of Assessment. This page describes detailed descriptions of the steps in risk assessment, with emphasis on human health risk assessment.
Click here for Risk Assessment Standards This page provides a discussion on standards for risk assessment based on the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Click here for Ecological Risk Assessment This page focuses on the unique aspects of ecological risk assessment.
Click here for Risk Communication This page provides information about communicating with communities facing contaminated sites.

<< Ecological Risk Assessment Risk Communication >>

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