Risk Management in the Transportation of Dangerous Goods—The Influence of Public Perception A Discussion

by Marjorie K. Matthews, Transport Canada, Ottawa, Canada,



Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: State and Local Issues in Transportation of Hazardous Waste Materials: Towards a National Strategy

Abstract: In 1988, a fire at Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Quebec involving a PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) warehouse sparked continuing controversy which included a two-week evacuation of residents. When attempts to remove the PCB waste from storage for ultimate disposal, public reaction and the NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome prevailed and interrupted the handling and transportation of this which, from a risk management viewpoint, would have provided minimal social impact. This is just one of many examples whereby public perception of risk can unduly influence the proper response to effective risk management, in this case, for the transportation of dangerous goods. However, risk managers also have an equal responsibility to ensure the adaptation of public or social values with respect to responsive and credible decision-making. The management of risk on strictly addressing probability and consequences, without taking into account public concerns or anxiety, will invariably result in a foundation which may be scientifically correct, but lacks social fibre. As a public service, the two are inconsistent.

Subject Headings: Risk management | Public health and safety | Transportation management | Public opinions | Public transportation | Freight transportation | PCB | Social factors | Hazardous materials | Waste storage | North America | Quebec | Canada

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