Risks assessed

Towards a transparent and adaptive risk policy

In this advisory letter the Council recommends that less importance should be attached to numerical norms within safety management policy.
Risks assessed

Instead, the emphasis should be on a separate description of risks, probabilities, and consequences.

Introduction

The discussion about a new risk management policy is not new. This advisory letter follows on from a series of thorough reports on the topic, all of which seek change. It recognises that practice is changing and suggests that now is the time to formalise ongoing developments, making the implicit fully explicit.

The Council proposes a risk assessment framework in which decision-making is less reliant on numerical norms. Greater weight should be attached to moral considerations such as the fair division of benefits and costs, with the concerns of all stakeholders taken into consideration in an open and transparent process. Risks are seldom certain; a scientific approach can, to some extent, reveal the degree of uncertainty they entail. Nevertheless, people have expectations and beliefs with regard to the outcomes of that uncertainty. This is why there are varying opinions about risks and their acceptability within the societal debate. If it is to take due account of the various expectations and opinions, risk management policy must be both adaptive and transparent.

The Council goes on to examine why new insights have not been incorporated into policy. This advisory letter presents elements for a transition programme which will form a solid foundation for a new assessment framework. As the first step in implementing this advice, the Council recommends that attention should be devoted to policy dossiers such as the Delta Programme and the ‘Basisnet’ system (designated routes for the transport of hazardous materials).

Publication date

This advisory letter was submitted to Ms Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment, and her State Secretary Ms Wilma Mansveld on 26 June 2014, together with an advisory letter on the same topic produced by the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR).