Eight State Coalition Backs Broad Protection of Waters Under the U.S. Federal Clean Water Act

On 16 September 2014, New York Attorney General Schneiderman, along with the attorneys general for Connecticut, Deleware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington State, submitted comments in support of the proposed rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) redefining the scope of the “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act.

The proposed rule would establish clear categories of waterbodies that fall within the protection of the Act by defining “waters of the United States” to include tributaries and adjacent waters, such as wetlands, along with traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, and the territorial seas. The proposed definition would clarify which waters fall under the protection of the Act after several court cases have caused confusion among the states.

The attorneys general provide three reasons for supporting the proposed rule:

  1. The proposed rule is grounded in peer-reviewed scientific studies that confirm fundamental hydrologic principles
  2. The proposed rule advances the statute’s protection of state waters downstream of other states by securing a “floor” for water pollution control
  3. The proposed rule would promote predictability and consistency in the application of the law

If the EPA’s proposed rule clarifying the scope of “waters of the United States” is adopted, companies may see increased regulation of their wastewater discharges as more water bodies fall under the protection of the Clean Water Act.

 

– Jill Bernstein, EHS Regulatory Consultant at Enhesa

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Do your “low risk” facilities get enough attention?

On two occasions now in the past few years I have been sitting in a meeting room with client prospects (mainly senior or corporate EHS managers around the world), and the fire alarm has sounded. On the first occasion, my hosts and I went to exit the nearest marked fire exit, only to find it was padlocked shut, from the outside. Luckily it was only a drill. On the second occasion, our meeting kept on going; the alarm (still ringing in our ears) dismissed by my hosts as “just testing the alarms” and we would not have to move. After 10 minutes of this, there was a realization that actually, maybe this wasn’t a test, or a drill. It was neither. We were lucky again that the fire was in another part of the office block. Both the aforementioned prospects did become clients!

I have heard several similar stories from contacts around the world; the rope ladder fire escape on the 5th floor of an office block in Cairo, that only reached down to the 2nd floor, being one such good example.

It seems logical that offices (and to a certain extent retail, service centres, datacentres and warehouses) are often seen as “low-risk” type operations compared to industrial/manufacturing sites. It is therefore understandable that companies tend to focus their time and budgets on their greatest risks. However, be very careful not to take you eye off the “low-risk” ball. We have seen growing evidence of enforcement cases (in the UK and US particularly) relating to such locations; the numbers of ergonomics-related injuries (often associated with desk work) continue to be high; and in our experience the rates of non-compliance with legal requirements can be just as high as for higher-risk operations.

In 2013 Enhesa carried out more than 80 EHS compliance audits at office-based facilities in more than 20 countries around the world. You may be surprised to hear that on average we audited against 255 applicable legal requirements per country. Although this is typically around 40% less than the requirement faced by industrial manufacturing sites, it is still a significant amount of EHS legal obligations your “low risk” sites generally have to contend with. Of equal note is the fact that we found an average of 13% non-compliances against these requirements (in fact, we found an average of 23% non-compliance in Asia compared to Europe at 9% and the America’s at 10%). Most of these non-compliances tend to be in relation to fire safety; risk assessments and ergonomics issues. Perhaps most interesting of all, this is pretty much in line with the percentage that we find in manufacturing facilities. So whereas there may indeed be somewhat fewer requirements to meet, and perceptions of risk are lower, in our experience this does not mean that office sites are any more compliant than industrial sites.

In our experience there are a whole variety of factors at play as to why companies struggle to meet their compliance obligations: who is responsible (landlord or tenant)? What are the specific local requirements? Unusual local requirements can also catch you off guard. For example, In India businesses must keep equipment on site for the treatment of persons with electrical shock, such as wooden sticks to remove the person from the source of the shock.

The moral of the story is clear. Offices are as much a part of your EH&S remit as your factories.

Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford

Enhesa will be sponsoring the global risk management track at the IOSH Conference in June. The Conference Track will include a roundtable discussion focussing on the low vs high-risk H&S challenges.

– Blog originally posted at: http://www.shponline.co.uk/comment/blog/full/do-your-“low-risk”-facilities-get-enough-attention-#sthash.71lCt8YQ.dpuf

We should respect the local laws of non-EU countries – no matter how ridiculous they might seem

Anyone who has worked for an international company will likely have a fair few cross-cultural stories to tell. I for one hear anecdotes on different cultural approaches and requirements relating to environment and health and safety issues on an almost daily basis. Some of these anecdotes stem from unusual legal obligations that we cover for our clients. They can raise a few eyebrows to those of us brought up on EU-led safety-consciousness.

For example, did you know that in India, under the Factories Act 1948, there is a requirement that only adult male workers wearing tight-fitting clothing can examine, lubricate or adjust any machinery in motion? Or that in Russia, under a 2009 order, if you work in an environment where you may be exposed to ionising radiation, you are entitled to regular provisions of free milk? Were you aware that in Pakistan certain factories are required to provide spittoons at convenient places for their workers?

Of course, although these requirements stand out as being unusual – even humorous – they pertain to serious subjects. It makes perfect sense that if you are working on machinery with moving parts that loose clothing is extremely hazardous; milk is highly nutritious; and wouldn’t you rather have spittoons than people spitting on the workfloor? Being aware (or unaware) of local legal obligations are just one of a variety of risks that your company will face when doing business, and keeping your people safe and healthy, wherever you have locations around the world. As well as variations in law, you will of course also have to contend with differences in culture, language, professional approaches, customs, holidays and religious festivals, beliefs and attitudes. All of these factors must be considered when trying to manage safety in different locations.

It is fairly common to hear an EHS manager say: “It doesn’t matter what the local law says, we are going to impose our corporate EHS standards on all our facilities all over the world, and because they are based on UK law they will be stricter than anything they have in place at the moment, and the local laws are never enforced anyhow.” There would be little wrong with this approach, if it were true. However, there are many variations in EHS laws around the world that mean this could be a less than sensible approach. Not only that, but do you think it will be easy to tell your site in France, China, Russia or wherever that they will need to apply standards based on UK law on top of their own legal obligations? Yes, there is a culture of health and safety management in the UK that is more developed (or perceived to be more developed) than in some countries, but our research at Enhesa is also finding an exponential rise in the adoption of EHS laws and enforcement of these around the world.

Governments and authorities the world over are moving to protect their workforces more, so the need to be aware of local laws and practices is becoming increasingly important. Have you come across any such issues/anecdotes? It would be good to hear your experiences on this. Enhesa will be sponsoring a session on global risk management at the IOSH conference in June 2014.

Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford, Business Development Manager EMEA

 

Originally published at: http://www.shponline.co.uk/comment/blog/full/we-should-respect-the-local-laws-of-non-eu-countries-–-no-matter-how-ridiculous-they-might-seem#sthash.51bRA3qs.dpuf