How To Perform An Environmental Risk Assessment In 10 Easy Steps

Posted 20.10.22 by:

Performing an environmental risk assessment is a serious business. Managing operations that could have environmental consequences is not an easy task.

Many industries and businesses face daily challenges regarding the environment and operating efficiently. Sometimes, a business must make decisions affecting the environment’s ecological health, so the Environmental Risk Assessment is necessary.

Performing an environmental risk assessment, also known as an ERA, is vital to protecting local environments from harm caused by stressors. These stressors might come from pollutants, land management (usage changes), or other sources that directly affect the environment. The ERA is used to determine the stressor’s possible effects and offer mitigating solutions in the form of controls to prevent or remove the possibility of damage to the ecosystem.

No matter the country, most have policies to protect the environment from business actions that could adversely affect life in one form or another. In the United States, the governing body is the EPA, or the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In Canada, it’s the Environmental Protection Tribunal of Canada. In the UK, it’s the Environmental Agency. Every country has its own governing body that will preside over any situation regarding the environment and your business.

Due to the enormous possibilities, an environmental risk assessment can easily become more than daunting. For this reason, we’ve simplified the process to bring you the basic steps you need to take to complete a successful ERA. Let’s dive in.

10 Steps To Performing An Environmental Risk Assessment.

Every ERA will differ from another, depending on the situation’s scope, severity, and complexity. However, there are some general guidelines that most ERAs, if not all, must follow to achieve a complete and successful result.

  1. Get Organized
  2. Analyze Generalities
  3. Determine Stressors
  4. Determine Receptors
  5. Take Immediate Action
  6. Communicate ERA
  7. Consult Specialists
  8. Complete Studies
  9. Analyze Results
  10. Plan Mitigation

We’ll dive into each step in more detail, so stick with us.

Get Organized

Environmental risk assessments generally fall into one of two categories, a risk to human health or ecological systems. Whether your situation falls under (many fall under both), it is best to start by getting organized. Ask yourself questions like:

How will we implement this ERA into day-to-day operations?

Who will perform the various tasks of the ERA, including documentation?

Will you have a coordinator for your ERA who will contact the appropriate testing labs and consulting firms?

The best way to wrap your head around the organization of an ERA is to start with a mock assessment using something like an Environmental Risk Assessment Template. Performing a primary in-house ERA can help point you in the right direction and start your action plan off on the right foot.

Analyze Generalities

Whether performing an in-house assessment or not, it is wise to begin by exploring and analyzing the initial situation or event. For example, if the ERA is called into action due to a request to convert a natural field into a parking lot. One might want to begin by brainstorming and analyzing the possible situation, from moving any threatened species to how you might grade the lot. Will paving interfere with any natural waterways, like a creek passing through the lot?

Take your general situation and begin by analyzing all the possible branches of topics involved which might help steer your IRA in the appropriate direction.

Determine Stressors

You’ve organized your team and are now ready to dig in. You’ve analyzed the intent for the ERA and considered the general actions required for further analysis. Now you’ve got to determine and document the stressors.

According to the EPA, a stressor can be defined as follows: “A stressor is any physical, chemical, or biological entity that can induce an adverse effect in humans or ecosystems.

The stressors are not always visible, such as the case with specific gases, microbes, or microscopic particulates, which is why it’s vital to have your general analysis be as comprehensive as possible. Your team will need to determine the exact stressors if mitigation is to be successful.

Determine Receptors

Similar to determining our stressors, next, we must determine what the receptors are. In an environmental risk assessment, receptors are anything that is adversely affected by stressors. The receptor might include people, animals, flora, fauna, microbes, or other life forms. 

In the case of ecosystem reception, the list of receptors might be pretty vast. The greater the exposure of the contaminate or action on the environment, the greater the receptor base. 

Take Immediate Action

If the ERA is being completed due to a recent or immediate spill or other accident, there may be cause for taking immediate action. Most businesses that have liquid, or other forms of chemicals, often have an Emergency Action Plan with instructions for staff to mitigate spills or other ecologically affecting things. Your team must note any immediate actions on your environmental risk assessment template.

Communicate ERA

After immediate action has taken place, it’s always wise to communicate the incident. Whether you are reporting to upper management or reporting to a local government body to meet legislation or other requirements, it’s always a good idea to communicate with those involved.

Often the communication process at the beginning of an ERA helps to steer the ERA in the appropriate direction. It is accomplished by having your emergency action plan lay out whom to contact in an environmental emergency and who should be involved in the ERA.

Consult Specialists

Gathering information to make informed decisions during an ERA is vital to a comprehensive report. Understanding how stressors affect receptors is often far beyond the grasp of general management. For this reason, intelligent business managers do what they should – they hire competent specialists and professionals whose knowledge is dedicated to understanding biomes, life, and how the stressors might affect receptors in your situation.

Complete Studies

Often with environmental risk assessments, there will be a need for studies to be completed. These might be as simple as local water sampling and testing, or they could be much more complicated such as air particulate sampling at altitude.

Completing scientific studies is often a critical factor in determining the actual damage a stressor might cause to a receptor in the environment. 

Studies are often not cheap endeavors. Like hiring consultants, your business might be looking at costs upwards of tens of thousands, depending on the nature of the consultancy.

Suppose your business is looking for a basic site study risk assessment, like the earlier example about making a field into a parking lot. In that case, you can likely hire an ERA firm that will cost between $1500 and $6000 for the study/assessment. (source)

Analyze Results

After all consultancies, tests, studies, research, and investigations are complete, it will be time to analyze the results. Is the project feasible? Can an accident be mitigated? Your team will need to heed the results of the consultants and draw a conclusion based on empirical evidence presented from the studies and tests.

Plan Mitigation

What would any investigation be without a plan of mitigating action?

Following your environmental risk assessment is likely the essential phase – planning the actions to mitigate or remove the risks. Without the ERA, you cannot make an informed decision based on evidence and science; and you need that information to make a plan of action.

Planning how your business will remove, mitigate, and solve the issue of environmental risk exposure is vital to legislative compliance and the success of reducing stress and strain on the environment. That action makes your company greener, removing liability for environmental damage and essentially ensuring your business is a part of the greater solution instead of the problem.

Tips For Managing Risk Assessments

Managing your risk assessments can be a complicated task. It is especially true when your firm performs multiple assessments regularly. Assessment documentation can be misplaced, writing difficult or even illegible to read (any doctors are reading this – take note), and documents can be incomplete and often improperly addressed or filed.

What if you could keep all your risk assessments organized digitally without spending days scanning paperwork? Kindly allow us to introduce to you the solution – the 1st Reporting mobile software reporting solution, its

Using a digital reporting solution helps your business to increase efficiency, increase the organization of reports, improve document retrieval for review and other purposes, and also helps your inspectors, auditors, and assessors to complete their documentation in an exceedingly easy way for all to read – without the need for writing a single thing on a single piece of paper.

Not only do you do away with the old-fashioned print-and-write papering mentality, but you can also take advantage of some of the app’s other great features. With customizable notifications, you can ensure that the right people are informed at the right time upon completion of their audit or report. Imagine getting notified the moment your assessor completes their ERA. It’s easy setup with the 1st Incident Reporting app – available on Google Play and Apple App Store.

One of the other great features many of our clients enjoy using the app is the ability to streamline and automate complicated processes. For example, do your staff know the exact steps to take during an emergency incident? With a digital, cloud-based solution like ours, you can set up a customized template, such as a checklist that you can instruct your staff to follow and complete when an incident occurs.

It ensures that your staff never forget a step in a procedure again – and you can get an instant notification to the right manager when your staff submits their checklist. So you see, it’s so much more than just a digital reporting app that can help you make your environmental risk assessment efficient and comprehensive. It’s a tool that can help you streamline multiple aspects of your business and operations. Try it today for free at 1st Reporting.

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