The Hazard Meter: A Conceptual Heuristic Tool of Risk Assessment
This paper suggests that the process of risk assessment attempts to emulate a hypothetical device, a hazard meter, that could directly measure the individual or population risks of a well-defined material, activity, or situation. The meter could be calibrated to read in different units, such as cancer cases per year in the United States, lifetime probability of accidental death for a specified group of people equally exposed to a specified hazard, or annual probability of exceeding a specified severity of catastrophe. Several aspects of the meter that are analogous to the activities of risk assessors are explored. Special attention is given to uncertainty in risk assessment, which is compared to a meter having a thick, fuzzy, or vacillating needle. The utility of the hazard meter analogy in explaining both the objectives and limitations of risk assessment to a lay public is discussed.
Key WordsHazard measurement risk assessment hazard meter uncertainty analysis.
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