Keywords: accidents, chance, determinism, ethical accountability, high risk technology, multi-causality, risk assessment, risk management, risky technology, Challenger disaster, tragedy, risky assessment, risky management, risky choice, multiple responsibility
Risk management: demythologising its belief foundations
Fallacious anthropomorphic attributions such as 'risky technology' take ethical accountability out of the hands of managers and relegate it to the deterministic or accidental outcomes of complex 'high risk technology'. Equally fallacious mechanistic terms such as 'organisational inertia' are borrowed from physics to apply to human organisations. The responsibility for ethically accountable decision-making is taken out of human hands and either ascribed to the mythological entity "Technology" or to the mythological bureaucratic organsation which functions as if it follows the laws of physics. I argue in contrast that disasters can be prevented by demythologising the belief systems that pervade risk management literature. Risk management must reclaim ethical accountability by replacing notions such as 'risky technology', 'high risk technology', 'risky work' and 'bureaucratic drift' with 'risky assessment', 'risky management', 'risky choice' and 'multiple responsibility'.