The recent revelation about automobile maker Volkswagen’s deliberate manipulation of air pollution controls on some of their diesel engine automobiles is a stunner. Who would have thought? Without a doubt, they fell into a trap that other companies have – that sometimes awkward attempt to balance a desire to please stakeholders, maintain profits and all the while profess that environmental regulations mean everything to them. We have seen this particular aspect before; where pollution control equipment is available but a decision is made to either not use it or to circumvent it for the sake of minimizing operating costs. But as the recently known VW episode unfolds, we will see that their decision to manipulate pollution controls in the short term will ultimately be far more costly in the long term and will present lasting damage to their credibility. Unfortunately, US regulators fairly consistently uncover manipulations and dodges by companies who attempt to and sometimes successfully conceal non-compliance. The Federal environmental regulations (40 CFR) that pertain to environmental pollution are clear – those convicted of violation of regulations face not only fines but prison time as well. It is obviously not worth the risk.
Meeting EHS (Environmental Health & Safety) regulations and standards is a business requirement. Having a robust management system in place to accomplish this is vital. As such, a management system should include EHS policy and procedure documents. These documents should present everything from corporate policy to detailed procedures. EHS program procedures especially must be updated and reviewed periodically to keep them current and relevant. However, a common mistake is to create environmental and/or health and safety guidance documents and then just put them on the shelf to gather dust. To avoid the confusion and mistakes that result, ensure that your EHS procedures and references are truly “living” documents. Remember to follow your document review procedures. If you state that you will perform a periodic review of a document, do it. Don’t forget to document that process too.
Here are more general EHS management system tips related to documenting policy and procedures:
- When creating or updating EHS documents – especially procedure documents – involve relevant stakeholders. The benefits include greater relevancy of the document as well as improved acceptance. Keep the document on point and as brief as possible; make it understandable.
- Avoid adopting generic EHS procedures that lack specificity and/or relevancy to your business.
- Remember to date your EHS documents to identify initial implementation as well as revisions updates.
- Define your hierarchy of EHS documents. Separate policy from procedure documents. Policy documents should identify and state overarching purpose and intention; the “what” part of your management system. For example, a policy document might include a general statement about providing a safe and health workplace. However, a procedure document typically provides more specific information. Procedure documents should focus on means and action. For example, a procedure document might describe methods used to identify airborne hazards and how the organization will ensure that employees are protected from them. Another level of guidance document is the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). A SOP document might describe in detail a task-specific “how to” procedure such as calibrating or testing respiratory protection equipment. It might also be referenced in a procedure document.
Occupational Health and Safety: Are you properly controlling your risks? Many companies fail to manage OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) requirements – putting employees at risk and increasing the likelihood of fines. Here are examples of common OSHA violations across industries. Do you have any of these exposures?
Standard Cited Description (29 CFR):
- 1910.1200 Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) – lack of documented program and/or missing program elements; lack of current SDS’s (Safety Data Sheets); lack of training.
- 1910.38 Emergency Action Plan – failure to prepare and enact a written plan; lack of training, failure to conduct mock drills; lack of recordkeeping.
- 1910.134 Personal Protective Equipment (Respiratory Protection) – lack of developed program; lack of recordkeeping; lack of medical monitoring; lack of training; missing program elements.
- 1910.212 Machinery and Machine Guarding – lack of or inadequate engineering controls.
- 1910.147 Control of Hazardous Energy (“Lock-out/Tag-out”) – lack of a documented program; lack of employee training; lack of proper lockout devices.
- 1910.303 Electrical – wiring, components and equipment: broken equipment; missing safety equipment; misuse of extension cords, etc.
- 29 CFR 1910.23(c)(1), (c)(3), and 29 CFR 1910.132(a) Fall Protection in General Industry – lack of a written program; lack of training; failure to inspect; lack of program elements; failure to identify anchor points, etc.
- 1910.178 Powered Industrial Trucks (e.g.: forklifts) – lack of training; lack of vehicle inspections; operating without proper safety equipment.
- 1910.67 Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle-Mounted Work Platforms – lack of a written program; lack of training; lack of fall protection equipment; failure to inspect; lack of program elements.
- 1910.101 Hearing Protection – lack of a written plan; lack of assessment and/or monitoring; lack of training; lack of baseline medical monitoring; lack of signage, etc.
- 1910.0022 Walking-Working Surfaces (housekeeping and floor loading) – failure to keep aisles, walkways and exits clear of obstructions; lack of posted load rating of platforms and mezzanines.
- 1910.0157 Portable Fire Extinguishers – inadequate supply, improper location, failure to instruct, etc.
- 1910.107 Hazardous Materials (spray finishing with flammables/combustibles) – lack of adequate safety such as engineering controls/ventilation, training.
We have found that companies may sometimes inadequately manage their environmental exposures. For example, here are some commonly encountered gaps:
- Failure to prepare and enact a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures Plan (SPCC) based on the quantities of oil that they manage.
- Failure to use best management practices for managing hazardous wastes. For example: co-mingling incompatible wastes; disposing of non-hazardous materials as hazardous wastes; failure to maintain up-to-date hazardous waste characteristics profiles; failure to manage storage times and/or labeling and container management; relying on waste brokers; not conducting due diligence of TSDF’s (Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities) that they use; failure to implement and maintain compliant employee training, etc.
- Failure to maintain pollution control equipment and/or log emission excursions.
- Occasionally maintaining an environmental permit that no longer applies such as a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPP).
- Failure to update pollution permit information such as the addition of new processes and/or equipment, or removal and/or modification of the same.
- Failure to control wastewater disposal of process and/or laboratory chemistry.
- Failure to segregate hazardous materials from hazardous waste storage; failure to properly designate storage areas.
- Lack of secondary containment for hazardous wastes.
- Lack of secure and identified storage for hazardous waste accumulations areas.
- Failure to meet fire code requirements for flammable liquid storage.
OSHA Compliance: Review your programs and documentation, training programs, and recordkeeping. Assess workplace exposures, and conducting industrial and chemical hygiene investigations as required. Areas of expertise include: fall protection; confined spaces; elevated work platforms; respiratory protection and ventilation; lock-out/tag-out; electrical safety; machine guarding; bloodborne pathogens; chemical handing; laboratories, and more.
Conduct mock environmental, OSHA and/or MSHA compliance audits. Identify exposures. Recommend and develop corrective actions.
Assess environmental and/or occupational health and safety compliance, and pinpoint needs. Determine ISO 14001 certification readiness; determine OHSAS 18001 certification readiness; determine R2 recycling certification readiness.