Geo-Risk seminar — 21st October 2008

A seminar held on Tuesday 21 October 2008 at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth

  • what we understand by risk?
  • how to assess risk?
  • who should assess that risk?

Parts of the BGS are considering supplying risk assessment services. The Geo-Risk seminar provided a framework to develop an integrated service approach to understand what work is appropriate for BGS, what help we need, and who can best provide it.

Presentations and posters gave insight into the views of BGS staff and guests from academia, government and industry. Examples of geohazard and geo-risk assessment work were presented and views on where geologists fit into the risk assessment process were discussed.

Abstracts Presentation Download Lead author Organisation
Introduction Yes J Walsby BGS
Earthquake Risk in Europe Yes Dr B Baptie BGS
Environmental Pollution Risk Ranking - ConSEPT  Yes S Quigley BGS
Groundwater – how risky is it? Yes A McKenzie BGS
Hazard and risk in planning for development in England Yes Dr B Marker Independent Consultant
Lesser Antilles: good communication in volcanic risk assessment Yes Dr J Barclay UEA
Regulating risk – who knows what is (un)acceptable? No Prof P Nathanail University of Nottingham
Risk assessment of offsite migration of landfill gas Yes T Vounaki BGS
Shallow Geohazards and Risks Yes Dr T Cooper BGS
BGR's role in geohazard / georisk assessment  Yes Dr D Balzer BGR
Volcanic Risk Yes Prof S Sparks Bristol University
Poster Title Poster Download Lead author Organisation
Communicating uncertainty: geomagnetic field estimates: directional drilling Yes S Macmillan BGS
From geoscience data to hazard assessments and safer development Yes J Walsby BGS
Geomagnetic hazards to the Scottish Power network Yes S Reay BGS
Improving the understanding of the risk from groundwater flooding Yes D M J Macdonald BGS
Long term volcanic hazards: volcano distribution databases: Japan Yes S Mahony Bristol University
Role of BGS Enquiries involving risk to land/property Yes A Brown BGS
Shrink-swell hazard assessment: spatial data; topsoil texture; volume change Yes L Jones BGS
Volcanic Risk Reduction: Tristan da Cunha Yes Anna Coulbeck UEA

Defining hazard and risk

An important part of the day was to identify if geoscientists, and others we may want to work with, have the same understanding of the terms hazard and risk. There was a general consensus but some concern over these terms being used interchangeably. Below are some example definitions for consideration:

Succinct definitions

In Hazards and Risks in the Workplace from Health, Environment & Work

Hazard — is the potential to cause harm
Risk — is the likelihood of harm
It is important to distinguish between hazard and risk.

Detailed definitions

In Hazards of Nature, Risks to Development from an Evaluation of World Bank Assistance for Natural Disasters

Hazard — A potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon, or human activity that may cause loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption, or environmental degradation.

Risk — The probability of harmful consequences, or expected losses (deaths, injuries, property and livelihood loss, economic activity disrupted or environment damaged) resulting from interactions between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerable conditions.

Vulnerability — The conditions determined by physical, social, attitudinal, economic, and environmental factors or processes that increase the susceptibility of a community to the impact of hazards.

Risk analysis / assessment — A methodology to determine the nature and extent of risk by analyzing potential hazards and evaluating existing conditions of vulnerability that could pose a potential threat or harm to people, property, livelihoods, and the environment on which they depend.


Contact Matt Harrison, Head of Information Products for more information about the Geo-Risk Seminar or future BGS risk related work proposals.