Companies are inundated with OSHA, EPA and other state and federal regulatory requirements that are designed to ensure worker safety and prevent environmental pollution, but which often feel overly complex or burdensome. Depending on the nature of its industry, a business can easily find itself overwhelmed by the sheer number of regulations governing its various operations, and hamstrung by the difficulty of ensuring compliance with each and every one. Yet having a weak or inefficient environmental compliance monitoring system in place is at best a waste of time and other resources, and at worst an invitation to accidental oversights that could result in violations, audits, fines and penalties.
In order to both effectively and comfortably maintain regulatory compliance, companies must put in place a system that automatically and continuously tracks environmental compliance metrics, tasks and corrective actions across the organization. Fortunately, businesses can now leverage technology to better plan and maintain a preventative EHS compliance program through the adoption of easy-to-use software.
The EPA and its regulatory partners perform compliance monitoring activities for 44 programs authorized by seven statutes, which include conducting inspections and investigations and overseeing the imports and exports of environmental substances. The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the EPA headquarters implements many of these programs, while others fall under the purview of EPA regional offices and states.
Environmental compliance monitoring is performed to assess and document compliance with permits and regulations, collect evidence, ensure cooperation with enforcement orders and decrees and deter potential violators.
The three primary areas of environmental compliance monitoring are air compliance monitoring, water compliance monitoring and waste, chemicals and cleanup compliance monitoring. Informing the compliance monitoring standards of each category are relevant laws, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Toxic Substances Control Act, among others.
In order to assure compliance with these regulations and emerge unscathed from the monitoring process, companies employ EHS professionals who are tasked with performing self-assessments and other preventative actions.
To maintain continued compliance with various regulations, it is essential that organizations have an environmental management system in place.
While some companies resist environmental management systems due to concerns about the initial cost, time and personnel commitments, such worries are ultimately shortsighted. The alternative, which would be to maintain a nonexistent or insufficient environmental program, would inevitably lead to missed deadlines, a failure to maintain proper permits, expensive fines and the poor reputation that develops as a result of violations and enforcement. Ultimately, the expense of implementing an environmental management system is far outweighed by the risks associated with compliance failures, which can exact a much larger financial and reputational cost.
Any effective environmental management system will include environmental compliance assessments, which involve determining applicable site-specific regulations and conducting periodic audits to confirm that specific environmental compliance metrics are being met. There are a range of specific focuses that fall under the umbrella of environmental management, some or all of which may apply to a business.
Air emissionsrequire pollution control device equipment that must be monitored for continued compliance.
For example, any facility that has wastewater or stormwater discharges needs vigilant water quality management to ensure that the location meets Clean Water Act requirements for wastewater discharges to navigable waters and stormwater discharges from industrial or construction sites. There are also cooling water permits that some facilities must obtain, as well as monitoring, reporting and notification requirements for certain drinking water systems.
Similarly, any facility that produces air emissions may be subject to the Compliance Assurance Monitoring rule, published in the Oct. 22, 1997 Federal Register. The CAM rule requires the monitoring of pollution control device equipment that is used to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act. In order to navigate the complex and permit-heavy world of CAA compliance, businesses that use or produce ozone-depleting substances and other regulated emissions must have a robust air emissions management system in place.
Waste and hazardous waste management is also closely and strictly regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which mandates the identification and proper disposal of non-hazardous solid waste, hazardous waste, used oil, universal waste and radioactive waste. Facilities and worksites that have or may have such waste present must also have a proper waste management system for meeting requirements applicable to generators, handlers, transporters and Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities.
No matter how many of these environmental factors are relevant to your business, all organizations can model their environmental management system based off of ISO 14001, the international standard that establishes universal requirements for an effective EMS. The framework set forth by the ISO 14001 standard can be scaled to any industry, and is consistent with a plan-do-check-act approach to continuous improvement.
The challenges involved with creating and implementing such an environmental management system are great, but so too are the rewards of well-regulated business operations that are immune to scandalous and expensive violations.
With so many necessary permits and individual requirements related to the ever-changing framework of environmental regulations, it is only through the use of advanced technology that businesses can comprehensively track every important environmental compliance metric.
Fortunately, Dakota Software provides just that, combining an all-encompassing regulatory database with streamlined solutions that allow organizations to proactively plan and manage tasks related to all applicable areas of compliance. Dakota's Environmental Management software walks you through the planning, implementing, checking, reporting and correcting stages of waste, water, air and other environmental management systems unique to your enterprise.
Compliance Planning software enables your organization to plan for and stay informed of relevant regulatory changes in EHS requirements, helping you easily identify which rules impact specific sites so that facility managers can plan and assign activities accordingly. And to verify that these ongoing environmental compliance metrics are being met, Dakota's EHS Auditing application captures all relevant EHS regulations so that auditors can fully leverage the site requirements created in the Compliance Planning stage. By drawing from a comprehensive regulatory database, the application can help identify specific regulations that even experienced auditors and facility staff may fail to recognize, and then manage that audit data to create corrective action plans.
In this way, Dakota Software creates a proactive environmental management system that keeps organizations in a continuous cycle of planning, acting, verifying and adjusting. And the easier it becomes to track environmental compliance metrics, the more protected your organization is from violations and enforcement.