Technological hazards: industrial accidents


 Definition and characteristics

Danger originating from technological or industrial accidents, dangerous procedures, infrastructure failures or certain human activities, which may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.

Technological disasters are non-natural disastrous occurrences that include:

  • Accident release
    Occurring during the production, transportation or handling of hazardous chemical substances

  • Explosions
    Disasters will only be classified as explosions when the explosions is the actual disaster. If the explosion is the cause of another disaster, the event will be classified as the resulting disaster.

  • Chemical explosion
    Violent destruction caused by explosion of combustible material, nearly always of chemical origin.

  • Nuclear explosion/Radiation
    Accidental release of radiation occurring in civil facilities, exceeding the internationally established safety levels.

  • Mine explosion
    Accidents which occur when natural gas or coal dust reacts with the air.

  • Pollution
    Degradation of one or more aspects in the environment by noxious industrial, chemical or biological wastes, from debris or man-made products and from mismanagement of natural and environmental resources.

  • Acid rain
    A washout of an excessive concentration of acidic compounds in the atmosphere, resulting from chemical pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen compounds. When deposited these increase the acidity of the soil and water causing agricultural and ecological damage.

  • Chemical pollution
    A sudden pollution of water or air near industrial areas, leading to internal body disorders with permanent damage of the skin.

  • Atmosphere pollution
    Contamination of the atmosphere by large quantities of gases, solids and radiation produced by the burning of natural and artificial fuels, chemicals and other industrial processes and nuclear explosions

The Federation has more of an advocacy/information sharing role and does not involve itself with the technical aspects, e.g. cleaning up, irradiation sickness or (advanced) treatment of people who have been exposed.

However, the Federation offers care to people that are displaced or flee from the disasters, providing shelter, foods, basic health, water and sanitation. Psychological support is also often vital. For more than twenty years on, the Federation is still running a programme to assist victims of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion of 1986, providing medical assistance and check-ups, and psycho-social support.

Equally, in situations of chemical and biological warfare, the Federation provides basic information about symptoms and effects of agents, antidotes and protection.

Again, National Societies and the Federation take care of people displaced or fleeing from chemical or biological attacks, providing shelter, food, basic medical care, water and sanitation.

Find out more

Related useful links:

Related Red Cross / Red Crescent operations:

  • Ukraine: Chernobyl humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation programme (2006).
  • Russian Federation: toxic spill (2006).
  • Côte d’Ivoire: health hazard (2006).