The Necessity of Environmental and Safety Compliance Reviews

All industrial facilities have a vested interest in operating in the most environmentally responsible and safe manner possible. This is because operating in this manner carries with it the lowest risk of interruption to production. Whether that interruption is in the form of a hazardous material release, regulatory violation, injury, lawsuit, or negative publicity, this is a situation that no facility wants to find themselves in. Reducing the potential for environmental pollution and improving worker safety might seem secondary to production, but serious injuries and regulatory violations can have significant implications which can range from heavy fines to shutting down operations entirely. All industrial facilities should, at the very least, take the time to consider whether they are currently running the risk of being impacted by these types of issues.

This begs the question, “What is the best way for a facility to determine the current level of risk associated with its environmental or safety performance?” Unfortunately, many facilities do not have the resources to create a position dedicated to addressing the myriad of possible environmental and safety issues, and oftentimes these duties fall to an employee who is ill-equipped or already managing several other responsibilities. Facilities who do have the resources, can employ EHS Professionals within their organizations to conduct internal audits, but these audits can be constrained by company procedures and do not always reference consistently changing local, state, and federal regulatory requirements. This is why the Environmental and Safety Compliance Review (ESCR) can be such an essential tool. The ESCR is a third-party audit designed to thoroughly evaluate a facility’s level of compliance and to determine the facility’s level of risk associated with environmental and safety Issues.

The ESCR is a combination approach that is the most optimal way of conducting compliance gap analyses in order to identify any areas of potential liability or improvement. The ESCR consists of both a systematic Desktop Review and an in-depth Facility Inspection. The Desktop Review includes a review of all permits and regulatory requirements applicable to the facility, a breakdown summary of these requirements, and an evaluation of all required programs, training, reporting obligations, and recordkeeping. The Facility Inspection includes an examination of the condition of the facility, current industrial activities, and waste management practices.

The Desktop Review has many beneficial aspects aside from the measuring the facility’s environmental and safety performance. It presents an opportunity for consolidation of all required permits and regulatory requirements applicable to the facility. This comprehensive summary provides the facility with the dual benefit of increasing the ease with which compliance can be achieved and ensuring that records are organized, should they need to be reproduced for a regulatory inspection. The Desktop Review can also serve as the perfect time to identify opportunities for optimizing the efficiency of recordkeeping at the facility. If recordkeeping practices are not made as painless as possible, employees may find it difficult and time consuming to maintain records, so time spent ensuring that recordkeeping is efficient can be invaluable. In addition, the facility also stands to gain greater insight and understanding of the specific agencies and laws that regulate their business. Knowledge of what a facility can and cannot do with respect to environmental and safety regulation is essential for not only the planning phase of facility upgrades but also for proper continual operation of the facility.

The Facility Inspection also has additional benefits beyond reduction of the potential for workplace accidents and environmental impact. Through examination of the current condition of the facility, a permitting determination can be made based on the facility’s current activities. It is possible that a facility can outgrow a permit through the installation of additional equipment or an increase in production. A facility could also be holding a permit that they no longer need. In either of these situations, the sooner a permit modification is filed or a permit terminated the better. Evaluation of the facility’s current practices also has the potential for improvement of the facility’s procedures not only from an environmental and safety perspective but also from an efficiency perspective as well. Examination of procedures can lead to innovations which can improve production and lessen the burden placed on employees. Additionally, waste management violations are some of the most common violations in the industrial setting because waste is one component of operations that is often overlooked. Mismanagement of waste can result in a facility receiving the highest fines of all the regulatory agencies. It is crucial for a facility to maintain knowledge of every waste stream generated at the facility and to ensure that the waste is managed properly to avoid costly fines. The Facility Inspection allows for a thorough review of waste generation at the facility and may identify opportunities for waste minimization or recycling.

The output of the ESCR is a comprehensive report which lists any and all issues identified during the inspection, and these issues are ranked based on priority level. For example, updating an employee’s name in a Spill Prevention Plan would rank much lower than the need for an Air Permit Modification. This priority-based ranking provides a guide and timeline for which issues should be addressed first based on associated risk. It is also important to note that the ESCR does not stop at simply identifying areas of improvement throughout the inspection. The report will also offer different corrective actions dependent on the urgency with which an issue needs to be addressed and the specific solution which is most appealing to the facility. The main objective of the ESCR is compliance, but this tailored solution-based approach to the ESCR is vital as facilities have widely ranging budgets and comfort levels when it comes to addressing environmental and safety issues.

The ESCR can also be the first step towards employment of an Environmental or Safety Management System. The ESCR can provide the main framework of regulatory requirements that the facility must follow in order to maintain compliance, and it can also provide a baseline analysis of facility environmental and safety performance that can be used to measure a facility’s compliance status over time. Performance indicators are key to proper development as continuous improvement is required for Management System certification. This type of proactive approach to addressing environmental and safety issues has several benefits. The predominant benefit is that the facility can, with the knowledge from the ESCR, detect issues as they arise and can choose to address them along their preferred timeline as opposed to be given a deadline for abatement by a regulatory agency.

Conversion Technology Inc. (CTI) has decades of experience conducting ESCR’s. Whether your facility is preparing for a regulatory inspection, concerned about compliance status, or proactively seeking management system improvement, the ESCR can serve as the perfect tool for bring your facility into compliance and keep it there. CTI recommends that, at a minimum, an ESCR should be conducted annually. If you believe your facility would benefit from an ESCR, CTI would be happy to utilize its knowledge of the latest regulatory developments to assist your facility in maintaining total compliance. For more information on ESCR’s, please contact us at (770) 263-6330 or cti@conversiontechnology.com.

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