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RR35 - Taking account of societal concerns about risk

Risk is subjective. It is a word that refers to a future that exists only in the imagination. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has the challenging task of taking into account societal concerns about risk. The task is challenging, and often thankless, because society and its concerns are heterogeneous - "society" consists of diverse groups of stakeholders or social solidarities, and their concerns are commonly in conflict with each other. In this report we characterise risk management as a balancing act involving uncertain rewards and costs, describe the different groups with which the HSE must contend in performing its balancing act, note the significance of the different types of risk about which they are concerned, and conclude that attempts to manage risk that a) ignore the rewards of risk taking, and/or b) exclude significant stakeholders, and/or c) fail to appreciate the type of risk it is sought to manage, are unlikely to succeed.

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Updated 2010-03-19