What is an environmental gorilla?When it comes to environmental issues, many facilities are primarily focused on environmental compliance – let’s make sure we meet our permit limits. Let’s stay out of trouble - today. While environmental compliance is an important aspect of environmental management, it should not be the sole focus of a facility. Each facility should also actively reduce its risk of potentially significant future environmental liabilities on a daily basis. The easiest way to start is to manage your environmental gorillas.
According to Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, authors of the best-selling book The Invisible Gorilla, “Imagine you are asked to watch a short video in which six people – three in white shirts and three in black shirts – pass basketballs around. While you watch, you must keep a silent count of the number of passes made by the people in white shirts. At some point, a gorilla strolls into the middle of the action, faces the camera and thumps its chest, and then leaves, spending nine seconds on screen. Would you see the gorilla?”
Well according to the authors, when they conducted this experiment at Harvard University a few years ago, half of the people that watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla!
This experiment reveals a significant behavioral tendency - we are not aware of a lot of things around us, and we do not recognize this lack of awareness. This causes many of us to simply overlook the obvious.
Here is a state-of-the-art chemical mix room with all of the “bells and whistles.” This facility was proud of the investment that it made to protect the environment by ensuring any release from drums and totes stored in this area would be contained by the trenches and sumps within the self-contained chemical mix room. The trenches and sumps actually contained sensors that would sound an alarm if any released material entered the structures.
When it comes to potential environmental impact at a facility, the places where a material is produced usually get most of the attention. But storage areas are typically ground zero for environmental issues, especially chemical or liquid materials that could spill. That means it’s vital to closely monitor how a facility stores materials, whether inside or outside, to limit environmental impact and dangerous exposures to team members.
As a facility or plant manager you’ve got a lot going on at all times. It’s too much to keep track of it all when it comes to compliance and environmental, health and safety issues. But the solution – at least the start – is saying just three magic words…I don’t know. Uttering those three words puts you on the quickest path to finding solutions to your most serious and pressing problems.