Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on January 20, 2022
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 18, 2022
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2022
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) urges government agencies and private entities at all levels to incorporate risk management in all decision-making processes that affect the public's safety, health, welfare, and investments in infrastructure. Further, potential risks and risk management practices must be clearly communicated to the public. This can be accomplished by government agencies and private entities by:
- Developing and implementing up-to-date risk management guidelines.
- Identifying and implementing strategies to reduce risk to public safety from natural and man-made hazards.
- Establishing core risk assessment research programs to ensure that risk management is based on adequate scientific data and appropriate processes.
- Developing tools to effectively communicate risks from natural and man-made hazards to the public and encourage public participation in decision making.
- Revisiting risk assessments as conditions change and additional information becomes available.
Risk management, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, is “the process of identifying, analyzing, assessing, and communicating risk and accepting, avoiding, transferring or controlling it to an acceptable level.” Many Government agencies have recently developed tools to conduct risk assessments and prioritize the allocation of limited resources. However, effectively communicating risks with the public remains a significant challenge. The public struggles to understand the level of risk and the impact of infrastructure failures. Prior disaster events demonstrate the consequences of failure were not completely understood.
With effective risk management, public participation in the decision-making process, and improved public communication techniques, government agencies and private entities can make informed decisions on critical topics ranging from land use, infrastructure development, mitigation of natural or man-made hazards, and establishment of environmental standards.
When the risks are effectively communicated to decision makers and the public, risk management can help society respond to the challenge of allocating limited resources while maximizing protection of human safety, health, and welfare and protecting the built and natural environment. Risk assessment is the characterization of the potential adverse effects that hazards can inflict on people, property, or the environment, often with both stochastic and deterministic inputs. Comparative risk analysis is a procedure for ranking the relative risk of all hazards on a specific system or structure. The results of comparative risk analysis along with other research can be used to establish tolerable risk guidelines that form the basis of decision making. Risk management is a powerful tool in the decision-making process where the conclusions of risk assessment and comparative risk analysis are weighed among other considerations such as statutory requirements, costs, public values and expectations, and exposure to hazards. For engineers, risk assessment should guide and direct proper engineering planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance practices. While it is important to plan for possible failure (including provisions for insurance, emergency evacuation, flood proofing, etc.), it is equally important to adequately address risk in how systems are planned and designed and how consequences are managed. Engineered systems must be planned and designed to be robust, resilient, and provided with appropriate redundancy to adequately address inherent risks.
This policy has worldwide application
ASCE Policy Statement 437
First Approved in 1995