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Risk Assessments for Your Environmental Permit

Environmental risk assessments are critical for maintaining safe working and environmental conditions. They allow for efficient, healthy operation and ensure facilities comply with government regulations. Environmental permits cannot be granted without a comprehensive risk assessment and hazards are more likely to occur.

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Reasons Why Risk Assessments Are Important

Environmental risk assessments are essential for evaluating and cataloging the potential stressors and environment might face. Invasive species, land-use change, disease and chemicals are all potential stressors caused by an operation that could affect the environment.

All the environmental risks and hazards associated with an operation could have a massive impact on the area, temporarily or permanently altering its ecosystem. Preventing these stressors from affecting the area helps protect the environment and its inhabitants.

While exact regulations vary by location, most facilities are subject to some form of environmental regulation. These regulations cover hazardous waste and materials generation and storage, air quality emissions, contaminated land, and wastewater and stormwater discharges. Facilities must meet regulation standards and are liable for fines and penalties if they fail to comply with these regulations or violate them.

Benefits of Proactive Risk Assessments

The importance of risk assessments is one of many reasons to conduct them. While they’re required of your facilities, they also offer many benefits. Proactive reviews help protect the environment and improve operations.

Benefits of Proactive Risk Assessments

Proactive risk assessments work to:

  • Reduce costs: It’s much less expensive to put protections in place than to fund clean-ups. Once the damage is done, it will need funding, workers, legal documentation and new prevention measures. All of these increase the cost of environmental management much more than performing a proactive assessment and putting preventative measures in place.
  • Spot hazards: An assessment identifies and advises controls for potential hazards. Without a thorough evaluation, risks could slip by unnoticed until they become significant issues damaging the environment and facility.
  • Educate employees: Risk assessment results can be used to educate employees about the procedures and hazards they should be aware of while on the job. Better-educated employees will work more safely and remain healthier with environmental risk education.
  • Prevent incidents: When a facility knows what to watch out for and has the proper procedures in place, it reduces workplace incidents.
  • Create standards: Without a risk assessment, a facility has no baseline standards for safe operation. After assessment completion, facilities can set safety standards that establish safe legal procedures.

How to Implement an Effective Risk Assessment

Implementing risk assessments for environmental permits requires attention to detail, knowledge of current legal requirements and a detailed plan. With the right consulting, risk assessments are effective, thorough and efficient.

An effective risk assessment prepares an operating for risks and works to prevent harm later on. Breaking down each step of the process creates a more complete, accurate risk assessment for facilities.

1. Understanding Potential Risks and Hazards

Assessments will start with an investigation into the potential risks created by a facility’s operation. Consider:

  • Substances and chemicals
  • How work is completed
  • What measures are in place for safety
  • What measures need to be added
  • Environmental maintenance goals
  • Data and methods used to identify and analyze hazards

Additionally, looking at past illness and incident records reveals existing hazards that need addressing. While the day-to-day operation needs analysis, other work like cleaning, production changes and maintenance also needs risk evaluation. Employees, workers and visitors have different experiences in the facility — account for each of their risks.

2. Identifying the Hazards and Risk Factors

Once where to look and what to assess are established, the risk assessment identifies the operation’s hazards. The above understanding criteria are used to determine the risks and dangers of a site.

An evaluation will review an operation’s details and highlight the risks associated with each step and procedure. Chemical identification, vulnerable workers, hazard interaction points and more require identification. Without risk identification, prevention and protection procedures cannot be established.

3. Evaluating the Risk Factors and Developing Action Plans

After identification, risks require estimation and description. Assessments will measure the exposure level for each hazard and evaluate data on how the exposure level affects groups. After collecting risk data, the assessment breaks down expected harmful effects, variations, data gaps and necessary comparisons. Once the risk factors are understood and quantified, action planning begins.

Establishing action plans for each risk allows facilities to protect against likely hazards. With data gathered from the assessment, procedures can be drawn up for addressing, preventing and handling risks. Working with an experienced team to create an action plan allows facilities to form effective steps for achieving their goals.

4. Establishing Monitoring and Reporting Protocols

Once risks are assessed and categorized, facilities must create and implement protocols for monitoring and reporting hazards. While action plans help establish prevention methods, each operation requires ongoing hazard observation to prevent issues from occurring. Extensive testing of monitoring and reporting plans is vital for their success.

Each risk has its own process change for reducing its impact and a response plan for handling risks when they occur. Standard operating procedures need regular updating and oversight for the most effective protection. There should be a record of all data used, and the monitoring plan must assess the current system regularly to ensure it is reducing risk.

Finally, reporting protocols should inform shareholders and other essential parties of the risk plan’s effectiveness. Reporting improves confidence in the operation and creates transparency. Displaying commitment to risk reduction and the plan’s success enhances a facility’s hazard handling.

5. Setting Up Internal Auditing Procedures

Internal audits establish internal checks, evaluating the organization’s risk mitigation procedures and success. These audits keep the organization on track and reaffirm the facility’s control over environmental, health and safety risks. Internal auditors are hired by management but should be trained by the Institute of Internal Auditors for effective, thorough evaluations.

Establishing an internal auditing process requires careful planning for maximum effectiveness and transparency. Procedures should follow these basic steps:

  1. Identify audit area: The risk areas should be identified for the auditor, along with any processes, policies and procedures needing review.
  2. Establish frequency: Each department has different requirements for audit frequency. Establish how often each area needs auditing and create a calendar for the company. Audits should be incorporated into the permanent schedule and discussed as corporate objectives.
  3. Alert departments: Inform departments of the audit — doing so allows them to prepare documents and material necessary for the audit.
  4. Prepare auditor: Auditors should have all the information on the department, policies, procedures and review items before their audit begins.
  5. Interview employees: Auditors will interview employees as part of the audit. Employee evaluation ensures their understanding and effectiveness on the job.
  6. Report: Once the audit is documented and provided to the organization, it should be reported to any essential parties. If there are any shortcomings, a plan must be implemented to improve these results.

Effective Risk Assessment With TRC

Effective Risk Assessment With TRC

Evaluating and managing risks allows facilities to run safely and effectively while adhering to required regulations. Hazard documentation and reduction protect the environment, employees and organization from unnecessary risks and complications. While risk assessments establish hazards ad help implement mitigation tactics, ongoing risk management is critical for remaining regulation-compliant and maintaining a safe facility.

TRC’s environmental compliance specialists will work with your company to establish strong foundations, compliance and response measures for better risk management. Our environmental site assessments offer detailed insight into potential risks, corrective procedures and ongoing management. We’ll help you go above and beyond your environmental, social and governance goals to reduce community impact and hazard occurrences.

If you require specialized environmental risk assessment, contact us today.

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