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

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

by E. E. Lewis

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631440168
Publisher: Carrel Books
Publication date: 10/14/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 3 MB

About 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.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Technological Risk-the Past as Prologue 1

Chapter 2 Why Things Fail-The Bathtub Curve 21

Chapter 3 Technology's Tradeoffs-the Engineers' Dilemma 41

Chapter 4 Finding Faults-Exposing Hidden Hazards 57

Chapter 5 To Err is Human 75

Chapter 6 Cultures of Safety-and Lack Thereof 93

Chapter 7 Risks, Response, and Regulation 113

Chapter 8 Hazards on the Highway 133

Chapter 9 Dangers at Home and at Work 145

Chapter 10 Man-Made Disasters-the Problem of Probability 163

Chapter 11 Natural Disasters-Technology's Impacts 179

Chapter 12 Health Hazards-Foreboding Futures 201

Chapter 13 Toward a Safer Society 217

Acknowledgments 227

Selected Bibliography 229

Index 237

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