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The Role of Engineering Risk Assessment in Public Safety
Author            :Paul Eason, Ph.D., P.E., CFEI
Designation    :President
Company        :e4 Consulting, Inc.
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The current codes and standards that dictate safe practices in construction, fire safety, public health, et cetera are based on a traditional understanding of risks such as natural disasters, industrial accidents and human error to name a few. Recent world events have broadened the perception of risk to encompass acts of terrorism with a myriad of potential consequences to the public at large. This new perspective provides a clear view of the need for effective risk assessment standards. The principle steps behind any risk assessment effort are simple and pervasive. These principle steps include identification of risk events, estimation of their effects, ranking of the risks by common criteria, recording the findings and implementation of preemptive or corrective action. These steps have manifested as well accepted engineering design practices for decades without being formally referred to as “risk assessment.” Since engineers are the designers and implementers of public infrastructure, it stands to reason that new requirements in design procedures and public safety will be patterned after the risk assessment techniques that engineers have proven successful for years. The effectiveness of any risk assessment effort lies in the expertise of the team that identifies the potential risks and their outcomes. As consultants, engineers play an invaluable role in assisting the private sector and government entities with a depth of knowledge in the existing codes and standards as well as by helping to optimize design efficiency and safety with innovative new techniques.

Keywords: Risk Assessment, Engineering, Codes and Standards, Consulting

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