Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on March 14, 2019
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 28, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2019
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;
- Encouraging and facilitating public participation in formulating risk assessment guidelines; and
- Developing tools to effectively communicate risks from natural and man-made hazards to the public.
Risk management tools (e.g., quantitative risk assessment (QRA), comparative and probabilistic risk analyses) provide the ability to determine the severity of hazards and other problems and to prioritize the allocation of resources to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment. Government agencies often do not use such tools or effectively communicate to the public how risk management is conducted, the level of risks and uncertainties, how actions and decisions can increase or decrease said risks and predicted consequences to people, property and the environment. As Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima earthquake and other events demonstrated, neither government agencies nor the public understood the risk nor appreciated the consequences of failure that a major event can create, nor how the lack of local involvement in managing the risk magnified the disaster.
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. 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.
ASCE Policy Statement 437
First Approved in 1995