A HAZMAT release can be, and often is, costly. However, when I talk about the cost of a HAZMAT release, I am not simply referring to dollars and cents. Much of the cost of having a release cannot be measured monetarily. This cost goes far deeper than simply opening a checkbook or calling the insurance company.
The first expense, and perhaps the most devastating for your company long term, is the loss of customers due to the inability of producing and/or delivering products to your client. I had a customer that had an explosion in their compressor room and, as a result, were not able to produce the product they made for their clients. Therefore, those clients were forced to find another facility to produce the product for them. When my client was able to produce again, they called their former client. Unfortunately, that former client was not interested because they were happy with the new facility. This can be devastating to your facility. Your reputation is everything in a highly saturated industry. If you lose your reputation, it is difficult to repair.
Another more far-reaching example of this occurred at a facility that had an ammonia release, which resulted in an explosion and then a fire. This client was a very large beef producer that employed thousands. While waiting to rebuild, their other facilities absorbed the volume. When it came time for the plant to reopen, the company decided they no longer needed that facility and could handle the volume without reopening it. Those thousands of employees were out of work, but the effects did not stop there. Many of the people who depended on those employees for their wages suddenly had nothing. These jobs included daycare workers, restaurants, and those companies that supplied products to their facility, just to name a few.
Let’s also discuss the devasting results that occur if your situation becomes news worthy. With 24-hour news coverage, you could be the talk of the news circuit for quite some time following a HAZMAT release. Even if you don’t make the big news cycle, you can still become front page news for your local newspaper and/or radio station. Once in the news, you have a permanent mark on your company’s reputation that can resurface at any time.
A HAZMAT release can also have a lasting impact on your community. Your chemical can quickly spread to other facilities, housing developments, schools, daycare centers, hospitals and nursing homes. These people often have little or no warning of the chemical release. On April 17, 2013 an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at a fertilizer distribution facility in Texas. Unfortunately, the first responders for the community arrived on the scene with little knowledge of what chemicals were on site and no knowledge of how much chemical was stored. Fifteen people were killed, over 160 people were injured and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the explosion. This incident devastated the small Texas town and will continue to impact this community for decades to come.
A chemical release often reaches far beyond financial ramifications and can impact the very heart of your community. The better prepared you are for chemical releases, the less chance you have of creating a negative and devastating influence on your facility and your community
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