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A risk perspective on the concerns raised by the liability of hauling dangerous goods

A risk perspective on the concerns raised by the liability of hauling dangerous goods

Mar 12th, 2015

A risk perspective on the concerns raised by the liability of hauling dangerous goods

Riskope thanks Federico Sasso for participating to this research during his summer 2014 internship.

The recent Trichloroisocyanuric acid fire event in Port Metro Vancouver raised again concerns related to hauling dangerous goods, immediately reinforced by a new series of crude derailments in Canada, US. It is a topic that we are familiar with since Riskope have performed many risk assessment, and calibrated emergency response plans for industries dealing with toxic substances in urban and other environment settings.

In the last couple years we presented at various conferences an holistic comparative view of Nuclear Reactors, Tailings Dams, Highway Tunnel and an Andean Highway and ORE (Optimum Risk Estimates), Riskopes proprietary methodology for risk prioritization and Risk Based Decision Making support.

It is indeed a necessity that the private sector as well as governments, regulatory authorities adequately calibrate communications as well as emergency responses. Too many regulations/communications may indeed generate “cry for wolf” scenarios, whereas not enough lead to loss of credibility, outcry and, at the end, liabilities or loss of the social license to operate.

The picture below depicts a consequences-probability graph typically used to represent different risk scenarios. The 3 Areas red, yellow and green are what many believe societally intolerable, marginally acceptable and acceptable in terms of risk.

US and Canada railway oil accidents

US and Canada railway oil accidents

The figure shows several accidents scenarios defined by their probability of occurrence and their consequences in terms of casualties.

  • Fire related road accident depicts accidents in multi-km mono-tube highways tunnels with poor extant controls,
  • TD79 and TD99 represent tailings dams failures during the 1974-1984, and 1994-2004 period,
  • Scale 5+ Accident relates to catastrophic nuclear accidents of scale 5 or more on the International Nuclear Event Scale,
  • US and Canada Railroad oil accidents the result of a study conducted by Riskope on the basis of public documents last year. The expected number of derailment per year was estimated at 8-10, in good agreement with the recent unreported estimate by the US Dept of Transportation.

For this study Riskope used exclusively publicly available information and were able to frame hydrocarbon trains risks and placed them in perspective with other industries, together with selected social tolerability thresholds (tolerance). We made of course a number of assumptions, but they are transparent and could be adjusted or removed had we had access to more, less fragmentary, information.

The results are extremely interesting and open new ways for understanding and communicating the global industrial risk landscape.

We intend to perform/present the same analysis for pipelines and selected Toxic inhalation hazard (TIH), and, at that point, we will be able to rationally compare risks over even a wider horizon of industries.

If mitigations are decided, in any of those industries, their effects will be measured, using the same procedures, in the coming years. He who can measure can manage and has the means to defend, communicate and protect in the best possible way. We see a lot of companies wasting precious resources to either fix mild or even benign threats, i.e. spending into mitigative measures that are over designed, or, at the other end of the spectrum limiting (biasing) the hazard identification with only credible scenario or with ill-defined terms of hazards scenarios.

What we have learned in the last 20 years of practice is the following:

Before spending any money on “gut reactions” we need to define transparently (for the decision makers at least), what is a tolerable vs. intolerable risk, what is a manageable risk vs. unmanageable one. Invest in mitigation proportionally to the intolerable part of each risk and change the system to cope with unmanageable risks. If you do so not only you will regain confidence from a clear and transparent road map, but you will de-clutter your mitigative programs and build a robust company/project.

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Category: Consequences, Crisis management, Hazard, Mitigations, Optimum Risk Estimates, Probabilities, Risk analysis, Risk management, Tolerance/Acceptability

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