The Challenges of Emergency Risk Regulation
Edited by Alberto Alemanno
Chapter 7: Paradigms Lost: Emergency Safety Regulation under Scientific and Technical Uncertainty
JOBNAME: Alermanno PAGE: 3 SESS: 5 OUTPUT: Tue Sep 6 13:22:57 2011 7. Paradigms lost: emergency safety regulation under scientiﬁc and technical uncertainty Vincent Brannigan 7.1 INTRODUCTION: VOLCANIC ASH 2010 The 2010 shutdown of European airspace exposed critical failures in corporate planning and the international safety regulatory process. After 25 years of work technical regulators had developed a widely publicized regulatory response to a very predictable hazard. The ofﬁcial guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization was not to ﬂy in volcanic ash. Yet when the Icelandic eruption occurred, transport dislocations and business pressure led to a rapid abandonment of the ‘no-ﬂy’ safety regime in a few days. Rapidly approved, legally permitted levels of ash were then trumpeted as ‘safe levels’ by the various airlines. To date there is little or no published scientiﬁc evidence justifying the claim of safety. Some members of the airline community are even proposing a covert approval process that would eliminate any public examination of future ash safety evidence. When society regulates a technology it interacts with the technology developers to create a series of expectations and beliefs that can be described as paradigm. The entire ash event is best understood in terms of a paradigm shift in the technological frames used by the airspace safety community. The volcanic ash crisis has important lessons to all those who regulate in an environment of technological and scientiﬁc uncertainty. In a ‘crisis management environment’ well-connected parties can ﬁnd that exploiting...
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