Safety is an important theme in Dutch society. Society expects government to contribute to a safe living environment and to protect it against the risks of large-scale and (possibly) socially disruptive incidents or disasters. By safety, we usually mean that there are no dangers or risks. Or if they do occur, how governments protect society against the risks and help limit the consequences.

In the case of safety, a distinction is made between safety and security. Safety is about the unintentional, unintentionally caused dangers for people and the environment with a natural or technological cause, such as a flood, an influenza pandemic or an accident in the chemical industry. Security is about dangers that are deliberately pursued, such as attacks with chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear weapons (CBRNe Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and enhanced explosives).

Broadening the knowledge base

With the SPR Strategic Programme RIVM (Strategic Programme RIVM) theme "Safety and security", RIVM sets out to broaden and enrich the current knowledge base, together with other stakeholders, to strategically prepare for future developments and questions from policy and practice.

This will be done based on four issues:
A. Perceptions of risks
B. Exploration of the application of new safety concepts
C. Security
D. Identification of risks

Perception of risks

The discussion about the underground CO2 storage facility in Barendrecht and the problems surrounding natural gas production in Groningen make it clear that an analytical approach to risks is not enough to provide insight into safety and security. How citizens experience risks (perception) also plays a role in this. RIVM will investigate how the factors that influence this perception (determinants) can be taken into account. Examples of such factors are unfamiliarity with the subject and underlying values such as feelings of injustice. In this way, risk perception can be given a place in the analyses and recommendations for policy.

Exploring the application of new safety concepts

For safety, risks have traditionally been expressed in terms of the impact (severity) of an event on health and/or the environment and the likelihood of its occurrence, for example, the risk of death if hazardous substances are released. In recent years, new approaches (concepts) have emerged in dealing with risks, which take an integral view of the system in which risks occur. Examples include safe by design and sustainable safety. RIVM wants to explore how these new concepts can be applied in practice and which instruments are suitable for this purpose.


RIVM has a great deal of knowledge about security; however, we will investigate how we can strengthen the security knowledge base. The focus lies on the deliberate misuse of dangerous substances such as Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear or biological agents (CBRN Chemical Biological Radiology and nuclear (Chemical Biological Radiology and nuclear)).

Identification of risks

Dealing with risks also means gaining insight into possible future events with undesirable consequences and trends. That is why it is important to identify risks in good time and to keep an eye on relevant developments and trends. RIVM is already carrying out exploratory work and identification activities in various disciplines, such as infectious diseases, zoonotic infections and public health. In the area of safety and security, however, this is a limited and not a structural process. For this reason, RIVM will identify the already existing signalling activities and set up a network together with other organisations to develop a signalling structure for this purpose.


Five research projects will be launched in the SPR theme "Safety en security":


RIVM  is investigating how people react to incidents in the living environment that are in the limelight and where 'safety and or health' are topics of societal debate. How can RIVM and its partners ensure proper incident management?

Moreover, what interventions, including communication strategies, exist for this purpose? The results of this project will enable governments to respond better in crises. This way, they can better protect people's health and people maintain confidence in the government.


There are many (perceived) hazards in our environment that potentially threaten the health and wellbeing of people. Examples for this are the earthquakes in Groningen, emissions of industrial plants, heatwaves, concerns about rubber granulate on synthetic turf fields, outbreaks of infectious diseases, etc. Cases in which stakeholders hold (potentially) different opinions on the main problem(s) such as, the potential health and safety risks, the sense of urgency to act and the most appropriate interventions, are the most complex.


By looking back at various cases in which RIVM was involved, the following questions can be answered: in which 'type' of crises does RIVM become involved? What convictions (so-called 'policy belief systems') do RIVM staff and partners have about 'good crisis and incident management'? An analysis of expressions on social media will contribute to a 'framework' / toolbox that supports those involved to respond optimally to crisis and incidents in the living environment.

This project also falls under the supporting themes "Perception and behaviour" and "Collection and analysis of data".


The world is changing rapidly, with risks such as the emergence of new pathogens, the use of new technologies, chemical and nuclear accidents, environmental disasters and the threat of criminal acts and bioterrorism. It is important to identify potential risks on time.

RIVM maps out which structures exist to identify risks, both within the RIVM and outside. It also examines which information sources are available and which organisations use them. Together with these organisations, a signalling structure is then drawn up and tested in a pilot project.


Much is being done in the Netherlands to identify the risks of these developments. However, it is not clear whether these activities overlap or whether signals are being missed. RIVM, therefore, wants to bring the activities and signals from the domains of safety and security closer together.


Based on the latest scientific insights and the knowledge of experts, an inventory will be made of (early) identification and availability of guidelines and best practices. The current Dutch signalling structures will be mapped out. The actual identification and interpretation of signals in a pilot provides insight into the question of where the structure of signalling can be strengthened.  This strengthens the Dutch network structures, lowers thresholds and stimulates the early sharing of signals. Attention to this subject also increases the awareness of those involved.


RIVM develops tools to harmonise the information needs of the public and the information of experts about possible risks. This enables RIVM to better respond to questions raised by society. In the case of a research question, regardless of the expertise field, RIVM staff can use an overview of these instruments (toolkit) to find out which research methods, experiences and expertise are available within the RIVM organisation. This can support communication on the subject in question.


Many problems in communicating risks are caused by the different risk perspectives of experts and citizens. It is therefore important to identify the perceptions of a risk by different groups quickly, clearly and unambiguously. The technical approach to risks and risk management only provides an overview of opportunities and consequences. This approach often does not fit in with how citizens think about and deal with risks. Important reasons for this are fear, the extent to which people think they have control over the risk and familiarity with the subject of the risk. A technical approach to risks and communication about these risks can, therefore, cause social unrest and a loss of confidence in science and policy.


RIVM will develop a toolkit consisting of a) an inventory of expertise and knowledge, b) the selected research methods including preconditions and the developed generic part of the research methods, c) the manual when choosing an in-depth research method to gather more information about the risk perception, d) a risk indicator validated with three cases as part of the toolkit, in which the risk assessment and risk perception are put together.

This project is launched in the SPR Strategic Programme RIVM (Strategic Programme RIVM) supporting theme "Perception and behaviour".


Three new safety concepts are currently in the spotlight of science and policy: 'safe at the front', 'sustainable safety' and 'positive safety'. RIVM aims to gain insight into the instruments needed to implement these safety concepts and to involve commissioners, partner organisations and colleagues in this process. This creates an overview to tackle health and safety issues in a new way.


New ways of working and interactions are needed to respond to the changing way of thinking about safety. Instead of managing insecurity, the three safety concepts mentioned above advocate a proactive approach. The focus is shifting from risks to the social and organisational systems that influence the creation and handling of risks.


Based on the new safety concepts, the VEIVER project is reviewing the existing instruments, in particular where the current RIVM instruments can be renewed or enriched. The possibilities and obstacles within the RIVM will also be examined.


In exploring these aspects, VEIVER encourages the active involvement of relevant clients, colleagues and other organisations. VEIVER also wants to encourage people to look beyond domain boundaries.


The expertise on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN Chemical Biological Radiology and nuclear (Chemical Biological Radiology and nuclear)) agents and or explosives within RIVM  is fragmented. However, RIVM wants to be able to use and disseminate the expertise in a targeted and effective manner, for example in the form of a Bureau CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Enhanced Explosives). Such a bureau can function as the first stop for interested parties to acquire information, share knowledge and expertise. In addition, a network can be made available for CBRNe security (prevention).


The threat of an attack on the Netherlands has been real for years. An attack by chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear means and/or with explosives is conceivable. Streamlining the expertise within the RIVM organisation and in the Netherlands will help limit the risk of misuse of CBRN assets.


This study aims to map out RIVM's expertise in the field of CBRNe security and, subsequently, the expertise in the Netherlands. A systematic analysis should provide a picture of who the most important potential partners are, what activities they are developing, where there are knowledge gaps, and what expertise is needed. This will provide insight into the wishes and possibilities for a CBRNe Bureau.