Utilities best prepared to face millennium bug, survey indicates

The utilities and the chemical industry are the best prepared to cope with the millennium bug, according to a UK Environment Agency (EA) survey. But even in the chemical industry the preparations of 30% of those businesses surveyed were classed as having attained a medium or poor standard of preparedness.


The survey showed that 89 percent of utilities had attained a good degree of preparedness, while the remaining 11 percent were classed as medium. 69 percent of chemical industry business had a good standard of compliance, 25 percent medium and five percent poor.

The EA says that, overall, industry must act immediately to prevent the millennium bug posing a serious pollution threat. Less than half of the total businesses surveyed – 42 percent – were classed as good. None of the other sectors had a majority of sites classed as good.

The EA surveyed more than 400 companies and found most had taken active steps to check their systems, but that many will need to speed up efforts to ensure systems are compliant.

EA Chief Executive Ed Gallagher wrote last year to all businesses regulated by the Agency, to inform them that the bug would not be accepted as an excuse if it contributed to a systems failure resulting in environmental damage.

In the survey, businesses were assessed on their awareness of the problem, what checks had been made of systems that could lead to environmental damage if they failed, progress on compliance, and contingency plans and checks on suppliers of goods and services.

The preparedness of sites were classed as good, medium or poor. These were then grouped by industry to provide an indication of how well prepared individual sectors are.

Analysis of preparedness by industry sector (rounded to nearest %):

Good

Medium

Poor

Utilities

89

11

0

Chemical industry

69

25

05

Agriculture

17

9

67

Wood production

21

50

29

Paper industry

27

64

09

All manufacturing

47

40

13

Mining/quarrying

50

36

14

Food manufacture

50

44

06

Overall

42

35

23

The Agency’s Director of Environmental Protection, Dr Paul Leinster, said: “This study underlines the fact that while there is a high level of awareness of the bug issue among those surveyed, in many cases the work to address the issue is not comprehensive enough or is running late. This survey was by no means exhaustive but nevertheless it highlights the fact that many companies still have a great deal of work to do. We believe there is still time for industry to address this issue adequately if they act now.”

Other key findings of the survey include:

  86% of companies had set up a Year 2000 project

  76% had carried out checks of environmentally-critical systems, although less (71%) had included embedded processors (eg pieces of office equipment containing a computer chip) in this audit

  Just over half (57%) had carried out a risk assessment of affected systems

  Just over half the companies had started to make their environmentally-critical systems compliant

  Over 20% of those who quoted dates said they will not have made all critical systems compliant by September 1999

  15% of companies which supplied information about their most hazardous or at-risk systems reported those systems would not be compliant until September 1999 at the earliest

  60% have made contingency plans for the bug, but some of the plans appear to be incomplete.

© Faversham House Ltd 2022 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

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