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What is Risk Management?

What is a contaminated site?

Who does what?

Why is it important?

What is risk management?

Risk assessment fundamentals

Risk assessment methods

Limitations of risk assessment

What are RA tiers?


Problem Identification

Receptor Characterisation

Exposure Assessment

Toxicity Assessment

Risk Characterisation

RM Decisions





Risk management can be defined as the culture, processes, and structures that are directed towards the effective management of potential opportunities and adverse effects (AS/NZS 4360:1999).   

This is a broad definition that can quite rightly apply in nearly all fields of management from financial and human resources management through to environmental management.  However in the context of contaminated sites, risk management can be taken to mean the process of gathering information to make informed decisions to minimise the risk of adverse effects to people and the environment.

Risk assessment involves estimating the level of risk estimating the probability of an event occurring and the magnitude of effects if the event does occur. Essentially risk assessment lies at the heart of risk management, because it assists in providing the information required to respond to a potential risk. 

In a resource management setting, environmental risk assessment may be used to help manage, for example:

  • natural hazards (flooding, landslides),
  • water supply and waste water disposal systems, and
  • contaminated sites.

Human health risk assessment is one form of risk assessment, focusing on assessing the risk to people and communities from hazardous substances or discharge of contaminants.

Ecological risk assessment is another form of risk assessment that can be used to assist management of risks to ecological values.

The focus of risk assessment for contaminated sites is usually human health, as a large proportion of the known potentially contaminated sites are located in urban areas. However, where valued natural environments are present, the focus of ecological risk assessment is on assessing the risks to plants, animals and ecosystem integrity from chemicals present at or discharging from a contaminated site.

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Page last updated: 01 May 2007

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