An analysis of environmental incidents for a national Antarctic program
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-26, 10:06 authored by Shaun Brooks, Jabour, J, Sharman, A., Bergstrom, DM
Research stations in Antarctica are concentrated on scarce ice-free habitats. Operating these stations in the harsh Antarctic climate provides many challenges, including the need to handle bulk fuel and cargo increas- ing the risk of environmental incidents. We examined 195 reports of environmental incidents from the Aus- tralian Antarctic Program, spanning six years, to investigate the impacts and pathways of contemporary en- vironmental incidents. Fuel and chemical spills were most common, followed by biosecurity incursions. The majority of reports were assessed as having insignificant actual impacts. Either the incidents were small, or active, rapid response and mitigation procedures minimised impact. During the period only one spill report (4000 l) was assessed as a 'high' impact. This is despite over 13 million litres of diesel utilised. The majority of incidents occurred within the existing station footprints. The pathways leading to the incidents varied, with technical causes predominately leading to spills, and procedural failures leading to biosecurity incursions. The large number of reports with inconsequential impacts suggest an effective environmental management system with a good culture of reporting environmental incidents. Our findings suggest that the key to continual im- provement in an ongoing environmental management system is to learn from incidences and take action to prevent them occurring again, with an end-goal of minimising the residual risk as much as possible.
Publication titleJournal of Environmental Management
Department/SchoolSchool of Geology