Roels JM, Walhout AM, Westra J, Kloosterboer HE, Wezenbeek JM
RIVM Report 2018-0029
For various policy areas of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) RIVM has assessed the effects that threats to the environment can have and which safety targets the government is setting in order to prevent, reduce or manage those effects. In the first part of the assignment the effects for health, ecology, economic damage and social impact were identified in relation to 25 policy areas. The investigation showed that data is available for health effects. The effects for ecology, economic damage and social impact are generally not well known and appear, in the second part of the investigation, not to be explicitly included in the risk and safety policy targets. However, for the studied policy areas ambitions for the short term as well as for the long term are used, either implicitly or explicitly.
The ministry's policy is founded on a policy-based basic level of protection (short term ambition) and on the aim to continue improving the safety and quality of our environment (long term ambition). For a safe and healthy environment it is important to know what the current situation in the environment is and how society values safety. Examples of policy areas are the risk of floods, safety in the event of fire or explosions in industrial complexes, air traffic safety and road, shipping and rail safety. Policy areas include also the effects of contaminating substances in air, water and soil and the use of nanomaterials and biotechnology.
Society needs a certain degree of clarity and consistency in risk considerations for all these safety issues. To do this properly, sufficient data is needed in order to be able to characterise risks from various perspectives. At the moment the main focus is on health effects expressed in the probability of fatalities or the number of victims.
This investigation also includes various new developments and technical developments which are accompanied by uncertain risks. RIVM observes that, also due to methodological problems, no suitable effect criteria have yet been developed for these developments. Therefore, from the precautionary point of view the policy ambition for the long term is a negligible risk level.
RIVM advocates a broad and transparent assessment of risks and effects. In order to achieve this, coherent risk and effect criteria have to be developed which must be based on both technical and socio-scientific insights. After all the safety of a situation is linked to what society considers to be acceptable.