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Setting Standards: A Systematic Approach to Managing Public Health and Safety Risks


  • Baruch Fischhoff

    (Decision Research, 1201 Oak Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401)


Standards are an effective means for managing hazardous technologies only if three conditions are satisfied: (a) setting general standards is preferable to case-by-case decision making; (b) some general safety philosophy, balancing risk and other factors, can be justified on normative grounds; (c) that philosophy is faithfully translated into operational terms. In practice, standards are rarely developed and enforced in an integrated systematic way. As a result, they often miss their mark. This guide presents a general framework for the design, development, and implementation of safety standards. That framework is derived from the logical character of the standard setters' task and from experience with actual standards. It first identifies the conditions under which standards are an appropriate management tool. Second, it presents four generic methods that may be used to develop safety policy. Third, it characterizes the design issues that arise in making that policy operational. At each step, it suggests particular strategies along with their inherent strengths and weaknesses. In particular, it shows the sensitivity of a standard's effectiveness to seemingly technical aspects of the way it is drafted.

Suggested Citation

  • Baruch Fischhoff, 1984. "Setting Standards: A Systematic Approach to Managing Public Health and Safety Risks," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(7), pages 823-843, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:30:y:1984:i:7:p:823-843

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    Cited by:

    1. Narayanan, V.K. & Chen, Tianxu, 2012. "Research on technology standards: Accomplishment and challenges," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1375-1406.


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