At Critical Uncertainties there is a very good posting of some 21 principles attendant to managing risk and providing for safety in systems where safety criticality is predominant.
Here are a few I picked out that seem to come up often when doing a risk register of unlikely but severe risk events and outcomes.
I add this bit of editorial: the principles lead directly to the so-called "1% Doctrine" that posits that peremptory action is justified to neutralize a risk source, not just mitigate consequences.
The 1% Doctrine is Principle 1 in different words.
We see this played out in the security arena big time, everything from preempting WMD to preempting travellers at the airport check-points.
But on the project scale we see peremptory action to avoid a project budget cut or resource reassignment. In other words these principles have both strategic and tactical application:
- Where risk exists there also exists an ethical duty of decision makers to eliminate if practical or, if it is not, to reduce such risks to an acceptable level.
- The greater the potential severity of loss associated with the system the more likely the organisational and societal focus will be on prevention ... rather than mitigation of consequences.
- Risk ... is a social construct and can never be evaluated in a totally objective fashion.
- Some unknown risks may disclose themselves in the life of the systems, some may never be identified.
- The greater the severity of a [risk] the lower the required occurrence rate and the greater the .... uncertainty of estimation of probability.
- The greater the .....uncertainty of probability estimates the more the focus should be upon the reduction in the severity of consequences.
- The more complex a system the more likely it is that an accident will be due to the unintended and unidentified interaction of components, rather than singular component failures or human errors.
- One can never absolutely ‘prove’ the safety of a system as such arguments are inherently inductive.
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