Setting priorities starts with a risk assessment. Risk should be understood here in a broad sense: it includes any factor an authority wants to take into account when assigning priorities. It may be an environmental risk, a social or economic risk, a compliance risk etc. The method used for risk assessment should be objective in nature, simple to apply and can differ between inspecting authorities.
Limited resources on the one hand and a multitude and variety of statutory tasks on the other, make it necessary to set clear priorities. Priorities are set using the outcome of the risk assessment, which could be a list or an overview of all the identified/selected installations and activities and their respective risks. These installations and activities can on the basis of their assessed risks be classified, for example, in ‘high risk’, ‘medium risk’ and ‘low risk’. In addition the inspection approach for each level can differ: the higher the risk level, the more attention it will get from the inspecting authority. The inspection approach will as a consequence also determine the claim on the available resources, and is therefore equally relevant for the inspection plan and in the inspection schedule.
Levels of risk assessment
A risk assessment can be carried out on different levels. An inspecting authority with a large variety of tasks may in the first instance carry out an “abstract level” risk assessment between general task areas it is charged with (e.g. inspection of IPPC installations versus inspection on illegal logging versus spatial planning). In this document we call this a “general” risk assessment.
However a unit within an inspecting authority that is only dealing with specific areas (e.g. IPPC installations) and has no other tasks, might only want to do a detailed level risk assessment (“specific” risk assessment). In other words, these different risk assessment processes are carried out in different levels of detail by the same or by different staff. Although the risk criteria might be different between these different levels of risk assessment the method could be the same. An inspecting authority may want consult third parties when performing a risk assessment. In particular consultation of other (inspecting) authorities can provide opportunities of sharing data, performing joint risk assessments etc.
A combination of risk assessments is also possible. Here carrying out a specific risk assessment further refines the outcomes of the general risk assessment. For example, in the general risk assessment priorities have been set between the different statutory tasks like inspection of IPPC installations, inspection of SEVESO installations, inspection against legal requirements on nature protection, inspection of waste transport etc. The outcome of the assessment is a risk score for every task, that can then be used as a guide to allocate available inspection time. This outcome is now the input for the specific risk assessments.
Here for example a risk assessment is done for each of the individual IPPC installations and each of the installations receive a risk score. Again inspection time will be allocated to the installations. The results of either of these methods will be that the Inspecting Authorities, using a clear and systematic process, will be able to assign resources between overall task areas and also within the specific work to be carried out within each overall task area.
This assignment of priorities enables the inspecting authority to explain what categories of installations or activities will get what amount of attention. These priorities and their corresponding inspection strategies can be communicated to stakeholders and other relevant parties. Here the inspecting authority also makes clear the difference in needed and available resources. In doing so, the inspecting authority ensures the transparency of the process for prioritising the work.
Data for risk management.