Case Study - RSSB: Addressing 'Societal Concern'

Client: Rail Safety and Standards Board
Sector: the transport sector
Services delivered: engaging the public , research & innovation

Understanding Societal Concern

A quick scan of the daily papers shows that public perceptions of risk are driven by much more than the chance of an unwanted outcome; concerns such as those over the MMR vaccine and CJD are recent high profile examples.

The significance of public perception is now such that policy makers have shifted their focus from “educating the public” about risk to incorporating the public’s concerns into their decisions. This has been enshrined in the HSE’s “Reducing Risk, Protecting People” document, which emphasises the need to account for societal concern in a safety risk decision-making framework.

Following a call for research ideas from the HSE, Risk Solutions developed a model for it to provide a measure of societal concern. The model has been designed for use in focus groups to evaluate their specific concerns. Repeat testing over time can then inform overall trends in societal concern as well as variations between different “publics”. The model is structured to highlight the root causes of societal concern and can therefore inform appropriate risk management and risk communication strategies to address specific issues.