Ensuring regulatory compliance is just as important for office buildings as it is for industrial operations. This was highlighted in May 2009 when it was revealed in the United Kingdom that Shell International was fined £300,000 after two fires at the Shell Centre in central London at the end of 2006. Subsequent inspections of the offices found that Shell was in breach of several legal fire safety requirements including blocked escape routes and fire exits, defective fire doors and excessive fire loading. In the aftermath of its inspections the London Fire Brigade found that non-compliance was so severe that the London Fire Brigade served a prohibition notice on Shell restricting the use of the Shell Tower and basement levels until the issues were dealt with. When the case came to court, Shell pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and was fined and also ordered to pay £45,000 in costs.
The costs to Shell would have obviously been a lot greater to Shell than the fine it-self, as its offices were not able to be used.
This is not an isolated incident. Enhesa’s consultants regularly come across situations where administrative offices are generally viewed as posing minor risks compared to major industrial plants. This may be true in terms of the greater potential harm that may occur from an incident involving chemicals or heavy machinery. However, due to the lower perceived risk, companies often do not have dedicated or professional EHS staff for their administrative offices. As a result, this can lead to a greater residual risk. As was highlighted in the Shell case, this can be an expensive oversight in corporate EHS management.
Of the offices Enhesa has audited in numerous countries during the period 2007-2009, more than 50% had serious non compliance findings. Amongst the most common failures are lack of appropriate building or operating permits, non-compliance with permit conditions, inappropriate emergency routes, failure to comply with the requirements for air-conditioning in terms of compulsory maintenance and logbooks (for ozone depleting substances and fluorinated greenhouse gases), inappropriate ventilation in garages, and heating installations that do not undergo the necessary periodic inspections or that fail to meet the emission restrictions or energy efficiency requirements.
It is in response to these findings that Enhesa has for a number of years provided tools and services which allow companies to ensure that their international offices stay in compliance with their local legal requirements. We provide Country Profiles and Audit Protocols specifically tailored to offices and have provided these to numerous clients in the banking and insurance sector, as well as to other companies that have both offices and industrial production facilities. These services help companies stay on top of changing regulatory requirements, enable them to ascertain their compliance levels and implement measures to improve compliance levels – thereby avoiding a similar fate to Shell in London.