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Uncertain Safety

Uncertain Safety: Allocating Responsibilities for Safety

Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid
SCIENTIFIC COUNCIL FOR GOVERNMENT POLICY
Series: WRR Rapporten
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 178
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46msww
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  • Book Info
    Uncertain Safety
    Book Description:

    Flood prevention, food safety, transport of hazardous materials, infectious diseases, the risks posed by new technologies, and many other threats to public health and the environment call for ongoing public alertness. However, the ways in which these safety risks are currently assessed and managed fall short of addressing the uncertainties of future threats. The contributors to this essential volume argue that in order to ensure future-proof safety policies, we should be adopting a new paradigm, one based on the precautionary principle: i.e. the notion that the vulnerability of humans, society and the natural environment requires a proactive approach to uncertainties. In this vital report, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy outlines ways to embody this principle in both private and public law and in various institutional arrangements. This title is available in the OAPEN Library - http://www.oapen.org.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1150-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-10)
  3. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
    (pp. 11-18)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. 19-20)
  5. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 21-28)

    Citizens of today’s Western industrialized countries lead remarkably safe lives. They live on average longer and in better health than previous generations and the inhabitants of most other countries. Governments, ngos, businessmen and scientific experts nevertheless have repeatedly voiced concerns about our safety. Much attention goes to crime and terrorist threats. But the concern for risks pertaining to health, the environment and society that are linked, among other things, to industrial activities and new technologies, to lifestyles and foodstuffs, to climate change and new infectious diseases, attracts much attention as well. This report focuses on the political issues and public...

  6. 2 SAFETY ISSUES: A SURVEY OF THE DOMAIN
    (pp. 29-44)

    Safety issues emerge in many domains, and they have many faces. Increasingly, however, they are subsumed under a common denominator. In the Dutch National Safety and Security Strategy, for instance, safety is conceived as “…the undisturbed functioning of human beings in the Netherlands and its surroundings”. This pertains to public health threats such as epidemics, breaches in dikes and accidents in chemical plants (House of Representatives, Tweede Kamer (tk) 2006-2007, 30821: 1). The Dutch Cabinet’s request for advice, as cited in Chapter 1, follows this path. In this request, the concept of ‘safety’ is connected with a broad spectrum of...

  7. 3 THE CLASSICAL RISK APPROACH AND THE ALLOCATION OF RESPONSIBILITIES
    (pp. 45-74)

    Concerns about safety have always been present. Today, however, they are articulated in a new way. If formerly one referred to ‘fate’ or ‘God’s will’ and misfortune was accepted as an inevitable fact, now we speak of ‘risks’. This change in language points to a change in our attitude to hazards. People who speak of ‘risks’ assume that the actual manifestation of a hazard is not inevitable. And they will start looking for options to reduce the likelihood of the hazard, or for means to limit its damage. They conceive of hazards from asocial engineeringperspective.

    The concept of...

  8. 4 THE CLASSICAL RISK APPROACH UNDER PRESSURE
    (pp. 75-110)

    By anticipating hazards and taking preventive measures, modern societies succeed in managing risks in many areas. Certainly, incidents have occurred in the past, every so often with quite serious consequences. But generally speaking, the classical risk approach, including the policies grafted onto it, constitutes a success story. And yet this risk approach has come under pressure. Aside from the problems linked to administrative complexity and lack of transparency discussed in Chapter 3, current policies face two types of problems.

    First, the classical risk approach is facing several persistent intrinsic problems. The mixture of science, politics and policy that characterizes this...

  9. 5 NORMATIVE ASPECTS OF THE NEW RISK APPROACH
    (pp. 111-138)

    In the preceding chapters, we have observed that governments and politics are confronted with various generic safety problems. In government circles, the problems of organizational complexity and lack of administrative transparency get priority. Against this background, the need for more coordination, uniformity and rationality is stressed. Moreover, attention is asked for the distribution of responsibilities between government and society.

    The analyses in the preceding chapters have also revealed several other problems. They have a broader scope and, in some respects, are more fundamental than the internal problems. Having served as the framework for safety policy for several decades, the classical...

  10. 6 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
    (pp. 139-164)

    This report has addressed some of the generic problems that arise in the extensive domain of safety, in particular in relation to policy designed to prevent harm to people, the environment and society; in other words, policy that is focused on risks. To do this, it proved necessary to differentiate this category further. In line with the practice in contemporary scientific literature, we have drawn a distinction between simple, complex, uncertain and ambiguous risk problems. These differ primarily in the degree to which there is uncertainty surrounding risks.

    For several decades an established policy approach concerning risk problems has been...

  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 165-176)
  12. WEBSITES CITED
    (pp. 177-177)