Magazine article Risk Management

Accountability versus Security

Magazine article Risk Management

Accountability versus Security

Article excerpt

There has been a lot of talk lately about how certain information on the Web makes us more vulnerable to terrorism. Companies that make and deliver commodities like natural gas, electricity, chemicals and other potentially dangerous materials are checking their Web sites to ensure that the information provided there cannot be used against the company or the public. That is what risk management at its most basic level-protecting people-is all about. It also reveals one of the few gifts offered by September 11: the awareness that risk management is everyone's job.

But this heightened need for security should not be used to conceal information that the public needs to know. Risk managers should ensure that their companies are not being manipulated by knee-jerk hysteria, and should carefully review any attempts to permanently restrict information on their companies' sites. An example not to follow is the environmental protection agency (EPA), which some critics say is overreacting by removing information that poses no serious threat to the public's safety.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget Watch (OMB), an agency that promotes governmental accountability, the EPA has removed risk management plans (RMPs) from the EPA site that are collected under Section 112(r) of the Clear Air Act. These plans provide three elements about chemicals being used in plants: a hazard assessment, a prevention program and an emergency response plan. RMPs created a storm of controversy two years ago when the first round of data was to be posted to the Internet. One section of the RMP provided an off-site consequence analysis (OCA) that required chemical companies to describe what could happen under worst-case scenarios, and chemical companies did not want to disclose that people could be living or working by a place that could harm them. …

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