By William Rish, PhD  |   August 1st, 2016
My mentor, Dr. Granger Morgan at Carnegie-Mellon University, once taught me to think of environmental risk and risk management as a roomful of bees.  Imagine a roomful of bees, with two doors across from each other. You need to enter through one door, cross the room, and exit through the other door.
The faster you walk (lower exposure duration), the lower the chance of getting stung (risk).  Crossing the room once per week is less risk than once per day (lower exposure frequency). The more your skin is covered (lower exposure surface), the lower the risk. The more bees in the room (higher concentration), the higher the risk.  The more aggressive (higher toxicity) the bees, the higher the risk.
The more sensitive you are to bee stings (sensitive sub-populations), the higher the risk.  The larger the room or the less bees in the room (lower concentration), the lower the risk, if the bees are equally spaced.  But the longer the room, the more time available during your walk (higher exposure duration) to get stung.  If the bees are clustered in the corner (hot spot), your risk is lower if you don't walk near the corner. If you walk around the outside of the room to get to the other side and don’t enter the room, you eliminate the risk, but at a cost.  If you install a screen across the room and keep all bees isolated from the side where you walk (engineered barrier), you eliminate exposure and risk.  If you smoke the room with a beekeeper’s smudge pot (treatment), you lower the risk.  If you open the door and let some bees out before crossing (dilution), you lower the risk.
I am sure you can add more to this simple model, and of course environmental risk can be more complicated, but I have found it is quite helpful for explaining the basic concepts of risk and risk management to the uninitiated.
William Rish, PhD, HullRAC Director
William (Bill) is a Principal and the Vice President of Hull's Environmental Market at Hull.  He also directs The HULL Risk Analysis Center (HullRAC) and has over 30 years of experience in risk assessment, decision analysis, and environmental consulting. 
Bill has been on the forefront of environmental liability evaluation, including the development of probabilistic techniques for quantifying environmental liability associated with contaminated sites in financial terms, and is published expert and expert witness in risk assessment and uncertainty analysis.
Bill received a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie‑Mellon University.
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