Environmental Safety and Health

Environmental safety is a matter of concern for many industries and should be taken seriously by all employers. Manufacturing, construction, farming and the transport industry, in particular, need to be aware of their environmental impacts and the need to comply with both Health and Safety legislation along with environmental safeguards. Most industries should be aware of the impact of their activities on the wider environment and policies covering the use of energy and recycling are often appropriate ways to address environmental safety issues. In industries that can potentially cause damage to the wider environment, through contamination or pollution, the need for effective environmental safety policies and good management of these policies is essential.

Environmental Responsibilities

Understanding the responsibilities employers hold in relation to environmental safety is crucial. For companies, the benefits of understanding and managing the risks of potential environmental issues include ensuring compliance with the law, cost savings which can come in the form of reduced operating costs, risk management and positive reputation with clients and the wider public. In the case of pollution or contamination the costs of insurance in future are likely to rise. Reducing the risk of incidents can therefore save money in the longer term. Pollution, spills and accidents can also leave your company vulnerable to fines and any member of the company (employer or employee) can find themselves liable. In serious cases prison sentences are not out of the question. Effective risk management strategies are excellent ways to reduce the risks of problems in the first place and also give you peace of mind that the risks are minimal. Firms that have adequate policies in place have also been found to act effectively and quickly in the event of problems which in turn often means damage is reduced.

Industries Affected

Environmental safety risks are widespread and can affect most industries. According to the Environment Agency, the most common risks are fuel and oil spills, chemical pollutants, sewage, manure and contamination from detergents. These common environmental pollutants demonstrate that nearly any industry can be the source of environmental pollution. Managing risks is key to ensuring that your company does not contaminate the environment and there are simple steps to creating a good environmental safety policy. Pollution occurs when a source of contamination escapes premises and finds its way into the wider environment. An example of this would be a leak from a fuel tank into drains and eventually to streams, rivers or lakes. Contamination of the environment can have serious implications for the health of your employees and also for the general public.

Emergency Planning and Action

Policies need to be robust and simple to implement; understanding the potential sources of contamination from your business is the first step. Adequate and appropriate storage facilities should be in place for any chemicals, fuels or other potential contaminants. Only suitably trained personnel should have access to storage areas and individuals should be clear on safe handling procedures. For disposal of waste materials, particularly hazardous substances, only authorised carriers should be employed and you should check what is done with these materials to be sure you and your disposal firm comply with the relevant laws. Licences and permits should be in place, where required, and your policy should also include a clear plan of action to ensure that any problems can be dealt with quickly and effectively. Your emergency plan should be subject to regular testing (as with fire drills) and changes made if issues are identified. Premises that are at risk from flooding should be identified and measures put in place to ensure that floods will not result in pollution from materials stored on the site. In addition your fire risk assessments should cover details of any dangerous materials that could present specific risks in the event of a fire.

Environmental Management & Awareness Training

If you would like to learn more about your responsibilities as an employer there are plenty of environmental management and awareness training courses available. The IEMA Certificate in Environmental Management course is suitable for those looking to improve their standard of professional competence in environmental management.

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