Office/HM Treasury: Principles
of Managing Risks to the Public
seek to allocate responsibility for managing
risks to those best placed to control them.
where possible, will ensure that those who impose
risks on others also bear responsibility for
controlling those risks and for any consequences
of inadequate control. It will aim to give
individuals a choice in how to manage risks that
affect them, where it is feasible and in their
interest to do so and where this does not expose
others to disproportionate risk or cost. It will
seek to clarify where responsibility for managing
risks rests and that those responsible have the
authority and information to act.
Unit's Risk: improving
government's capability to handle uncertainty
2.4 governments have
a regulatory role in providing the legal framework
where the activities of businesses and individuals
give rise to risks to others.
2.6 Governments will not normally intervene where
individuals take risks voluntarily and where they
alone are affected. In these circumstances,
governments have a role in ensuring that individuals
are aware of their responsibility and of the
consequences of the risk that they are taking. There
is often room for argument about precisely what falls
under this definition. For example, smoking, driving
without a seatbelt or undertaking dangerous sports
are risks that are taken voluntarily and mainly
affect the person taking them.
However, they may also indirectly impose costs on
others, for example to the taxpayer through the cost
of medical treatment.
2.7 Where risks taken voluntarily have direct or
indirect consequences for others for example,
other road users, the taxpayer or the environment
government may intervene through regulation or
other means to limit or control that activity.
Examples include setting road speed limits, or
legislating to require the wearing of seatbelts or to
restrict tobacco advertising. The issues involved are
often complex for example, over the regulation
of tobacco advertising but the political and
legislative processes ensure that any legislation to
restrict activities that involve risk receives proper
2.8 In addition, governments will seek to ensure that
those who impose risks on others bear the cost of the
consequences of the risk.
2.10 In many cases, it will be up to individuals or
businesses to manage their own exposure to such risks
where they have the knowledge or capacity to do so
for example, through the lifestyle they choose
or the investment decisions they take.
4.1.11 The lack of explicitness about risk issues and
their management is a key concern. This undermines
accountability and means that there is often no
auditable trail of judgements about risks, making it
impossible continuously to review risk judgements.
public concerns are likely to increase
significantly where the issues are unfamiliar or
where the consequences inspire dread, regardless of
the likelihood of the hazard. Other studies have
identified that people are more likely to accept or
tolerate risks where they feel that they are taking
them voluntarily or that they have a say in how the
risks are managed.
5.43 Where Departments have policy responsibility for
handling risks that directly affect the public, they
should consider the scope for increasing the
availability of choice to individuals, supported by
relevant information and advice.
Annex 4: key factors when looking at judgements of
Degree of control and is the risk voluntary or
In general, people are more likely to accept the
consequences of risks that they take willingly, and
are therefore within their control, than risks over
which they have no choice.