Speaking at the British Dam Society’s 14th biennial conference, Ian Hope, the Environment Agency’s Technical Manager for Reservoir Safety, announced details of a Post-Incident Reporting System (PIRS) to help inform the reservoir industry about what incidents have happened and how they were dealt with.

Hope said: ‘Since legislation was introduced in 1930, the UK safety record for dams has been good. But learning from the experiences of those handling accidents and emergencies has been shared on a purely ad hoc basis.’

He also urged reservoir owners (undertakers) and panel engineers (specialist engineers) to comment on the proposed system ahead of its introduction in January 2007.

The EA has been working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to develop PIRS.

‘Appreciating that other potentially hazardous industries have formal reporting systems we, Defra and WAG have recognised the need for something similar in the reservoir industry and we want to hear what people think,’ said Hope. ‘We will then use the comments to fine tune the system before it comes on line.’

Although the number of incidents on UK dams is comparatively low, reservoir structures can move with the seasons, deteriorate with age and be affected by natural forces such as earth tremors. This can lead to various consequences from minor leaks to major flooding.

From January 2007, undertakers can call the Environment Agency’s Reservoir Safety Team to volunteer details of an incident. Panel engineers will also be encouraged to support the system by providing information as part of their regular reservoir inspections.

Hope added: ‘No one will be legally required to give information because we would rather develop a successful system where people feel able to report freely.’

In straightforward incidents, details will be taken down in a 10 to 15-minute phone call but, in more complex cases, the EA may offer to send a panel engineer to the site to discuss events in more depth.

Details about incidents and the lessons that have been learned will be published through a regular bulletin to undertakers and panel engineers, direct communication with the industry and via the EA’s website.

The EA took over responsibility for ensuring the largest reservoirs in England and Wales comply with safety legislation – the Reservoirs Act 1975 – in October 2004.

During that time, non-compliance – such as failure to carry out regular safety inspections – has been cut by 60% on the 2000 reservoirs with a 25,000m3 – plus capacity that are subject to the Act.

Anyone wishing to comment on the PIRS should email reservoirs@environment-agency.gov.uk.

External weblinks

Environment Agency