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close this bookThe Long Road to Recovery: Community Responses to Industrial Disaster (UNU, 1996, 307 pages)
close this folder1 Improving community responses to industrial disasters
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe nature of industrial disaster
View the documentIndustrial disaster burdens
View the documentThe evolution of responses
View the documentRoutine disasters
View the documentSurprises
View the documentCoping with surprise
View the documentReducing the impact of industrial disaster surprises: The range of choice
View the documentRecovering from surprise
View the documentConclusions
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences


1. For up-to-date information on industrial risk issues, the following periodicals provide useful starting points: Industrial and Environmental Crisis Quarterly, Industry and Environment, Risk Analysis, and Risk: Health, Safety and Environment. There is also a vast journal literature on the more general subject of industrial safety.

2. Many problems of statistical inference about uncertainty and extreme events seriously hamper risk analysis. See, for example, Hacking (1986) and Haimes, Barry, and Lambert (1994).

3. The term "hazard" is preferred over "risk" because it connotes an interactive system of risks and responses that affects industrial systems not just single types of incident risks. This system includes various feedback relationships among different types and levels of risks, exposed populations, vulnerable groups, and deliberate or inadvertent responses, the whole being set within different socio-temporal and spatial contexts.

4. Throughout this volume, prices expressed in dollars are US dollars, and the term "billion" means a thousand million (109).

5. The interpretation of workplace fatalities is complicated by different definitions of "major industrial disasters." For example, in 1992 approximately 15,000 workers were killed in job-related industrial accidents in China - an increase of 3% over 1991 (International Labor Review 1993). Most of these deaths probably occurred singly and in small facilities, therefore failing to merit the label "major disasters." Such a pattern clearly exists in the United States. A recent analysis of 500,000 federal and state safety-inspection records, carried out by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, lists 4,464 on-the-job deaths in US companies between 1988 and 1992 (Wall Street Journal, 3 February 1994). The vast majority of these deaths (4,337) occurred in workplaces with fewer than 20 employees.

6. It should be noted that problems resulting from two of these events (Seveso and Times Beach) were downgraded in revised assessments made by scientists several years after public concern was first raised. This in no way minimizes the extent to which each event constituted a disaster for the human populations that were affected when the events first came to light.

7. The first person to be killed in a railroad accident in the United States was the fireman on the country's first passenger locomotive, the boiler of which exploded in 1831. In 1865 a boiler explosion and fire on board the Sultana, a Mississippi sternwheeler, killed more than 1,500 people - the largest loss of life in any American marine disaster.

8. Most natural hazards can be classified as routine. The International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (1990-2000), a UN-sponsored programme of collaborative actions among participating nations, assumes that a thoroughgoing commitment to applying existing unused knowledge about natural disasters would be sufficient to bring about major reductions in losses.

9. As defined by Resources for the Future, industrial accidents included explosions, fires, and toxic vapours associated with industrial materials or facilities but excluded mining accidents and passenger transportation accidents; see Glickman, Golding, and Silverman (1992).

10. Forest death (Waldsterben) is the name given to a collection of symptoms of die-back and die-off among trees in Germany that are believed to be linked to increased air pollution among other factors; see "Multiple pollutants and forest decline," in World Resources 1986 (World Resources Institute 1986).