Expert panel review the regulation of risk across the EU

24 October 2011

On 12 October 2011, the Center for Socio-Legal Studies of the University of Oxford, in partnership with the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society and the British Safety Council, sponsored a panel discussion entitled 'Risk Versus Hazard: Hypocrisy in Policy'.

Professor Denis Galligan introduced proceedings and the panel of experts, which included Professor Ragnar Lofstedt of Kings College; Mark Tyler, the leading health and safety lawyer and partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon; Lynda Armstrong, chair of the trustees of the British Safety Council; and David Bench, HSE director with responsibility for science and chemical regulation.

The purpose of the panel was to shed light on the apparent inconsistency in the classification of risk versus hazard of various products across European Union member states, which has been subject to considerable scrutiny. The debate centred on how to ensure that the regulations coming out of the UK and European Union are based on scientific risk assessments, and addressed the role of courts and tehir relative competence in defining and categorising risk.

It was evident from the discussion that the inconsistency across the EU in risk versus hazard categorisation of products results in wide discrepancies in policy across member states and between regulatory agencies within member states. Consensus from the panel emerged around the need for renewed consideration of European Risk Policy to ensure that categorisation is based on the best available science.

Further conclusions were the importance of educating stakeholders and the public on what a risk assessment actually is, the development of European-wide media guidelines, and the implementation of legislation to ensure that risk assessments and other underlying scientific arguments result from appropriate peer review.