LES ANNALES DES MINES
REALITES INDUSTRIELLES Mai 2003
FOR OUR ENGLISH-SPEAKING READERS
sciences and engineering of risks
Claude Trink and Franck Guarnieri
crises and governance: Broken prospects, broken paradigms
Prior to the 1970s, the warranty was frequently made that “Everything is under control”; and this, in turn, gave shape to the requirement for “zero risk”. This is no longer being warranted. We should lucidly make a full assessment of the requirements of risk control, including preventing and handling crises. Refusing to take into account the very possibility of an emergency would lead back to entanglement in a zero-risk principle. We must face up to the quite impressive challenges now on the agenda — as Foch used to say, “Fire kills, outdated ideas do too.”
science of dangers: Its achievements, tendencies and prospects
Dangers and risks now have a vocabulary of their own, as well as their own conferences and professionals. Receiving so much attention, they have but recently — and still quite moderately — become a subject to be taught. They form, above all, a challenging scientific project with theoretical, methodological and applied aspects around which a community of scientists is taking shape.
factors: New from the old
During the past decade, the concept of “organizational factors”, following up on the “human factor”, has emerged. A few sensational accidents have favored this shift to a phrase so modest that it hides the quite real difficulty of concretely studying organization-related phenomena.
contribution to the emergence and institutionalization of precaution-based
Long before legal texts officially consecrated the “principle of precaution” , industrialists were gradually giving ethical connotations to their practices via codes of good conduct. Aware of the interest of implicating professionals in regulating industrial risks, French public authorities have adopted a less technical conception of law. They are boosting more supple forms of supervision and regulation that draw lessons from the procedures based on precaution used in certain industries.
risks and regulation: On the borderline between economics and the law
In France, legislation about installations “classified for the protection of the environment” constitutes the legal basis for environmental policy regarding industry. It also forms a filter for recourse in the case of civil legal actions. How are responsibilities brought to light? How is damage assessed? What are the actual conditions for individuals to have recourse against the public administration and to cope with risk factors?
defense, or how to limit damage
Reducing the probability and consequences of any technological accident is the stated objective of risk control. But the advances made make us more exacting, and we are shocked by accidental events such as the explosion at AZF in Toulouse, the sinking of the Prestige, or the outbreak of mad cow disease. A new objective is to set up policies for an in-depth defense so as to guarantee that the consequences of any accident remain within acceptable limits. Upholding security requirements should be experienced no longer as a production constraint but, instead, as a genuine freedom of action.
decision-making in an emergency
To manage the emergency set off by a natural or industrial catastrophe, tools have to have been put in place that are adapted to handling the situation. The concept underlying SARA (a system for analyzing accidental risks in a crisis situation) is based on analyzing: the dangers inherent in the system; the consequences of accidents in it; and the protective barriers as well as vulnerable points of targets located in the surrounding area. The various phases of study should combine so as to result in an integrated management of risks and an optimal management of emergencies.
for a “generic” method of risk analysis: The shift from a deterministic,
probabilistic analytical approach toward a societal, regulatory systemic
The study of industrial risks has evolved significantly over the past thirty years. We have shifted from a deterministic, probabilistic approach mainly centered around industrial processes toward a systemic one that draws attention to various parties’, sometimes contradictory, viewpoints. The importance of both the human factor and risk management is now recognized.
preliminary analysis of the contents and quality of Plans for Preventing
Natural Risks (PPR): From initial complexity to functional plurality
The analysis of several Plans for Preventing Natural Risks (PPR) and interviews conducted with the French public services that drafted them provide a preliminary idea of the contents and quality of these plans. The results of the study on the knowledge of risk, cartographical materials and regulations shed light on the wide diversity and even heterogeneity of elements in these plans, thus making it hard to apply them, or even for risk-management professionals to adopt and use them as documents.