Environmental Risk Assessments Should Consider All Situations
It is all very well to perform environmental risk assessments or indeed a risk assessment for any area of potential danger or damage when considering normal conditions, but thought must also be given to potential factors and issues which may take place or arise. In fact, these unexpected conditions or influences can often bring about the greatest disasters and damaging accidents which affect the environment and the safety, health and wellbeing of people in the local vicinity.
Examples of exceptional and unusual occurrences include:
Natural events which can cause damage to buildings and structures such as nuclear reactors or the storage tanks of hazardous substances. Once damaged, toxic material can be expelled in an explosion or leak out onto the surrounding ground and into watercourses.
Fire. Precautions need to be put into place not only to prevent the outbreak of fire, but also to prevent an environmental incident should one take place. This can include reinforcing storage areas with fire-proof materials, or locating materials or substances which can have significant negative effects upon the environment away from sources of ignition or other flammable items.
Worker Mistakes. Procedures that are in place may be sufficient when followed correctly, but there are also likely to be times when workers make mistakes and either do something which they should not, or forget to do something. Whilst it will in all likelihood be impossible for any organisation to cover every potential eventuality and worker action (or inaction), the company should try and introduce as many safeguards as possible which either alert an employee to the issue so that they can take action, or systems which automatically correct and prevent incidents such as shutting down machinery or venting gas/steam to prevent explosions.
Sabotage or Terrorism. Places of work which have a lot of hazardous material on site that can damage the environment can often be in the national interest too, performing functions such as electricity generation or weapons production. As such, they may be targets for those who wish to cause disruption for that particular country. These sites need to ensure that they have suitable security measures in place to prevent unauthorised access to the premises, as well as creating thorough and well-rehearsed emergency procedures to prevent or at worst limit damage to the environment as well as addressing the safety of everyone in the area.
Power Failure. Processes and safety features such as automated shut-offs may function perfectly, but if they are all powered by electricity from the mains what happens if that electricity supply fails? The introduction of back-up generators which provide emergency electricity when mains power fails is a way of mitigating this potential cause of a problem.