Oct 22, 2017

ISO 14001 – Are you compliant with all legislation?

Any organization that achieves ISO 14001 accreditation will not only be beneficial to our immediate environment and the planet as a whole, but the organization itself will gain various other benefits as well. ISO 14001 specifies that an organization’s top management should define an environmental policy. The environmental policy must contain a commitment that the organization will comply with any legal requirements that are applicable, and also to any other requirements relating to the environmental aspects to which the company subscribes. This means that before you even begin to worry about identifying the environmental aspects, you should first make sure that you understand and comply with any local legislation that is applicable, and is prepared to become aware of and then react to any update in this legislation. Let’s have a look at how you can go about to best achieve this.

Staying abreast of legislation

As the ISO 14001 standard’s scope is international, the language used to refer to legislative requirements is intentionally open ended. This does however mean that the EMS representative has to do a fair amount of work to determine the Company’s regulatory requirements. As legislation will differ vastly between countries, and sometimes even between regions within a specific country, this has become increasingly difficult and it is therefore important that it is researched adequately. The industry you work in will have a huge influence on what legislation your company needs to comply with. A call center and a chemical plant will for example have legal requirements that are very different that they’ll need to consider.

Where to start when ensuring compliance

Although there are many companies who would be able to assist with this, in my opinion, it is far more valuable to educate yourself and strengthen the organization’s environmental performance by acquiring knowledge of the local legal requirements first hand. Start by establishing a Register for Environmental Legislation for your company. This need only be a basic document in Excel or Word, and it should basically lists the regulations that apply, and the following crucial details:

  • A reference to the legislation complete with the informational source
  • Key requirements that should be clarified
  • Controls that need to be implemented
  • A compliance summary detailing whether you comply or not
  • Records of responsibility including a date
  • A future date on which compliance with the legislation will be checked on an ongoing basis

Once you have completed your register, you can determine which legislation applies to your company. The application of legislation is extremely wide, but your knowledge of the industry the organization operates in will allow you to evaluate and reject many parts of the legislation that does not apply. Local government agencies have been established in many regions and these will assist you with this type of enquiry and they often provide nationwide or local resources to make applicable legislation available. Getting in touch with the environmental department of the local governmental is a good place to begin. There are many different types of environmental legislation, from disposal of hazardous substances and waste management, to what type of materials you use to produce your products if you are a manufacturer. Even an office environment will have environmental aspects to consider, such as which gases are allowed to be used in cooling or heating systems. If possible, it’s a good idea to compare notes with similar organizations close by to make sure that you’ve though of everything that may be required.

Compliance Management

Once the legislation register has been updated, you will need to identify the environmental aspects that could affect you, and it is critically important that your understanding of legal aspects is always monitored and stays current. The local government agencies mentioned before might also provide a legislation update subscription service. This will help you make sure that you’re always aware when legislation changes. It is a good habit to establish a regular monthly session where you research, document, and act on any legislative changes that could affect your company. It’s crucial that you are able to show any auditor a record detailing any changes, how you acted upon it, and how that action was communicated internally in your organization. Your internal audit procedure may also examine the effectiveness of this process, so it’s good to be ready and maintain the habit of reviewing legislation regularly.

Benefits of doing it on your own

As mentioned before, there are benefits to establishing the organization’s broad regulatory requirements for the environmental management system yourself. It will allow you to learn about current legislation, even if it does not necessarily apply to your organization. ISO 14001 accreditation and compliance makes that you responsible for all environmental aspects of your products and services. With your newly acquired knowledge, you could make sure that the company’s supply chain is also managed to comply.

At the end of the day, establishing your organization’s legislative compliance requirements on your own will prepare you to meet the challenges that come with providing excellent products or services to customers with the environmental impact reduced to a minimum. ISO 9001 quality management systems (QMS) are implemented using MyEasyISO software in Saint Petersburg (Russia), while ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001 Health Safety Management Systems (HSE) are implemented with MyEasyISO in Cuzco (Peru).

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