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  • History of Risk Engineering and Management

    Nadine Cranenburgh


    This page provides an outline of the historical context of risk engineering and management.

    Risk Management

    Possibly the earliest evidence of risk management to increase the chances of success in the face of obstacles is from 2,500 years ago. In The Art of War, Ancient Chinese philosopher and General Sun Tzu documents the need for Military Generals to carry out comprehensive threat assessments of their surrounding environment in order to understand their probability of winning a battle. This includes extensive discussion of planning for risk.

    Around the 13th century, probability theory emerged as a means of better understanding the probability of winning in games or gambling.

    Four centuries later, European trade merchants frustrated about the high risk and uncertain nature of sea journeys devised insurance strategies to  hedge against the risk of merchant ships not returning from travel.

    After World War II the world moved into the globalisation era, where large organisations expanded to take advantage of international sales opportunities. This led to soaring insurance premiums as companies were exposed to more risk and uncertainty. In response, global organisations started to look for ways to ‘self-insure’ through improved internal risk management. This spawned the Internal Control and Enterprise-Wide Risk Management disciplines.

    In the present day, risk management is a commonly accepted management discipline. It is considered a critical component of most forms of strategic and operational management, in a wide range of professional specialisations, engineering disciplinesapplication categories and industries.


    The information on this page was primarily drawn from:


    Edited by Nadine Cranenburgh

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    In the late 1970s a leading group of engineering practitioners including Derek Viner worked within EA to form a Risk national panel. In the early 1980s the panel grew to become a Society of Engineers Australia.

    From its early beginnings in Victoria it grew to have chapters in Canberra, New South Wales and Queensland with solid committees operating CPD programs each year by chapter.

    The RES grew nationally under the able leadership of Jim Whiting, Andre Mierzwa, Ian Thomas, Greg Balka, Brian Truman and others including the current RES President (yours truly) Geoff Hurst.

    Biennial RISK National conferences have been held in various states over the years with memories of a National conference in Melbourne around 1990. These have been well attended and with high quality papers being presented.

    The REBOK was formalised in 2009 and has progressed to its current status under various leaders of the Risk Engineering Community of Practice.

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