Hydroelectric dams and water control structures by their very nature, may present a number of potential hazards to the public. An important aspect of dam safety management is protecting the public from hazards of dams at every stage of the dam life cycle, from design to decommissioning. Public safety is an important element of an Owner’s due diligence in all stages and most importantly in the operational phase of a project.
Potential hazards may arise in areas where the dangers posed by structures on the waterway are not well known to the public. This is especially true in the immediate upstream and downstream vicinity of hydroelectric dams and water control structures. The risk to the public may increase when rapidly changing flow conditions around dams are combined with a general lack of public knowledge about the dangers posed. Even relatively low height structures could possibly create submerged eddies which is the overflow of water continuously re-circulating, trapping individuals in what could be called “drowning machines”.
Public awareness and education along with rigorous public safety measures and physical warnings directed toward the structures and areas of specific hazards help to reduce the risk to the public.