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   Course Title    Environmental Risk Assessment and Management
Lecturer    Ants Tammepuu
Institution    Estonian Agricultural University
Country    Estonia


The aim of the course is to deepen knowledge of the environmental state and risk awareness among the students. The course attempts to create an image of risk assessment and management in combination as an effective tool in environmental management and protection.

After having taken the course students should:

  • know the differences between risk and hazard;
  • be aware of multiple aspects and interdisciplinary character of risk studies;
  • have an orientation in legislation and standards concerning risks;
  • be able to recognize environmental hazards and identify risks;
  • know the main steps of environmental risk assessment procedure;
  • have an imagination of typology of risk assessment methods;
  • know how to organize risk assessment;
  • know how to choose a suitable methodical approach for practically carrying out risk analysis;
  • have an overview of risk perception, acceptance and communication;
  • have skills to characterize environmental risks and evaluate risk level;
  • be able to discuss and evaluate risk assessment reports;
  • be able to take part in risk-based decision making ;
  • have a conception of how to use risk assessment and management as effective environmental management tools.


The course is a part of a program of Environmental Management mostly for MSc students, but the fourth year students of Landscape Care and Protection as well as Landscape Architecture are allowed to take part. The subject is taught as an essential part of environmental management.


The course is divided between three main components:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Independent work

Lectures have to give deepened knowledge in the field of risk studies.

Seminars are intended for applied skills in general.

Sharp difference is not made between lectures and seminars: the students can also ask questions and initiate discussions during the lectures.

Independent work involves an exercise of carrying out environmental risk analysis, assessment and evaluation and making proposals for environmental risk management and also risk-based decisions, concerning land-use and emergency planning. The exercises are based on case studies.

The assessment procedure is united with the last seminar and includes presentations of papers of working groups, the evaluation protocols of the works of other groups and finally additional questions, asked personally from each student.


The course is divided into five lectures and three seminars. Each lecture and seminar takes place once a week and lasts four academic hours.

Lecture 1

Introduction and Background

For the beginning an introduction to Environmental Risk Assessment is provided. Initially risk assessment will be performed as an interdisciplinary field of research. The students get a picture of the historical and philosophical background of the development of risk studies. Three dimensions of risk concept are introduced: descriptive, psychological and normative. Subsequently, risk levels of the society and environment are described. Comparison of long-term and accidental risks is drawn out. Typology of environmental risk assessment: human health risk assessment, ecological risk assessment and applied industrial risk assessment. The objective is to provide the students with a sound knowledge of the principles of each methodical approach, the stages or steps involved in each, examples of their use and the problems associated with each. The role of human health risk assessment in the development of ecological risk assessment is pointed out. Applied industrial applications are described as complex risk studies, which do not look in isolation at people or ecological systems.

Lecture 2

Standards and Legislation

Review of international and national legislation. Attention will be paid to the influence of the EU Environmental acquis on the development of Estonian environmental legislation. The interrelationship between four important EU directives (SEVESO II, EMAS, IPPC & EIA) and their relations with risk and safety are discussed more closely. Application of EMAS tools (Eco-mapping etc.) for preliminary risk assessment purposes is covered shortly as an example of practical approach. Risk problems are described in the context of IMS (Integrated Management Systems), meaning in the strict sense the following four connected fields: quality management, environmental management, occupational health and safety management and risk management. The considerable influence of environmental management standards (ISO14000) on development of risk assessment and management is observed. An overview is created of OHSAS 18001, which has been developed to be compatible with the IS0 9000 and IS0 14000 series of standards, in order to facilitate the integration of quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management systems by organizations.

Lecture 3

Procedures and Methods

The main steps, required in all types of risk assessment like: problem formulation, hazard identification, release assessment, exposure assessment, consequence assessment and risk estimation. The role of each step is briefly analyzed and characterized. Several approaches to environmental risk assessment are taken under observation to find out and explain the similarities and differences between the procedures. The schemes and conceptual models, used for different purposes (for example by EPA, FEMA, APELL, etc.) are compared on the whole. Classification of risk assessment methods is presented in general and by special fields of activities. Risk assessment is described as a procedure in which the risks posed by inherent hazards involved in processes or situations are estimated either quantitatively or qualitatively. Examples of qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative methods and their combinatory use are shown and a short study of their practical selection and exploitation is carried out. The aim is to give the students elementary knowledge on how to solve problems concerning risks and hazards depending on concrete situations.

Lecture 4

Overview of Practical Risk Assessment

Main attention is paid to practical carrying-out of risk analysis and assessment procedures on different levels, beginning from individuals and enterprises and ending with communities, counties and the society entirely. The principles of recognition and identification of principal risk sources are introduced as well as hazards, expressed as a result of their detrimental influence to the surrounding environment. The relations between terms as environmental aspects and risk sources as well as environmental risk as an important feature of environmental impact are also under observation. The information provided is intended as an introduction to environmental risk assessment as an environmental management tool. Harmful and hazardous influence of various adverse processes and events to human health, environment and society in short–term and long-term perspectives are described. Much attention is paid to the arrangement of principal risk factors, which are presented with a brief description of them. Several risk factors are observed with the help of well-known graphical models like ecological amplitude, dose-response curve etc. Consequence assessment principles and accident scenario modelling are introduced and also the need to couch the assessment in probabilistic terms, since different accident scenarios have both different probabilities and different consequences.

Lecture 5

Risk Management Principles

Problems of risk perception, communication and acceptance are discussed. An overview of the main factors that are known to influence risk perception is drawn out, involving people's beliefs, attitudes, judgements and feelings, as well as the wider social or cultural values that people adopt towards hazards and their benefits The risk communication is described as transmission of information about environmental risk by one way communication and/or two way dialogue. The specific and general criteria of the risk acceptance are examined. Risk management measures, which can be used to either prevent or mitigate risk are discussed. A concept of risk-based decision making will be presented as well as the importance of societal, economic and political factors. For previous purposes today’s concept of Safety-Chain will be discussed more closely. Safety-Chain is a conceptual model which describes on one hand the process of decision-making, and on the other hand the contents of the safety decisions that have to be made in the different stages of a construction or work: initiative, planning, design, construction, exploitation. The lecture will end with a short description of new directions in environmental risk assessment and management.

Seminar 1

Case Study of Risk Assessment

Case study of risk assessment of petrol station as an example of SME (small and medium size enterprise) on the basis of risk analysis data and outcomes of certain object. Carrying out the main steps of risk assessment and making proposals for risk-based decisions. Demonstration of models, forms and other materials, which is followed by asking questions and discussion. Finally students are divided into working groups, each of which receive a practical exercise, based on real risk studies.

Seminar 2

Consultation and Discussion

The students receive supplementary materials and sources of information, including: technical papers, normative documents, standards etc. introduced and divided by the lecturer; they can also ask questions, make proposals and get answers from the lecturer and other students/working groups.

Seminar 3

Evaluation of Risk Assessment Reports

The students present the results of practical risk assessment exercises to the lecturer and other working groups and make proposals for further steps of risk management and risk-based decisions, concerning land-use planning, emergency planning and environmental policy. After that the papers are exchanged between the groups for making conclusions and taking a decision about the quality of work results of other groups. Finally each student is asked some questions for supplementary assessment of their knowledge.



Riski hindamine. Koostanud P. Tint. Tallinn, 1999, 232 lk.

(Risk Assessment. Edited by P. Tint. Tallinn, 1999, 232 p.)

Technical report on Hazard Identification and Evaluation in a Local Community. UNEP IE/PAC, 1992.


1. Abrahamsson, M. Treatment of Uncertainty in Risk Based Regulations and Standards for Risk Analysis. Report 3116, 2000.


2. APELL - Awareness and Preparedness for Responding to Technological Accidents. 1988, 62 p.

3. BS 8800. British Standard. Guide to Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. BSI London, 1996, 40 p.

4. Calow, P, editor. Handbook of Environmental Risk Assessment and Management, Blackwell Science Ltd., Oxford, England, 1998.

5. Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 1998.


6. Harrop, D. O. and Nixon, J. A. Environmental Assessment in Practice. Routledge, 2000, 219 p.

7. Magnusson, S. E. et. al. Nordic group of experts, "Co-operative Nordic Risk Research", Report 1001 (preliminary version), LUCRAM, 1999. []

8. Report on risk assessment procedures used in the field of civil protection and rescue services in different European Union countries and in Norway


9. Selman, P. Environmental Planning. SAGE Publications, 2000, 308 p.

10. Smith, K. Environmental Hazards: assessing risk and reducing disaster. Routledge, 2001, 392 p.

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