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David Stewart, Shane McGrath & Siraj Perera
Dam safety in Victoria is overseen by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on behalf of the relevant Minister and under the Water Act. For each of the 19 state-owned Water Corporations, Government has issued a Statement of Obligations which describes all responsibilities of the Corporation, including specific reference to dam safety management and ANCOLD Guidelines.Learn more
These Corporations report annually to the Department on their compliance with all their obligations, including dam safety management. In late 2014, 13 Water Corporations along with the Department commissioned a comparative benchmarking study of dam safety management practices across the state. This work was facilitated by the VicWater Dams Industry Working Group. The study used a rapid assessment method against 14 separate criteria for dam safety management, based on the Statements of Obligations, guidance notes developed by the Department, ANCOLD Guidelines, the ICOLD Draft Bulletin on Dam Safety Management, good governance principles and examples of best practice from other jurisdictions.
The study involved assessment of background data, site inspections and discussions with various individuals of each owner, including a range of field staff, dam safety staff, Executive Managers, Managing Directors and Board Directors. The benchmarking study covered 142 dams of Significant, High and Extreme Consequence Category throughout Victoria.
The results of the benchmarking study have been extremely useful for individual dam owners and for the Department to understand areas where good practice is in place and also where there is potential for improvement of individual programs. The study also provides a measure of assurance of the current status of dam safety management practices and areas where regulatory practices could be better focused. It also reinforced the importance of strong industry networks such as ANCOLD and VicWater for knowledge transfer, capacity development and sustainability of dam safety management practices.
This paper presents the methodology used for the benchmarking study and its broader findings. It also highlights good practice considerations for dam owners, regulators and other dam safety practitioners.
Keywords: Dam Safety Management, Governance, Benchmarking
Shane McGrath, Phillip Cummins, and David Stewart
Dam owners and regulators now commonly use risk assessment techniques to assist with decision making for an individual dam or a portfolio of dams. In many cases risk assessment is used to select an optimal course of action in relation to ongoing safety performance of dams, including the achievement of public safety objectives. However, whilst it is an important tool, the use of risk assessment alone is not sufficient to establish that a dam is “safe”.Learn more
In modern organisations, business objectives are achieved through a systematic approach to management which described simply sets out what needs to be achieved, how the required outcomes will be delivered and audits the process and results.
In hazardous industries such as mining, chemical, nuclear and dams, it is necessary to reliably achieve business objectives such as product volumes, unit costs and workplace health and safety alongside public safety objectives. In the dams industry, dam safety management systems are now being implemented to document how the organisation satisfies its corporate and business objectives, governance responsibilities and risk management processes.
It is also common in hazardous industries that a “safety case” is required by regulators to demonstrate that the owner has identified what could go wrong at its facility, what controls are in place and that there is a system in place to ensure that the controls are reliable. Whilst dam owners may rely on a dam safety risk assessment to meet regulatory obligations and demonstrate due diligence, the results of risk assessments are not routinely documented sufficiently to satisfy a “safety case” and therefore will not fully meet the organisation’s requirements.
Many dam owners are also responsible for the safety management of other hazardous facilities, such as urban water and mining corporations which typically manage hazardous chemical installations and hazardous or toxic waste disposal. For such organisations, the corporate awareness and processes should already exist to extend the “safety case” philosophy to the management of their dams.
This paper sets out the importance of a dam “safety case”, the essential elements of a safety case and its relationship to the dam safety management system.