Coming into a new company as an EHS professional can be overwhelming. You’ll have new names to memorize, figure out where the coffee cups live, and on top of it all, learn a million new SOPs. When it comes to regulations, you might have some prior experience dealing with auditing, training, and reporting. Every facility is different with a unique set of applicable regulations.
So, what’s the best way to learn the ropes? Here are a few tips:
Research Historical Documents
If you’re lucky, your new workplace will have carefully documented historical documents that will tell you what things have been reported in the past and why. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and you might not be able to find so much as a sticky note on the subject. In that case, we highly recommend asking questions. People that have been there for a long time will have insight you wouldn’t expect!
Investigate Potential Hazards and Hazardous Materials
After you gather your intel, you’re going to want to walk the property and take careful note of everything you see. What kind of tools and materials are people using? Do you have large containers of chemicals or oil-derived products? What waste streams are generated? Write everything down, learn where everything is, and in what quantity. Quantity is a big part of determining what kind of environmental plans and permits you need to get your hands on and maintain.
If this is not something you have the time or confidence for, there are plenty of consultants that can come in and make a comprehensive analysis of your facilities. In their report, they’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to remedy gaps in compliance.
Hit the Books
Auditing your facility is a major first step. Then it’s time to utilize your resources after that to figure out:
- Safety precautions you need to take;
- Permits to obtain; and
- Required employee trainings
The internet can be your best friend and worst enemy in this case – regulations vary state to state, and it’s easy to get information overload. If you’re not quite sure how to eliminate, reduce, or control your workplace hazards, it might be time to call in a professional. Time to pull out a cliché: better safe than sorry.
We put together a checklist for facility managers a while back which gave a brief overview of common permitting. A couple brief excerpts:
“The most common forms of permitting for most facilities involve air quality or discharge of a waste stream (usually treated on site prior to discharge).”
“If you store more than 1,320 gallons of oil or oil-derived products such as gasoline, a SPCC plan is required.”
“A SWPP plan is required if a facility if:
- …it is identified in the federal storm water regulations. If you are unsure, it can be determined from the code found on corporate tax returns.
- …the site has a point source discharge to surface waters.”
These are just a couple examples. The only way to know sure you’re covering all your bases is to know what you have in your building, what’s going out of your building, and in what quantities.
OSHA.gov will provide you everything you need to know about worker safety. The site itself is a labyrinth, so know what you’re looking for before you dive in.
EPA.gov provides great detailed information on permitting and environmental regulations.
Your state-run websites (for Michigan, MIOSHA and MDEQ) will give you all your state-specific regulation.
If you end up chin-deep in regulation land and feel like you’re out of your comfort zone, regulators and consultants are always available to help out. Trying your best to gain compliance with complicated regulations will get you a long way, and enlisting help of those who live and breathe them will put you in the best position possible.
Ready to get your next environmental project started? Get in touch with our environmental experts today.