Risk Analysis: An International Journal
To aid in their safety oversight of large‐scale, potentially dangerous energy and water infrastructure and transportation systems, public utility regulatory agencies increasingly seek to use formal risk assessment models. Yet some of the approaches to risk assessment used by utilities and their regulators may be less useful for this purpose than is supposed. These approaches often do not reflect the current state of the art in risk assessment strategy and methodology. This essay explores why utilities and regulatory agencies might embrace risk assessment techniques that do not sufficiently assess organizational and managerial factors as drivers of risk, nor that adequately represent important uncertainties surrounding risk calculations. Further, it describes why, in the special legal, political, and administrative world of the typical public utility regulator, strategies to identify and mitigate formally specified risks might actually diverge from the regulatory promotion of “safety.” Some improvements are suggested that can be made in risk assessment approaches to support more fully the safety oversight objectives of public regulatory agencies, with examples from “high‐reliability organizations” (HROs) that have successfully merged the management of safety with the management of risk. Finally, given the limitations of their current risk assessments and the lessons from HROs, four specific assurances are suggested that regulatory agencies should seek for themselves and the public as objectives in their safety oversight of public utilities.
In healthcare, patient safety has received substantial attention and, in turn, a number of approaches to managing safety have been adopted from other high‐risk industries. One of these has been risk assessment, predominantly through the use of risk matrices. However, while other industries have criticized the design and use of these risk matrices, the applicability of such criticism has not been investigated formally in healthcare. This study examines risk matrices as used in acute hospitals in England and the guidance provided for their use. It investigates the applicability of criticisms of risk matrices from outside healthcare through a document analysis of the risk assessment policies, procedures, and strategies used in English hospitals. The findings reveal that there is a large variety of risk matrices used, where the design of some might increase the chance of risk misprioritization. Additionally, findings show that hospitals may provide insufficient guidance on how to use risk matrices as well as what to do in response to the existing criticisms of risk matrices. Consequently, this is likely to lead to variation in the quality of risk assessment and in the subsequent deployment of resources to manage the assessed risk. Finally, the article outlines ways in which hospitals could use risk matrices more effectively.
Sequential Hazards Resilience of Interdependent Infrastructure System: A Case Study of Greater Toronto Area Energy Infrastructure System
Coupled infrastructure systems and complicated multihazards result in a high level of complexity and make it difficult to assess and improve the infrastructure system resilience. With a case study of the Greater Toronto Area energy system (including electric, gas, and oil transmission networks), an approach to analysis of multihazard resilience of an interdependent infrastructure system is presented in the article. Integrating network theory, spatial and numerical analysis methods, the new approach deals with the complicated multihazard relations and complex infrastructure interdependencies as spatiotemporal impacts on infrastructure systems in order to assess the dynamic system resilience. The results confirm that the effects of sequential hazards on resilience of infrastructure (network) are more complicated than the sum of single hazards. The resilience depends on the magnitude of the hazards, their spatiotemporal relationship and dynamic combined impacts, and infrastructure interdependencies. The article presents a comparison between physical and functional resilience of an electric transmission network, and finds functional resilience is always higher than physical resilience. The multiple hazards resilience evaluation approach is applicable to any type of infrastructure and hazard and it can contribute to the improvement of infrastructure planning, design, and maintenance decision making.
Quantitative Assessment of the Health Risk for Livestock When Animal Viruses Are Applied in Human Oncolytic Therapy: A Case Study for Seneca Valley Virus
Some viruses cause tumor regression and can be used to treat cancer patients; these viruses are called oncolytic viruses. To assess whether oncolytic viruses from animal origin excreted by patients pose a health risk for livestock, a quantitative risk assessment (QRA) was performed to estimate the risk for the Dutch pig industry after environmental release of Seneca Valley virus (SVV). The QRA assumed SVV excretion in stool by one cancer patient on Day 1 in the Netherlands, discharge of SVV with treated wastewater into the river Meuse, downstream intake of river water for drinking water production, and consumption of this drinking water by pigs. Dose–response curves for SVV infection and clinical disease in pigs were constructed from experimental data. In the worst scenario (four log10 virus reduction by drinking water treatment and a farm with 10,000 pigs), the infection risk is less than 1% with 95% certainty. The risk of clinical disease is almost seven orders of magnitude lower. Risks may increase proportionally with the numbers of treated patients and days of virus excretion. These data indicate that application of wild‐type oncolytic animal viruses may infect susceptible livestock. A QRA regarding the use of oncolytic animal virus is, therefore, highly recommended. For this, data on excretion by patients, and dose–response parameters for infection and clinical disease in livestock, should be studied.
In the presence of rare disasters, risk perceptions may not always align with actual risks. These perceptions can nevertheless influence an individual's willingness to mitigate risks through activities such as purchasing flood insurance. In a survey of Maryland floodplain residents, we find that stated risk perceptions predict voluntary flood insurance take‐up, while perceptions themselves varied widely among surveyed residents, owing in large part to differences in past flood experience. We use a formal test for overoptimism in risk perceptions and find that, on aggregate, floodplain residents are overly optimistic about flood risks.
A Risk Assessment Framework for the Socioeconomic Impacts of Electricity Transmission Infrastructure Failure Due to Space Weather: An Application to the United Kingdom
Space weather phenomena have been studied in detail in the peer‐reviewed scientific literature. However, there has arguably been scant analysis of the potential socioeconomic impacts of space weather, despite a growing gray literature from different national studies, of varying degrees of methodological rigor. In this analysis, we therefore provide a general framework for assessing the potential socioeconomic impacts of critical infrastructure failure resulting from geomagnetic disturbances, applying it to the British high‐voltage electricity transmission network. Socioeconomic analysis of this threat has hitherto failed to address the general geophysical risk, asset vulnerability, and the network structure of critical infrastructure systems. We overcome this by using a three‐part method that includes (i) estimating the probability of intense magnetospheric substorms, (ii) exploring the vulnerability of electricity transmission assets to geomagnetically induced currents, and (iii) testing the socioeconomic impacts under different levels of space weather forecasting. This has required a multidisciplinary approach, providing a step toward the standardization of space weather risk assessment. We find that for a Carrington‐sized 1‐in‐100‐year event with no space weather forecasting capability, the gross domestic product loss to the United Kingdom could be as high as £15.9 billion, with this figure dropping to £2.9 billion based on current forecasting capability. However, with existing satellites nearing the end of their life, current forecasting capability will decrease in coming years. Therefore, if no further investment takes place, critical infrastructure will become more vulnerable to space weather. Additional investment could provide enhanced forecasting, reducing the economic loss for a Carrington‐sized 1‐in‐100‐year event to £0.9 billion.
The consequences that climate change could have on infrastructure systems are potentially severe but highly uncertain. This should make risk analysis a natural framework for climate adaptation in infrastructure systems. However, many aspects of climate change, such as weak background knowledge and societal controversy, make it an emerging risk where traditional approaches for risk assessment and management cannot be confidently employed. A number of research developments aimed at addressing these issues have emerged in recent years, such as the development of probabilistic climate projections, climate services, and robust decision frameworks. However, additional research is needed to improve the suitability of these methods for infrastructure planning. In this perspective, we outline some of the challenges in addressing climate change risks to infrastructure and summarize new developments aimed at meeting these challenges. We end by highlighting needs for future research, many of which could be well‐served by expertise within the risk analysis community.
With the advance of biotechnology, biological information, rather than biological materials, is increasingly the object of principal security concern. We argue that both in theory and in practice, existing security approaches in biology are poorly suited to manage hazardous biological information, and use the cases of Mousepox, H5N1 gain of function, and Botulinum toxin H to highlight these ongoing challenges. We suggest that mitigation of these hazards can be improved if one can: (1) anticipate hazard potential before scientific work is performed; (2) consider how much the new information would likely help both good and bad actors; and (3) aim to disclose information in the manner that maximally disadvantages bad actors versus good ones.
Expert Views on Their Role as Policy Advisor: Pilot Study for the Cases of Electromagnetic Fields, Particulate Matter, and Antimicrobial Resistance
This perspective presents empirical data to demonstrate the existence of different expert views on scientific policy advice on complex environmental health issues. These views are partly research‐field specific. According to scientific literature, experts differ in the way they provide policy advice on complex issues such as electromagnetic fields (EMF), particulate matter (PM), and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Where some experts feel their primary task is to carry out fundamental research, others actively engage in the policy dialogue. Although the literature provides ideas about expert roles, there exists little empirical underpinning. Our aim is to gather empirical evidence about expert roles. The results of an international study indicated that experts on EMF, PM, and AMR differ in the way they view their role in the policy dialogue. For example, experts differed in their views on the need for precaution and their motivation to initiate stakeholder cooperation. Besides, most experts thought that their views on the risks of EMF/PM/AMR did not differ from those of colleagues. Great dissensus was found in views on the best ways of managing risks and uncertainties. In conclusion, the theoretical ideal–typical roles from the literature can be identified to a certain extent.
The article examines how the perception of others' irresponsible behavior and ambiguity regarding probabilities affect allocation among potential beneficiaries. To elicit these views, we conducted a survey where the participants were first asked to make an allocation of a fixed sum of money between a hereditary cancer, where chance plays a central role, and a lifestyle‐related cancer, where individual lifestyle decisions are more important. Our estimation results show that a substantial share of the respondents allocate significantly more to the hereditary cancer. This may indicate that these respondents care about others' irresponsible behavior. Then, we elicited perceptions of cancer hazards in the form of imprecise probabilities and examined the interplay between allocating behavior and risk perceptions. Finally, we investigated the effects of various socioeconomic characteristics, and of awareness of highly publicized cancer cases, on respondents' allocations.
Adoption of Individual Flood Damage Mitigation Measures in New York City: An Extension of Protection Motivation Theory
This study offers insights into factors of influence on the implementation of flood damage mitigation measures by more than 1,000 homeowners who live in flood‐prone areas in New York City. Our theoretical basis for explaining flood preparedness decisions is protection motivation theory, which we extend using a variety of other variables that can have an important influence on individual decision making under risk, such as risk attitudes, time preferences, social norms, trust, and local flood risk management policies. Our results in relation to our main hypothesis are as follows. Individuals who live in high flood risk zones take more flood‐proofing measures in their home than individuals in low‐risk zones, which suggests the former group has a high threat appraisal. With regard to coping appraisal variables, we find that a high response efficacy and a high self‐efficacy play an important role in taking flood damage mitigation measures, while perceived response cost does not. In addition, a variety of behavioral characteristics influence individual decisions to flood‐proof homes, such as risk attitudes, time preferences, and private values of being well prepared for flooding. Investments in elevating one's home are mainly influenced by building code regulations and are negatively related with expectations of receiving federal disaster relief. We discuss a variety of policy recommendations to improve individual flood preparedness decisions, including incentives for risk reduction through flood insurance, and communication campaigns focused on coping appraisals and informing people about flood risk they face over long time horizons.
The rise in economic disparity presents significant risks to global social order and the resilience of local communities. However, existing measurement science for economic disparity (e.g., the Gini coefficient) does not explicitly consider a probability distribution with information, deficiencies, and uncertainties associated with the underlying income distribution. This article introduces the quantification of Shannon entropy for income inequality across scales, including national‐, subnational‐, and city‐level data. The probabilistic principles of Shannon entropy provide a new interpretation for uncertainty and risk related to economic disparity. Entropy and information‐based conflict rise as world incomes converge. High‐entropy instances can resemble both happy and prosperous societies as well as a socialist–communist social structure. Low entropy signals high‐risk tipping points for anomaly and conflict detection with higher confidence. Finally, spatial–temporal entropy maps for U.S. cities offer a city risk profiling framework. The results show polarization of household incomes within and across Baltimore, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. Entropy produces reliable results at significantly reduced computational costs than Gini coefficients.
Potential Airborne Asbestos Exposure and Risk Associated with the Historical Use of Cosmetic Talcum Powder Products
Over time, concerns have been raised regarding the potential for human exposure and risk from asbestos in cosmetic‐talc–containing consumer products. In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a risk assessment evaluating the potential inhalation asbestos exposure associated with the cosmetic talc consumer use scenario of powdering an infant during diapering, and found that risks were below levels associated with background asbestos exposures and risk. However, given the scope and age of the FDA's assessment, it was unknown whether the agency's conclusions remained relevant to current risk assessment practices, talc application scenarios, and exposure data. This analysis updates the previous FDA assessment by incorporating the current published exposure literature associated with consumer use of talcum powder and using the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) nonoccupational asbestos risk assessment approach to estimate potential cumulative asbestos exposure and risk for four use scenarios: (1) infant exposure during diapering; (2) adult exposure from infant diapering; (3) adult exposure from face powdering; and (4) adult exposure from body powdering. The estimated range of cumulative asbestos exposure potential for all scenarios (assuming an asbestos content of 0.1%) ranged from 0.0000021 to 0.0096 f/cc‐yr and resulted in risk estimates that were within or below EPA's acceptable target risk levels. Consistent with the original FDA findings, exposure and corresponding health risk in this range were orders of magnitude below upper‐bound estimates of cumulative asbestos exposure and risk at ambient levels, which have not been associated with increased incidence of asbestos‐related disease.
The coal mine production industry is a complex sociotechnical system with interactive relationships among several risk factors. Currently, causation analysis of gas explosion accidents is mainly focused on the aspects of human error and equipment fault, while neglecting the interactive relationships among risk factors. A new method is proposed through risk coupling. First, the meaning of risk coupling of a gas explosion is defined, and types of risk coupling are classified. Next, the coupled relationship and coupled effects among risk factors are explored through combining the interpretative structural modeling (ISM) and the NK model. Twenty‐eight representative risk factors and 16 coupled types of risk factors are obtained through analysis of 332 gas explosion accidents in coal mines in China. Through the application of the combined ISM–NK model, an eight‐level hierarchical model of risk coupling of a gas explosion accident is established, and the coupled degrees of different types of risk coupling are assessed. The hierarchical model reveals that two of the 28 risk factors, such as state policies, laws, and regulations, are the root risk factors for gas explosions; nine of the 28 risk factors, such as flame from blasting, electric spark, and local gas accumulation, are direct causes of gas explosions; whereas 17 of the risk factors, such as three‐violation actions, ventilation system, and safety management, are indirect ones. A quantitative analysis of the NK model shows that the probability of gas explosion increases with the increasing number of risk factors. Compared with subjective risk factors, objective risk factors have a higher probability of causing gas explosion because of risk coupling.
Cultural Theory's Contributions to Risk Analysis: A Thematic Review with Directions and Resources for Further Research
Cultural theory (CT) developed from grid/group analysis, which posits that different patterns of social relations—hierarchist, individualist, egalitarian, and fatalist—produce compatible cultural biases influencing assessment of which hazards pose high or low risk and how to manage them. Introduced to risk analysis (RA) in 1982 by Douglas and Wildavsky's Risk and Culture, this institutional approach to social construction of risk surprised a field hitherto focused on psychological influences on risk perceptions and behavior. We explain what CT is and how it developed; describe and evaluate its contributions to the study of risk perception and management, and its prescriptions for risk assessment and management; and identify opportunities and resources to develop its contributions to RA. We suggest how the diverse, fruitful, but scattered efforts to develop CT both inside and outside the formal discipline of RA (as exemplified by the Society for Risk Analysis) might be leveraged for greater theoretical, methodological, and applied progress in the field.
People's perceptions of benefits and risks play a key role in their acceptance or rejection of medical interventions, yet these perceptions may be poorly calibrated. This online study with N = 373 adults aged 19–76 years focused on unrealistic optimism in the health domain. Participants indicated how likely they were to experience benefits and risks associated with medical conditions and completed objective and subjective numeracy scales. Participants exhibited optimistic views about the likelihood of experiencing the benefits and the side effects of treatment options described in the scenarios. Objective and subjective numeracy were not associated with more accurate ratings. Moreover, participants’ underestimation of the risks was significantly greater than their overestimation of the benefits. From an applied perspective, these results suggest that clinicians may need to ensure that patients do not underestimate risks of medical interventions, and that they convey realistic expectations about the benefits that can be obtained with certain procedures.
Increasing concern for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction is driving the need for more accurate and sophisticated tools of analysis to protect populations. Standards of analysis that can normalize measurements under various contexts are particularly valuable in the global arena of disaster management. One concern that may benefit from normalizing is the analysis of disaster loss trends. Previous studies have used a combination of inflation, wealth, and societal factors in their normalization of disaster loss methodologies. This study examines the various normalization methods in previous research and applies a selection of eight formulae to 50 years of disaster data in South Korea. The results show both decreasing and increasing trends in disaster damage losses based on the methods, but there are curious biases under the results that may be artifacts of Korea's unique experiences in economic development. The conclusion discusses how the case of Korea may help to clarify the optimal normalization methodology for other countries.
Decision‐Making Analytics Using Plural Resilience Parameters for Adaptive Management of Complex Systems
It is critical for complex systems to effectively recover, adapt, and reorganize after system disruptions. Common approaches for evaluating system resilience typically study single measures of performance at one time, such as with a single resilience curve. However, multiple measures of performance are needed for complex systems that involve many components, functions, and noncommensurate valuations of performance. Hence, this article presents a framework for: (1) modeling resilience for complex systems with competing measures of performance, and (2) modeling decision making for investing in these systems using multiple stakeholder perspectives and multicriteria decision analysis. This resilience framework, which is described and demonstrated in this article via a real‐world case study, will be of interest to managers of complex systems, such as supply chains and large‐scale infrastructure networks.