Insights from the EBC Climate Change Program on Preventing Toxic Exposures During Climate Events
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
I recently attended the “EBC Climate Change Program on Preventing Toxic Exposures During Climate Events.” This program provided an overview of the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) and the importance of prevention versus reactive preparedness. It also addressed the impacts of climate change on chemical safety and emergency preparedness, and how this is viewed through an insurance lens, ultimately tying to the bottom line and risk.
Focus on Prevention
Previously, the approach to toxics use and exposure was centered around the notion of “nothing has ever happened/ it can’t happen to me.” Looking forward, this outlook will not prove sufficient. The Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) promoted the idea of prevention at the source (reduce chemical use and storage), versus just preparing to respond to an “inevitable event."
This idea is demonstrated during Toxics Use Reduction Planning, which all environmental professionals in MA are well familiar with, but now there is a new factor to consider – climate change, and how it affects this planning.
Recent hurricanes, floods, and outages have had REAL effects - think dangerous releases and explosions with implications like:
Hydrophobic chemicals being compromised in flooding
Chemicals that require refrigeration losing temperature-controlled environments due to power outages
It is impossible to deny these events are increasing in frequency (and intensity) as we see 100-year storms and floods occurring within decades.
The Right Equation
Toxic Use Reduction Planning + Climate Change Resiliency Planning = Reduced Risk of Industrial Accidents
Proper planning considers all potential risks around a site, not just those of your own site operations. Various tools exist to map these risks. Good preparation and actual implementation of toxics use reduction can have HUGELY positive economic impacts.
Focusing on prevention goes far beyond the obvious factors of mitigating dangerous environmental impacts. Think market share – when operations are offline due to climate change related emergencies, how long until your organization starts to lose market share?
Tips for Emergency Planning
Pre-incident relationship building with first responders is critical
The Fire Department is in charge when they arrive on site for an emergency, let them lead!...but do your part to provide the relevant information to first responders.
Keep in mind the next set of Tier II reports will emphasize site plans and pictures locating key access points, drainage routes, etc.
For more information
Stay tuned for more information regarding this same event CAPACCIO will be hosting with @CMBEN on September 10. If you have any questions regarding this subject matter or require assistance, please contact the author.