Residual Risk

Can we eliminate every risk in a work process and still finish the process? Maybe if your name is Clark Kent. But for us mere mortals, accepting some risk may be the only way to move the society forward. 

This means that accepting and acknowledging a certain level of risk is an integral part of managing those risk. How do we do that though? This article may provide some useful information. 

Understanding and accepting residual risk  

Residual risk is basically the perceived risk that is left, after preventive and mitigative measures have been implemented. This means that risks have already been identified, assessed and maybe treated – leaving only the decision of whether or not to further treat or handle these risks. 

How do we do that though? In another article we delved into the ALARP principle, and how it can help an organization in assessing risks. That principle can also be implemented when dealing with residual risk. As we know, the ALARP principles primarily deals with the economical aspect of risk acceptance. 

ALARP is not the only way to assess risk acceptance though. These other principles/criteria may also come into play: 

The principle of absolute criteria: 

This principle deals with demands on an individual, organizational or societal level, that must be met. This could for instance be legal requirements or maybe the organization can’t and won’t accept risks, where human lives are at stake.  

The precautionary principle: 

Using the precautionary principle can be a good idea to use, if the amount or quality of scientific data is insufficient in order to assess a potential risk. The principle basically deals with the idea that an organization should prepare for the worst outcome of a specific hazard based on the scientific uncertainty.  

Using these principles, or some of the other that exist, can help determine, whether the residual risk is acceptable or not. 

If it’s acceptable, work can proceed according to plan. If not, further measures must be implemented, or the project may never see the light of day. 


  • Rausand, M. (2011). Risk Assessment – Theory, Methods, and Applications 
  • Njå, O. et al. (2020). Samfunnssikkerhet – Analyse, styring og evaluering 
  • European Parliamentary Research Service. (2015). The precautionary principle – Definitions, applications and governance

About the Author

Emil Blicher

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