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UK dam safety plan unveiled by Environment Agency

Plans for a system for recording 'near-miss' incidents at UK dams have been unveiled by the Environment Agency.
The Post-Incident Reporting System (PIRS) will be introduced to help cut the risk of flooding from reservoirs across England and Wales.Agency technical manager for reservoir safety Ian Hope said PIRS would inform the reservoir industry about what incidents have happened and how they were dealt with.'Since legislation was introduced in 1930, the UK safety record for dams has been good,' said Hope.'But learning from the experiences of those handling accidents and emergencies has been shared on a purely ad hoc basis.' Hope added that he urged reservoir owners and specialist engineers to comment on the proposed system ahead of its introduction in January 2007. The agency has been working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government to develop PIRS.Although the number of incidents on UK dams is comparatively low, reservoir structures can move with the seasons, deteriorate with age and be affected by natural forces such as earth tremors. This can lead to various consequences from minor leaks to major flooding.From January 2007, reservoir owners can call the agency's Reservoir Safety Team to volunteer details of an incident.Engineers will also be encouraged to support the system by providing information as part of their regular reservoir inspections.'No one will be legally required to give information because we would rather develop a successful system where people feel able to report freely,' added Hope.In straightforward incidents, details will be taken down in a 10 to 15-minute phone call but, in more complex cases, the agency may offer to send an engineer to the site to discuss events in more depth.Details about incidents and the lessons that have been learned will be published through a regular bulletin to owners and engineers, direct communication with the industry and via the agency's website.

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