chapter  5
78 Pages

Risk Characterization

Austin Powers: Carnies. Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage.

Michael York and Mike Myers Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, directed by Jay Roach,

(1997, Burbank, CA; New Line Home Entertainment)

The 1983 Red Book specifies risk characterization as the final component in a risk assessment and indicates that this activity is “the description of the nature and often the magnitude of human risk, including attendant uncertainty.” However, the document does almost nothing to define what a risk characterization should look like1, except in the vaguest of terms, much like the film quotation above. However, the 1994 Blue Book provides much helpful guidance on risk characterization.2 Four elements make up a risk characterization:

• Quantitative estimates of risk • Qualitative and, if available, quantitative descriptions of uncertainty • Presentation of the risk estimates in their appropriate context • Communication of the results of the risk analysis

These four elements will be discussed in detail in the succeeding text.