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Is it safe? safety factor reasoning in policy-making under uncertainty
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2006 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines the practice of using safety factors in decision-making under uncertainty, in particular in the areas of toxicology and civil engineering. The aim is to expose and clarify some of the philosophical issues surrounding the practice.

Paper I (co-written with Sven Ove Hansson and Fred Nilsson) gives an historical background to the practice of formal safety factor and safety margin use. The notion of an uncertainty function is presented as a more general concept covering safety margins, safety factors and the related uncertainty factors. Three categories of uncertainty functions are identified: explicit, implicit and natural safety reserves. Finally, the problems of countervailing risks and distribution arbitrariness are discussed.

Paper II (co-written with John Cantwell) discusses the relation between decision-making with safety factor rules and the ideal of formal normative decision theory. The role of safety factor rules in practical and theoretical reasoning is also examined and certain difficulties regarding normative evaluation of safety factor rules are pointed out.

Paper III (co-written with Sven Ove Hansson) looks at two current regulatory systems under development: Eurocodes for construction and REACH for chemicals. The two regulations have many similarities but reactions to them have been highly divergent. The differences are discussed and some hypotheses as to their explanation are suggested.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2006. , 6 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1654-627X
Keyword [en]
safety factor, uncertainty factor, uncertainty function, uncertainty, rationality, policy, decision, science, risk
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4053ISBN: 91-7178-405-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-4053DiVA: diva2:10568
Presentation
2006-06-14, Seminarierummet, Teknikringen 78 B, 2 tr., Stockholm, 14:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101110Available from: 2006-04-14 Created: 2006-04-14 Last updated: 2010-11-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Generalizing the Safety Factor Approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Generalizing the Safety Factor Approach
2006 (English)In: Reliability Engineering & System Safety, ISSN 0951-8320, Vol. 91, no 8, 964-973 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Safety factors (uncertainty factors) are used to avoid failure in a wide variety of practices and disciplines, in particular engineering design and toxicology. Although these two areas have similar problems in their use of safety factors, there are no signs of previous communication between the two disciplines. The present contribution aims at initiating such communications by pointing out parallel practices and joint issues between the two disciplines. These include the distinction between probabilistic variability and epistemic uncertainty, the importance of distribution tails, and the problem of countervailing risks. In conclusion, it is proposed that future research in this area should be interdisciplinary and make use of experiences from the various areas in which safety factors are used.

Keyword
Safety factor, Uncertainty, Uncertainty factor, Uncertainty function, Variability
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6000 (URN)10.1016/j.ress.2005.09.002 (DOI)000238936100011 ()2-s2.0-33748677263 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101110. Uppdaterad från In press till Published (20101110).Available from: 2006-04-14 Created: 2006-04-14 Last updated: 2012-02-02Bibliographically approved
2. Reasoning with Safety Factor Rules
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reasoning with Safety Factor Rules
2007 (English)In: Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, ISSN 1091-8264, Vol. 11, no 1, 55-70 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Safety factor rules are used for drawing putatively reasonable conclusions from incomplete datasets. The paper attempts to provide answers to four questions: “How are safety factors used?”, “When are safety factors used?”, “Why are safety used?” and “How do safety factor rules relate to decision theory?”. The authors conclude that safety factor rules should be regarded as decision methods rather than as criteria of rightness and that they can be used in both practical and theoretical reasoning. Simplicity of application and inability or unwillingness to defer judgment appear to be important factors in explaining why the rules are used.

Keyword
Safety factor, uncertainty factor, decision theory, reasoning, heuristics
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6001 (URN)
Note
QC 20101110. Uppdaterad från Accepted till Published (20101110).Available from: 2006-04-14 Created: 2006-04-14 Last updated: 2012-02-02Bibliographically approved
3. Eurocodes and REACH - differences and similarities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Eurocodes and REACH - differences and similarities
2007 (English)In: Risk Management: An International Journal, ISSN 1460-3799, no 19, 19-35 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The developments of the new European construction standard (Eurocodes) and the new European chemical legislation (REACH) have taken place in parallel, and they are now both in their final stages. Both consist in European harmonization of safety regulations that concern major industries. In this paper, we compare Eurocodes and REACH in terms of purpose, intended level of harmonization, the science-policy interface and controversies about the costs of the regulations. We have found that the science-policy interface of REACH is characterized by public controversy and by attempts to keep risk assessment and risk management apart while the science-policy interface of Eurocodes is characterized by trust in experts, limited public involvement and organizational confluence of risk assessment and risk management. Furthermore, the costs of REACH have been a major issue in discussions between the Commission and the chemical industry while, in contrast, the costs of Eurocodes have not even been calculated either by the Commission or by the construction industry. A major reason for this is that construction industry does not seem to regard possible cost increases due to Eurocodes as a threat to their business interests. Regulators seem to have treated the cost issue as a business interest, not as an aspect of the decision that they should be concerned with even in the absence of external pressure.

Keyword
Eurocodes, REACH, policy, science, chemicals, construction
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6002 (URN)10.1057/palgrave.rm.8250022 (DOI)
Note
QC 20101110. Uppdaterad från Submitted till Published (20101110).Available from: 2006-04-14 Created: 2006-04-14 Last updated: 2012-02-02Bibliographically approved

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