The I.C.E. Protocol: An Easy Approach for Reducing Your Environmental Exposures and Liabilities

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The I.C.E. (Identify, Control and Eliminate) Protocol is an easy to follow approach for reducing your environmental exposures. With so much going on at your facility at any one time, these simple steps go a long way toward eliminating existing and potential liabilities.

This keeps your employees safe, helps stop costly cleanups from spills and other incidents, and ensures you’re in the good graces of regulators.

The first step is to…

Identify your environmental, health and safety issues.

To do this you must develop a strong knowledge base about your facility. You must understand everything your facility does and how you do it. Your team (long-service employees and managers, especially) is a great resource here, as are existing permits, your current documentation of processes, and your colleagues at a sister facility.

You should also consider getting a second pair of eyes on your facility, such as an environmental consultant. As an “outsider” they can often spot things you miss because of familiarity blindness. In a nutshell, you’re so used to seeing your facility as is, you can’t identify what are seemingly obvious liabilities – which is probably why they haven’t been dealt with before.

Four Steps to Achieving Compliance with Environmental, Health and Safety Regulations

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Step 4: Keep Moving Forward and Maintain Progress

Four Steps to Achieving Compliance with Environmental, Health & Safety Regulations

New Download: Get The 15 Most Common EH&S  Regulations Chart as a great starting point as you begin your journey into regulatory compliance. Download now.

Step 3: The Dreaded Regulations and How to Deal with Them

If you missed Step 1 or Step 2 of this series, use these links to read the articles. One of the biggest challenges for any facility or plant manager is to stay in compliance – and in the good graces of regulators. As your facility changes, the permits you have might need to be modified. Or, you might even need totally new permits. Not to mention, regulations are always changing.

But perhaps an even bigger challenge is to get in compliance in the first place.

When you’re starting from scratch, it’s a goal that can seem unachievable. But, because of the very real risk of financial penalties or even facility shutdown, it’s something you have to do… and you should get started now.

The best way to face this big task is to break it into smaller pieces that you tackle one by one:

Step 1: Understand Your Facility Operations

Step 2: Get It Together and Become a Well Organized and Efficient Manager

Step 3: The Dreaded Regulations and How to Deal with Them

Step 4: Keep Moving Forward and Maintain Progress

(Be sure to read Step 1: Understand Your Facility Operations and Step 2: Get It Together and Become a Well Organized and Efficient Manager if you haven’t already.)

What Regulations Do You Need to Worry About?

There are hundreds of regulations – and thousands of pages – covering environmental, health and safety at the local, state, and federal level.

How do you know what rules apply to your facility and the work you do? It can be overwhelming, but there is help available.

Four Steps to Achieving Compliance with Environmental, Health and Safety Regulations

 New Download: Get this Permit Compliance Reminder Chart as a quick reference guide to making changes at your facility. Download Now

Step 2: Get It Together and Become a Well Organized and Efficient Manager

With so many regulations and required permits, many facility managers struggle to stay in compliance – and in the good graces of regulators. It’s a task made more difficult by the fact that regulations and related requirements are always changing.

It can seem like a monumental task. But if you break it down into steps, you can efficiently get into compliance – and relatively quickly, too. Those four steps are:

Step 1: Understand Your Facility Operations

Step 2: Get It Together and Become a Well Organized and Efficient Manager

Step 3: The Dreaded Regulations and How to Deal With Them

Step 4: Keep Moving Forward and Maintain Progress

If you haven’t done so already, please read Step 1: Understand Your Facility Operations, first.

Four Steps to Achieve Compliance With Environmental, Health & Safety Regulations

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Step 1: Understand Your Facility Operations

I give a talk regularly at industry conferences and educational seminars about how facilities can beef up their environmental, health and safety (EH&S) policies and protocols.

As I’ve written about previously, when it comes to EH&S, simply complying with permits and regulations isn’t enough. That course of action, while necessary, is limited and doesn’t do enough to keep your facility safe from risks and threats. Think of basic compliance as looking at a rear-view mirror, while ignoring the windshield and what lies ahead.

My audiences generally get that. But a related question pops up quite often.

“We just need to get into compliance in the first place – how do you do that?”

I understand where they’re coming from.

Why You Need to Involve Your Environmental Consultant Early When Doing Any Site Changes

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It’s a nightmare scenario for any facility manager.

You’ve prepped for months for a major capital improvement that will expand your operations – and hopefully boost profits.

Executives and bigwigs from around the country are flying in for the ground-breaking ceremony.

Then, the day before or the day of… or maybe a few days later, all work must stop.

There are a variety of reasons, which will go into in just a moment, but the root cause is that you didn’t get your environmental consultant involved early enough in the process.

7 Reasons Why Your Facility Needs an Environmental “Check Up”

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A lot of people—maybe you’re one of them—put off going to the doctor for a checkup, an annual physical, or one of those screenings or tests that are so important as you get older.

It’s understandable. There’s a fear of finding out there’s something wrong, a comfort in not knowing. But avoiding the test can allow a medical issue to get even worse.

It’s the same at your facility. Even if you think everything is running smoothly, there may be issues in your processes, facility layout or features, equipment, or practices. These unrecognized issues can quickly turn into expensive liabilities.

Getting Your Money’s Worth With Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments

As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

When it comes to a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) conducted as part of due diligence prior to the purchase or sale of a facility (see previous article), it couldn’t be more true.

Although all Phase I ESAs should be conducted by an experienced environmental professional to industry standards (following ASTM Standard E1527-13), the level of quality you actually get can vary widely.

The purpose of the ESA is to help you identify and manage present and future risks from the environmental impact of a facility’s operations. Cutting corners on an ESA is like leaping over stacks of $100 bills to pick up three pennies. What’s the point?

A Phase I ESA is the starting point for most due diligence. If you kick things off on the wrong foot, it can negatively affect the whole due diligence process, leading to serious environmental issues and liabilities being addressed incorrectly or overlooked altogether.

This can impact the real estate transaction – a buyer may not move forward with the purchase or may even ask for a price reduction. In some cases, when problems missed in due diligence are discovered post-sale… it often leads to a dispute (with potential legal action) between buyer and seller to see who pays to address the overlooked issue.

How Just Being “In Compliance” Can Get Your Facility Into Trouble

New Download: Get this Permit Compliance Reminder Chart as a quick reference guide to making changes at your facility. Download Now

You no doubt have any number of environmental permits related to the work done at your facility. As a good facility or plant manager, you want to stay in compliance, after all.

But simply acquiring permits and doing the associated monitoring or other tasks is only the first step in truly staying in the good graces of regulators. Over the five years that a permit is typically valid, there can be a lot of changes in:

  • Your manufacturing process
  • The type and amount of raw materials used
  • How and where you store materials
  • The chemicals (like solvents) used in your process
  • The number of production lines
  • The layout of your building
  • New buildings and new construction

Any time you make changes at your facility – even if they are seemingly insignificant, it’s your obligation to review your permits to see if the changes are covered by the existing permit conditions… or if you need to modify the permit or even secure a whole new permit. In some cases, you could even “drop” a permit because it’s not required anymore.

This determination is the responsibility of the facility, not regulators.

Why Due Diligence Is So Important - and How to Do It the Right Way

If you’ve ever bought a house, you know a critical part of the process is the home inspection conducted by a certified professional. It’s not a 100% guarantee the inspector will find every issue. But, more than likely, any big-ticket items are going to be identified and, as a result, you can certainly rest easier when you sign on the dotted line. That’s why it is important to retain an established firm that will provide you with a thorough inspection conducted by an experienced professional. Your investment in due diligence protects you from future surprises.

If it’s important to conduct due diligence when purchasing a home, it should be quite evident that it is vital to conduct thorough due diligence whenever you buy or sell a commercial/industrial property. However, it surprises me that so many businesses are reluctant to invest in a thorough environmental due diligence assessment when buying or selling a site for their manufacturing operations, storage, or whatever else… even when millions of dollars are at stake.