Ken Cole, BSc, MSc, FICE. This paper was first published in GE’s May 1987 edition.
In the course of undertaking an advisory role a geotechnical engineer may be faced with making a recommendation to a Client, either that treatment is needed to stabilise a site to prevent future problems with subsidence, or that treatment is not needed because subsidence (if any) will not cause problems.
The final decision on whether or not to undertake preventative treatment should be taken by the Client, who has the ultimate responsibility for balancing benefits (e.g. lower costs) against liabilities (e.g. work people being injured). Nevertheless, in presenting recommendations based upon our assessment of the technical aspects of a situation, we (the geotechnical engineer) should have at least as good a knowledge of the meaning of risk, and understanding of how to assess it, as is available to our Client. It will enhance our credibility if we are able to present our case in terms which are understood and relate to everyday experience.