Avoiding the regulatory pitfalls

Hannah Scott of Eco Technology argues the case for focused, targeted training which can aid an organisation’s regulatory compliance and sharpen its skills.

The American management guru Peter Drucker once said of staff: “If you think trained is expensive, just

try ignorant!”

Recent surveys have suggested that a staggering eight out of ten companies are unaware of the waste and environmental legislation impacting on their business. Being ignorant of the law is of course no defence against it, and with successful prosecutions by the Environment Agency on the increase, all companies should be sitting up and taking notice.

In June this year, a third paint company was fined £2,000 plus costs, for offences under ‘special waste’ and ‘duty of care’ legislation after illegally consigning waste with an unlicensed carrier, to an unlicensed warehouse facility in Birkenhead. The paint company involved told the EA that it had used the contractor concerned after being offered a substantial discount on normal disposal prices.

Representatives from the company told the Agency they had assumed that the contractor was responsible for completing paperwork relating to its waste, and failed to notice the error because the person responsible for checking the paperwork was new to the company and had not been trained properly.

As this example illustrates, breaches of the law and pollution incidents caused by ignorance, apathy or lack of basic procedures, can lead to expensive fines, court costs, bad publicity and potential loss of business.

Despite this, training is often forgotten in the annual budget, and behind closed doors managers and directors may be heard to argue that training is wasted money with no return.

On the contrary, training should be seen as an investment, to ensure that the company remains compliant with exiting legislation, meets the requirements of any environmental management system and actively moves towards improvements in working practices. However, like any healthy investment training must be chosen carefully and involve the right people

and resources.

Trained staff

Well trained management are a credit to any organisation, but it is equally important to have well trained front line and operational staff, because ultimately they will be ‘at the sharp end’ and having to make daily work-based decisions that will impact the environment.

Key areas that are generally recommended for focused training are:

Legislation: Staff should have practical and relevant understanding of laws surrounding consignment of wastes, discharges to air, sewer, and surface water. Staff should know who the industry regulators are, as well as being aware of best practice working procedures, how to complete legal documentation (and spot discrepancies) and repercussions to the company and individual as a result of environmental incidents.

Environmental Management Systems: All environmental management systems should make provisions for staff training and awareness, whether internally or externally accredited. For example, BS EN ISO 14001 includes a specific requirement for ‘training, awareness and competence’ for all personnel whose work may create a significant impact on the environment. Staff should have an understanding of general environmental issues, the role of ISO14001 within their company and the programmes of improvement in place to manage and reduce environmental impact.

Minimisation Programmes: Staff should be educated in how to benefit the company and the environment through waste, pollution, energy and resource use minimisation. Training should be designed to ‘win hearts and minds’ and gain co-operation with new or ongoing improvement programmes. (This area of training and subsequent staff involvement in minimisation programmes can bring clear benefits to the bottom line.

For example, when you include the cost of raw materials, treatment, energy and wasted labour, the ‘true’ cost of waste is often 5-20 times the cost of its disposal. Therefore waste reduction programmes typically have payback periods of months rather than years.)

Emergency Response: Staff should be aware of the correct actions to follow in the event of a spillage, unauthorised release, or fire. For health and safety purposes this training is essential, but so, too, is the protection of the environment. New inductees to a company should ideally have spillage response training tied in with the normal fire training. For this reason, demonstration of emergency preparedness and response is a requirement for accreditation to BS EN ISO 14001.

Ultimately, the rewards from investing in training will become clear. For the accountants out there it is difficult to quantify the value, but the return is guaranteed, in the very least to prevent incidents and promote improvements.

Practical understanding

Crown Cork and Seal recognised the importance of training to strengthen staff knowledge of waste legislation. The Leicester site manufactures cans for the food and beverage markets, and first achieved ISO14001 back in 1998. Internal audits revealed the need for staff to have a practical understanding of waste and environmental law affecting its business.

Working with Eco Technology, a training course was tailored to the company’s needs for both management and operator levels. Topics included waste definitions, the Duty of Care, ISO 14001, waste management, contractor licensing, and completion of special waste consignment and waste transfer notes. The training received positive feedback from all attendees and the course will be run again in September. As a result, Crown Cork and Seal should benefit from continuing compliance with relevant legislation, and also by winning staff commitment to continuing waste minimisation programmes.

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