Risk Management of Fertilizer Products

The core of Fertilizers Europe Product Stewardship Program is a comprehensive understanding of the risks throughout the product lifecycle; in manufacturing, storage and transportation, and at the user’s location, and taking appropriate steps to prevent or reduce such risks. A management system should be put in place which identifies documents and evaluates as far as possible the actual and potential risks, mainly through hazard identification and exposure estimation, at each stage of the product lifecycle. Prioritization of such risks by informed judgment on their severity and consequences is important before deciding on actions to protect life, property and environment.

The purpose of risk management is to ensure that no chemical or process related to manufacturing, storage, transport, use or disposal, or circumstances of possible criminal acts, presents any unacceptable risks to people, property and environment, and that any risks that do exist are reduced to the lowest practical level. The process consists of five major parts, as shown below. This should be an integral part of a company’s product stewardship program (5 steps).

(1) Determine product properties:

Obtain a thorough understanding of any potential harmful properties of the product. This applies not only to products which are formally classified as hazardous, but also to any other products with properties which could foreseeably cause harm.

(2) Identify exposure and assess risks:

Determine the potential exposure of people, property and environment to the product. Both normal and abnormal circumstances should be considered. Abnormal circumstances include accidents, spillages and criminal acts. Identify specific risk scenarios based on the product properties and potential exposures. What exposure can take place during normal manufacturing, storage and handling operations, what kind of abnormal events could take place, and what are the consequences for people, property and environment?

(3) Prioritize risks:

Prioritize the risks for making corrective actions, taking account of the likelihood of events, the consequences, and the ability of the organization to influence these factors.

(4) Design and implement controls:

After evaluation of the actual and potential risks at each stage of the product lifecycle, one should develop and implement appropriate actions to control and minimize the risks. The following principles apply:

  • Design, develop or modify products to meet customer's need while striving to minimize SHE impacts
  • Evaluate risks resulting from the intended and other possible use of products, and periodically update the evaluation
  • Establish and maintain information on foreseeable SHE hazards from exposure to new and existing products
  • Whenever technically and economically feasible, develop and continuously improve processes for minimizing waste, reducing emissions and for the reuse, recovery, recycling and disposal of products
  • Develop and implement appropriate actions to control or minimize risks. Such actions could be:
    • Reformulate with less hazardous components
    • Safe storage
    • Safe disposal
    • Labeling
    • Training
    • Engineering controls
    • Protective equipment
    • Emission controls
    • Incident monitoring
    • Controls in raw material purchasing and product sourcing
    • Controls in storage and distribution
    • Auditing of operators, hauliers, contractors, suppliers
    • Responsible advertising
    • After sales support

(5) Monitor progress and implement necessary corrective actions

The aim of Product Stewardship is to identify and manage all risks that a product may present at any stage in its lifecycle. It may not be possible for a fertilizer company to manage all the risks on its own, since many service providers will normally be involved in the supply chain. Fertilizers Europe member companies should, however, influence others in the supply chain to follow Fertilizers Europe Product Stewardship principles. All suppliers should recognize that they are part of a chain, that they should make all reasonable efforts both to manage those risks over which they have direct control and to work with others in the chain to help them manage risks within their control. Evidently, the purchasing contract should include relevant specifications to SHE, whether this is a contract for purchasing of raw materials, maintenance work, storage operations, or for transport companies.

A change - in organization, raw materials, manufacturing process, distribution, use, etc - may have impacts on the product risk. All such changes should be specifically reviewed as part of the overall risk management activities.