Public Perception of Risks Associated with Major Accident Hazards

Gordon Walker, Peter Simmons, Alan Irwin, Brian Wynne

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This research was designed to provide the HSE with a better understanding of the nature and dynamics of public perceptions of the risks associated with major hazard sites in the light of current policy developments and debates. It consisted of a series of case studies conducted around seven different major hazard sites and utilised a qualitative research design that involved people living close to such sites taking part in focus group discussions and completing a Q-sort exercise. The results of the research highlight the influence of local context on public perceptions of major hazard sites and outline the ways in which members of the lay public reason about the associated risks. The analysis differentiates the bases of public toleration of hazardous industrial sites and accounts for their distribution across different local contexts. The report also documents the public’s views of a number of policy issues, including the provision of risk information, the regulation of major hazard industry and the use of land use planning controls. The report concludes with a discussion of the implications of the research for policy, giving particular attention to the Seveso II Directive and forthcoming COMAH Regulations, and to the HSE’s Tolerability of Risk criteria.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSudbury
PublisherHSE Books
Commissioning bodyHealth and Safety Executive
ISBN (Print)0717616231
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Cite this