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Environmental Incident Reporting
Environmental Incidents are something no one wants to have to deal with and in an ideal world there would not be any at all. Of course, in order for that to eventuate everyone would need to take full responsibility in overseeing their areas and always be alert or so you might think. Unfortunately, even with people doing their best, accidents are still able to happen, and it is important to remember that the weather along with most of nature is still outside of our control. So, if and when an incident does occur containment/clean-up has to happen, and a report(s) must be completed to inform those in charge about what went wrong and to assist with developing actions to be put in place in order to stop it from happening again.
What constitutes an Environmental incident?An event is considered to be an environmental incident when there is damage or potential damage to the natural environment, humans or animals. This can be a minor incident in which the effect is limited and contained in an area. They can also be classified as major incidents in which there is ongoing or extensive contamination. There are a number of different ways in which the damage can or has the potential to occur such as, chemicals and raw sewage leaking into water ways, noise pollution (the definition for this can be wide and varied as it is classified as any loud/repetitive or generally unwanted noise), smoke in the air (which can affect breathing and cause all manner of related issues in humans and animals) and oil leaking on/in the ground which can be devastating to flora and fauna.
What types of incidents are there?There are two different types of environmental incident 'Natural' and 'Non-natural'. Natural incidents include tornados, earthquakes, fires, floods etcetera. They can also be linked to diseases that affect humans, plants and animals. Non-natural incidents include the aforementioned chemical spills, industrial based fires and radioactive waste escaping from its containment area/device are all examples of an environmental incident.
ReportingReporting will vary due to several factors including company policy, the area the site is on and the type of work that is taking place, sometimes a verbal report will be required as well as a written report. If a Verbal report is required, they are usually required much sooner than a written report, a written report however is always necessary. Written reports can be done on paper, they can also be completed via an app or other electronic means such as through a web-based form. There are definite pluses and minuses to each approach, and they should be researched to determine which is the best fit for the company.
Despite the different approaches that a company might take towards reporting, all systems have important elements in common for completing an environmental incident report, such as:
- Time and date that the incident occurred or if this isn't known then the time and date that the incident was first noticed should be recorded.
- Who was the person who identified the incident?
- What actually was the incident? (this may seem obvious; however, it is easy to overlook.)
- What steps have been taken or will be taken to prevent this same incident or others like it from occurring in the future?
- Who has been told about the incident?
- Who is the author of the report?
- Where has the authorisation for the report come from?
- Categorisation of the incident (See above). It is important to understand that relevant incident categories will vary depending on the company, region and Occupational Health and Safety requirements. So, for this section it is important to refer to the relevant policies as there is likely to be differing classification requirements for recording depending on the type of incident as well as the previously mentioned sections.
Environmental incidents are a serious matter as are the accompanying reports. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the different types and what actually constitutes an incident and what does not. In addition, it is important to know what information is required when reporting as having the report be as accurate as possible removes any ambiguity towards the danger it represents, allowing action to be taken to resolve and prevent the incident from happening in the future.