Categorizing Risks for Risk Ranking


M. Granger Morgan Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.


Any practical process of risk ranking must group hazards into a manageable number of categories. Defining such categories requires value choices that can have important implications for the rankings that result. Most risk-management organizations will find it useful to begin defining categories in terms of environmental loadings or initiating events. However, the resulting categories typically need to be modified in light of other considerations. Risk-ranking projects can benefit from considering several alternative categorization strategies and drawing upon elements of each in developing their final categorization of risks. In principle, conducting multiple ranking exercises by using different categorizations could be interesting and useful. In practice, agencies are unlikely to have either the resources or patience to do this, but other groups in society might. Done well, such additional independent rankings could add valuable inputs to democratic risk-management decision making.