How Safe is Safe Enough?: Technological Risks, Real and Perceived

Overview


Every time an airplane crashes, a gas line explodes, a bridge collapses, or a contaminant escapes the public questions whether the benefits that technology brings are worth its risks. Written in laymen’s language, How Safe Is Safe Enough? explores the realities of the risks that technology presents and the public’s perceptions of them. E. E. Lewis examines how these perceptions are reconciled with economic interests and risk assessors’ analyses in messy and often contentious political processes that determine ...
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How Safe is Safe Enough?: Technological Risks, Real and Perceived

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Overview


Every time an airplane crashes, a gas line explodes, a bridge collapses, or a contaminant escapes the public questions whether the benefits that technology brings are worth its risks. Written in laymen’s language, How Safe Is Safe Enough? explores the realities of the risks that technology presents and the public’s perceptions of them. E. E. Lewis examines how these perceptions are reconciled with economic interests and risk assessors’ analyses in messy and often contentious political processes that determine acceptable levels of safety—levels that often depend more on the perceived nature of the risks than on the number of deaths or injuries that they cause.

The author explains why things fail and why design necessitates tradeoffs between performance, cost, and safety. He details methods for identifying and eliminating design flaws and illustrates the consequences when they fail. Lewis examines faulty machine interfaces that cause disastrous human errors and highlights how cost cutting and maintenance neglect have led to catastrophic consequence.

How Safe Is Safe Enough? explores how society determines adequate levels of safety, outlining the announcement and enforcement of safety regulations and addressing controversies surrounding cost-benefit analysis. The author argues that large regulatory effects stem from the public’s wide-ranging perceptions of three classes of accidents: the many everyday accidents causing one or two deaths at a time, rare disasters causing large loss of life, and toxic releases leading to uncertain future health risks. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima culminates the discussion, exemplifying the dichotomies faced in reconciling professional risk assessors’ statistical approaches with the citizenry’s fears and perceptions.

For better or worse, technology permeates our lives, and much of it we don’t understand—how it works and what the chances are that it will fail dangerously. Such interest and concerns are at the heart of this authoritative, provocative analysis.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

E. E. Lewis has written an excellent book on the dangers, hazards, and risks associated with modern technology. His balanced views are illustrated with well-chosen examples of infamous failures and disasters. These provide lessons learned that should lead to a safer future.” —Henry Petroski, A. S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History, Duke University; author of To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure

“The answer to “How safe is safe enough?” is ultimately a matter of how feel, the facts filtered through emotions and instincts. But we need good facts to go on in the first place, and E.E. Lewis has provided a rich and sobering factual litany of crashes and accidents and flat out mistakes to get us started. More, he offers insightful lessons about what each incident, and the patterns they fit into, have to teach us. Any risk manager serious about safety really needs to read this book.” —David Ropeik, author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts

"This is a quite remarkable book. E. E. Lewis analyzes scores of serious events compromising public safety over the past decades and places these within the context of how one would identify the causes of such events and take steps to reduce their risk and impact in the future. The result is a thoughtful and accurate analysis by one of the leaders in the area of technology risk and safety, as well as a thorough discussion of many of the important safety events and risks of our time." —James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Technology, The University of Michigan

"E. E. Lewis strikingly illustrates how human failures combine with design errors, careless maintenance, and inadequate operator training to challenge the advances of new technologies. This book should be read by journalists, public advocacy groups, legislators, and anyone concerned with addressing the important issues the author raises." —John F. Ahearne, former Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781631440014
  • Publisher: Carrel Books
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,053,150
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


E. E. Lewis was Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and is now Professor Emeritus at Northwestern. Lewis has published numerous articles and books on topics related to science and engineering.
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