The management of risks arising from products, systems, projects, or business undertakings is a broad subject. The fundamental tenets of risk management is anticipation/forecasting and timely prevention or mitigation against all undesirable safety, commercial, and potentially environmental facets in a given context. In practice, given the potential for failures and loss posed by advancing technologies and complexity in the world around us, the discipline of risk management has not evolved to cope with the enormous challenges posed. This paper proposes a rational and structured approach to this largely subjective discipline, based on emergent properties of a system of principles. It is argued that systematic risk management also constitutes a fundamental and potent component of the safety case regime in vogue today. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Syst Eng 3: 156–167, 1999