On the Very Idea of Risk Management: Lessons from the Space Shuttle Challenger

In Risk Management - Current Issues and Challenges. pp. 133-154 (2012)
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In this chapter, we will argue that the very concept of risk management must be called into question. The argument will take the form that the use of the phrase ‘risk management’ operates to cover over the ethical dimensions of what is at the bottom of the problem, namely, risky decision making. Risky decision making takes place whenever and wherever decisions are taken by those whose lives are not immediately threatened by the situation in which the risk to other people’s lives is created by their decision. The concept of risk management implies that risk is already there, not created by the decision, but lies already inherent in the situation that the decision sets into motion. The risk that exists in the objective situation simply needs to be “managed”. By changing the semantics of ‘risk management’ to ‘risk taking’ or ‘risky decision making’, the ethics of responsibility for risking other people’s lives will come into focus. The argument of the chapter is that by heightening the ethical sensitivity of decision makers, these decision makers will be less likely to make decisions that will cause harm and/or death to those who are the principal actors in the situation created by the decision.


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