Risk assessment, environmental/occupational

Document Type



Risk assessment is an increasingly common tool used to evaluate or compare hazards to human health and the natural environment. Since this is a health encyclopedia, we will not further discuss ecological risk assessment. Risk assessors estimate the probability that a hazard will affect health and explore the magnitude of the consequences if it does. There are two basic kinds of risk assessment: The kind that presupposes the release or occurrence and tries to estimate exposure and potency; and the kind (once called PRA) that adds a preliminary step of the probability that the stressor will even occur (e.g., fault tree analysis). This article assumes the former type of risk assessment. For discussion of the latter, see Kammen and Hassenzahl (1999). Risk analysis has ancient origins (Covello and Mumpower, 1985), but as an organized undertaking may be traced to the London insurance industry in the sixteenth century (Bernstein, 1998). Over the past four decades, risk assessment has been identified as a useful organizing principle and decision tool for a broad range of management and policy problems.


Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Policy History, Theory, and Methods