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How Emergency Plans Can Safeguard the Environment


An accident or incident in the workplace such as an explosion or a fire for example can cause serious injury or illness at the outset, which obviously provides a reason for taking suitable precautions in order to prevent it in the first place. However, as well as the initial danger, incidents can also create a chain reaction or produce other situations which will pose a danger to people. Examples include fires which damage storage areas containing hazardous substances and result in the harmful substances escaping, or flooding which not only creates a danger of drowning or being swept away by fast flowing water, but can also create a risk of electrocution as the water comes into contact with electrical wires.

Along with creating a danger to the health and safety of human beings, they can also have a seriously destructive and detrimental effect upon local wildlife and the environment. Just as escaping harmful substances can negatively impact the health and safety of people, they will also have a similar impact upon other biological creatures and plant life. Fires and smoke will not only create the same danger to creatures as they will for humans, but the damage to habitat can result in many animals struggling to survive in the area even after the immediate danger from the fire has been extinguished.

It is therefore imperative that - for the sake of human, plant and animal welfare and wellbeing alike - that steps are taken to reduce the probability of such an incident occurring as far as it is reasonably practical to do so. Whilst nobody wants an emergency situation or accident/disaster to occur - even with comprehensive and robust control systems and health and safety training - there will still exist the possibility of such an event taking place. Safety controls and increased knowledge through environmental training courses like the NEBOSH Environmental Certificate for example can only reduce the chances of an incident occurring, with it being virtually impossible to totally eliminate any possibility whatsoever of it taking place.

Safeguarding the Environment

As far as protecting and safeguarding the environment is concerned, the same processes will apply as they do to other aspects of accident prevention and health and safety insofar as performing thorough risk assessments, introducing stringent controls and monitoring procedures, having staff attend relevant health and safety courses etc. Similarly, environmental emergency plans need to be devised, just as they do for other potential safety incidents, to effectively deal with any emergency situation which may arise despite the best efforts of management.

Health and safety accidents and incidents are not always due to a lack of training and suitably qualified personnel, or insufficient safety controls. Sometimes they are brought about by events which could not reasonably be foreseen, such as certain natural disasters like earthquakes or floods which are far more severe than anything which has occurred in the past.

Why Create an Emergency Plan?

Having an effective emergency plan which is understood by all employees can significantly reduce the impact and severity of any incident, and can be the difference between a minor situation which is speedily contained and an out-and-out disaster unfolding.

This is similarly the case when it comes to environmental emergency plans. Many emergency situations will result in substances being released into the surrounding environment, particularly in the air or into nearby watercourses where it can wreak havoc on creatures who depend on the environment for food, drinking water and shelter. Poisons and toxins released into water can quickly kill fish and other creatures living in it, not to mention killing or affecting the growth of crops taking the contaminated water from the soil. Some chemicals can even find their way into the food of humans when it is contained in the crops which are in turn used for food production.

What will an Environmental Emergency Plan Do?

An effective environmental emergency plan may not be able to prevent a situation occurring, but it will have the ability to significantly lessen the detrimental impacts upon the local environment. The way it does this will depend greatly upon the nature of the incident and what substances are involved, not to mention the geographic location (e.g. on an offshore oil rig, at the top of a mountain, in a residential or urban area etc), but having a comprehensive plan which has been communicated to staff will allow them to understand who is responsible for which action and will allow the measures to be performed in a timely manner, ensuring that no crucial aspect is missed. This can greatly limit the impact and devastation which may otherwise have been imposed upon the environment, lessening the death and destruction that may otherwise have ensued.

Not only will this be beneficial for the environment, but it will also help to save the reputation and brand image of the company which is so key to its future performance and financial success, and is a further example of how health and safety is not just a regulatory requirement which must be grudgingly obeyed, but can provide a positive outcome in terms of saving lives (of all creatures) and for the future trading success of the company.

Related Course

Please see below for more information on the NEBOSH Environmental Certificate:

NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management

The NEBOSH Environmental Certificate, or NEBOSH National Certificate in Environmental Management to give it its full title, is an environmental health and safety course which is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who are responsible for managing environmental issues at their workplace.

The NEBOSH Environmental Certificate qualification focuses on UK law, so is really only suitable for those who are based and operate within the UK.

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