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How can I do an aspects and impacts assessment?

13 April 2016

There are a number of reasons why you might carry out an aspects and impacts assessment.  If you have an environmental permit or an Environmental Management System certified to ISO 14001, you will need to complete an assessment.  You may also choose to complete one to help with your compliance obligations, identify areas for improvement and or to prioritise areas for action.  This blog will look at how to complete a successful assessment of your aspects and impacts.

What are aspects and impacts?

According to ISO 14001, an aspect is an element of your organisations activities, products or services that can interact with the environment, whereas an impact is the change to the environment.  This change can be adverse or beneficial and wholly or partially resulting from your aspects.  Put simply, it is cause and effect.  An aspect is what you do that can affect the environment and the impact is what that effect is.

Identifying activities and aspects

First of all, you must list all of your activities.  This must include everything you do from day to day to annual activities.  Then you can start looking at the risks, very similar to a health and safety assessment.  For each activity, you want to think what is it about what you do that can be a risk to the environment.  Don’t forget, at this stage, you’re just looking at the causes but will need to think about normal, abnormal and emergency situations.  For example, emissions from transport happen all the time but a diesel spillage will only happen in an emergency.  Make sure you capture everything.

Identify your impacts

The next step is to assess the aspects you have identified and think about what the impacts of them are or might be.  At this stage, you might want to think about worst case scenarios.  If you know what the worst thing is, you can put steps in place to manage it.  For example, a diesel spillage getting into a river could kill all the fish.  As unlikely as that might be, you need to consider it.  You also need to think about the bigger issues that your activities contribute to, for example climate change.

What controls do you have in place?

You should think about what you have in place to help prevent or mitigate aspects happening (e.g. the ones caused by emergencies) and prevent severe environmental damage.  This could be measures including training, procedures in place or emergency equipment.  It’s important to know what you already have to be able to prioritise areas that need attention.

Once you have done this assessment, it is important to rate your aspects and impacts according to their significance.  Next weeks blog will focus on this.

There are a number of reasons why you might decide to carry out an aspects and impacts assessment but it is very important that is covers the full breadth of your organisations activities, products and services.  Even if you have already completed an assessment, it should be regularly reviewed to ensure continual relevance, especially if activities or controls have changed.  Have you recently reviewed your aspects and impacts assessment?  Does it cover everything?

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