Are European national risk prevention regulations reflecting different cultural attitudes towards risk? This article replies positively to this question by elaborating the results of an investigation led between 2004 and 2008 by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The investigation focused on the European national implementations of Article 12 of Directive Seveso II on Dangerous Substances (96/82/EC) and aimed at providing an overview of different methodological approaches to the matter of land use planning in areas subject to the risk of major accidents. Five countries were selected for in-depth analysis and comparison. This article focuses on one aspect of their different approaches to land use planning in at-risk areas that was not considered by the European investigation: the influence of national cultural backgrounds on the implementation of Article 12 within the respective national legislations and practices. To explain whether different cultural orientations may have affected them, the article refers to one cultural index in particular, namely the uncertainty-avoidance index (UAI) proposed by the Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede. This index provides a key of reading of the different methodological orientations adopted for regulating land uses in the vicinity of hazardous establishments in these countries; by applying it, the study demonstrates that different cultural attitudes towards uncertainty may be a determinant factor in the approaches to and the regulation of the matter of hazardous facility siting. In the conclusions, the regulatory as well as ethical implications of this finding are discussed.
- major accident hazards