Published 27 Oct 2021
What is an Environmental Risk Assessment?
An environmental risk assessment (ERA) identifies potential environmental hazards caused by a business and determines its likelihood or probability to negatively affect various aspects of the environment such as living organisms, natural habitats, and ecosystems. By doing so, organizations are informed and able to take precautions in reducing those risks. Performing an environmental risk assessment also helps a business conform with environmental policies and regulations. In some cases, it has helped determine common hazards from a business such as improper chemical waste disposal, air and water pollution, and soil contamination. Carrying out an environmental risk assessment involves the following 6 steps: 1) problem identification; 2) hazard characterization; 3) exposure characterization; 4) risk characterization; 5) documenting the assessment and implementing precautions; and 6) monitoring at regular intervals.
Use this comprehensive environmental risk assessment to evaluate any hazards present in your workplace that can cause harm to the surrounding environment. Start with a general problem formulation which states what and who needs to be protected from harm. Next list the hazards observed at work. You may take a photo of the hazards to provide evidence. Record information about the possible effects on the environment if these risks are not mitigated. Also, determine the probability of exposure. Lastly, provide some control measures and the overall risk assessment. Complete the audit by affixing a digital signature.
This article will discuss the following:
- Importance of Performing Environmental Risk Assessments
- Environmental Risk Assessment Example
- How is Risk Assessment Used in Environmental Decision Making?
- 6 Steps to an Effective Environmental Risk Assessment
- Using Technology to Improve Environmental Risk Assessments
We feature 4 of the best environmental risk assessment templates you can download for free and customize based on your business needs. Perform more effective environmental risk assessments on-site. Spend less time recording risks and more time fixing them.
Environmental risk assessments are important because they help businesses assess how their operations affect the environment so they can mitigate or eliminate any negative impact. Key contributing business activities that are potentially harmful to the environment include improper disposal of chemicals, heavy usage of air polluting equipment and machinery, asbestos handling, soil contamination, and industrial noise. Mining, manufacturing, and construction industries are especially recognized as main contributors to water, air, and soil pollution.
Employers should carry out thorough risk assessments and inspections to develop a good Environmental Management System (EMS) and ensure that businesses operate without any contributing factors that may cause harm to the environment. Here’s an example of a business doing just that:
Some of our processes emit harmful chemicals and pollutants. Parts of the factory are also being renovated or demolished.
What needs to be protected from harm:
We want to protect the nearby community from acquiring any health risks.
Probability of Exposure to Hazard: High
Severity: Long-term illness
Risk Rating: High
Remove any asbestos-containing materials safely. Communicate asbestos hazards to workers. Use proper work practices and controls to limit exposures.
Environmental decision making is the process of implementing changes based on the risks identified in environmental risk assessment. Though environmental decision making is often used to refer to the act of creating and/or enforcing environmental laws, the term also applies to actions taken by a business to lessen their environmental impact.
Here are examples of how risk assessment is used in environmental decision making, based on a publication by the European Environment Agency and adapted to fit a business use-case:
- Determine acceptable levels of risk to identify which areas of business operations need the most regulation. Regulation in this context can include adding more enforcers (employees who have been tasked to enforce certain rules or practices) or safeguards against going beyond acceptable levels of risk (such as a notification system when a limit is reached).
- Differentiate environmental risks of tasks, teams, offices, or departments. Environmental risks are unlikely to be the same for the entire business, especially across sites. Performing environmental risk assessments would help the business form specialized strategies for different types of environmental risk.
Here are 6 steps to help you perform an effective Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA):
- Step 1: Problem Formulation – the most critical step where risk managers define the scope of an ERA by identifying what needs to be protected from harm
- Step 2: Hazard Characterization – examining the potential environmental hazards present in the workplace or site
- Step 3: Exposure Characterization – identifying what and who is at risk
- Step 4: Risk Characterization – combining hazard and exposure characterization results and then assessing the risk
- Step 5: Documentation – recording the results of the assessment and implementing precautions
- Step 6: Monitoring – reviewing the assessment at regular intervals
Performing an ERA can be a cumbersome process requiring significant documentation and on-site gathering of evidence. This is where technology and modern mobile applications can assist.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a powerful form building app that converts your risk assessment forms into mobile inspection applications. iAuditor’s intuitive system enables assessors to do the following:
- capture high-quality data including photo evidence faster and easier;
- automate notifications set according to predetermined risk thresholds in order to proactively address environmental risks;
- instantly generate detailed reports on-site and automate recordkeeping; and
- synchronize iAuditor with other monitoring tools such as sensors for remote automated monitoring of environmental hazards.
To save you time, we have built these environmental risk assessment templates you can download immediately to start using. All templates are 100% customizable – no programming skills required. iAuditor is free to use for small teams and offers advanced features for premium plans– view pricing and features.
Download Free & Customizable Environmental Risk Assessment Templates
This template focuses on 4 major environmental hazards: odour, noise and vibrations, emissions and structural ground. Determine if your workplace is free from these risks by answering “Safe or At Risk”. If it is “At Risk” then conduct a thorough risk assessment to evaluate if these hazards exist in the workplace. A risk matrix is also available for your reference.
This basic environmental risk assessment template is fully customizable to suit your business needs. All members of your organization should have an access to this template to report any potential hazards in a timely manner. Use iAuditor to electronically send reports with the convenience of using your hand-held devices.
Based on information provided by the New South Wales (NSW) Ministry of Health, this environmental health risk assessment can help risk assessors/risk managers do the following:
- Identify the adverse health effects that are likely to occur in humans from exposure to a chemical or other substance
- Describe the likelihood and severity of the adverse health effects in relation to the amount and type of exposure to the substance
- Estimate the magnitude, frequency, and duration of exposure to the chemical or other substance in the environment
- Discuss the size, nature, and types of human populations exposed to the substance
- Include statements on the nature and presence or absence of risks, information about how risks were assessed, and where assumptions and uncertainties still exist