How Do I Carry Out an Environmental Risk Assessment

Environmental management should take a risk based approach.  There are some prescriptive environmental management requirements and some good practice guidelines, but your policies, procedures, preventative controls and emergency procedures should be informed by the individual risks that your business presents.  This blog will discuss how you can go about conducting a comprehensive risk assessment to inform your controls to manage environmental risks.

What activities do you do?

An environmental risk assessment of your business should cover anything and everything that you do.  This should include what happens during the work day, any overnight activities, day to day activities and those you carry out less often.  You should make sure to include all departments and activities, including those carried out by subcontractors.  You can also consider your supply chain and product use and end of life.

What are the environmental impacts?

After identifying all your activities, you need to determine their environmental impacts.  According to ISO 14001 (the international standard for environmental management) an environmental impact is a change to the environment, adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organisations activities, products or services.  For each activity, you will need to identify what could change the environment and what the change could be.  For example, when storing waste, it could escape and cause pollution. You want to identify everything at this stage, no matter how small or unlikely.

What are the risks?

Risks can be assessed in a number of ways.  You can evaluate how likely something is to happen, how severe the environmental damage would be, what would be affected e.g. protected habitats or neighbours, whether there are legislative controls that are applicable or if suitable controls are in place.  You need to establish the criteria for assessing against and a way for deciding if risks are significant.  You can then rate all activities that you carry out to determine if they present a significant environmental risk and take the necessary action.

What controls are in place?

You should identify the controls that are already in place to control the risks that you have identified and assess them.  You should determine whether these controls are sufficient to manage the risk to an acceptable level or not.  In cases where the controls are not sufficient or not in place, you should develop an action plan to make the necessary changes.  You will need to identify the most effective solution, taking into account the risk, legislative requirements and cost implications.  The action plan should include actions to implement the control, who is responsible and the timescale for completing the task.

Carrying out an environmental risk assessment is essential to ensure that you are aware of your specific hazards and to make sure they are controlled appropriately to reduce the likelihood of an environmental incident.  Once this has been completed, actions should be implemented to improve controls where required and the risk assessment should be regularly reviewed to ensure it remains accurate.