Environmental problems

Managing Environmental Risks

Is your business aware of its impact on the environment and the potential penalties for getting it wrong? 

When it comes to protecting your business, making sure your activities aren’t causing environmental harm is incredibly important as a breach of environmental law could have a profound effect on your business’s success.

What exactly does the term ‘environment’ mean?

When considering the environment, most people think of trees, rivers and animals, when in fact it encompasses most things around us, even other people.

ISO 14001:2015 defines the environment as ‘’The surroundings in which an organisation operates, including air, water, land, natural resources, flora, fauna, humans and their interrelationships’’, and these surroundings can extend from within the organisation to the local, regional and global system.

Environmental law covers all of the above aspects, so when considering what impact the organisation’s activities have on the environment it’s worth keeping in mind that these are not just direct, such as where we directly dispose of our waste, but also indirect, such as where our suppliers gain their materials.

What are the potential penalties and additional costs? 

Most breaches of environmental law are criminal offences and carry penalties of a fine and/or imprisonment. For cases tried in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum penalty is a fine of up to £50,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment, whilst cases tried in the Crown Court could incur an unlimited fine and/or two years imprisonment.

When considering the costs of environmental accidents, it is highly important to consider direct and indirect costs, as well as the insured and uninsured costs.

Direct costs are measurable and arise from an accident and / or any claim for liability in the civil or criminal courts.

These include elements such as:

  • Repairs or replacement of damaged equipment and buildings;
  • Remediation,
  • Product loss or damage,
  • Loss of production,
  • Public and/or product liability,
  • Fines,
  • Legal fees and
  • Increases in insurance premiums.

Indirect costs may also be incurred as a result of an incident, but do not generally actually involve the payment of money. As these costs are largely immeasurable, they can be difficult to account for. In certain circumstances, they may be extremely high.

These include elements such as:

  • Business interruption,
  • Loss of orders,
  • Cost of time spent on investigations and
  • Loss of corporate image.

Not only does your business need to consider direct or indirect costs, but if your insurance will cover them. Uninsured costs usually include all indirect costs, as well as those relating to a loss of production as a result of many types of incident. Insurances may also be voided where it can be shown that the business had not taken adequate precautions to prevent the incident. Uninsured losses can be many times greater than insured losses.

What harm might your business cause the environment? 

There are 000’s of different ways businesses can cause adverse effects on the environment. These can extend locally, regionally or even on a global scale. When considering how your business affects the environment, there are a few elements you should consider.

To learn more about each area of environmental risk and the potential damage they could cause your business, check out the toggles below. 

There are many ways your business can affect the air quality on a local, regional and global scale. The contaminates of air are elements such as:

 

·       Vehicle emissions,

·       Dust,

·       Fumes,

·       Smoke,

·       Odours,

·       Fibres (i.e. wood, asbestos) etc.

 

By considering your activities and how they may release contaminates into the air, you are reducing the risk of enforcement and the associated costs.

 

In 2006 a hazardous waste company from the north west released toxic fumes into the air that left four members of staff needing medical treatment along with several members of the public reporting side effects.

 

The company had inadequate emergency plans and breached the conditions of their waste management license by accepting waste they were not permitted to hold and then stored it with another chemical substance. This resulted in a joint prosecution by the HSE and the Environment Agency which resulted in a £101,000 fine as a result of the eight charges brought against them, along with paying a further £65,000 in costs.

These types of breaches can be avoided by having the proper procedures in place and ensuring they are rigorously followed. (full story can be found here: Bootle Company Fined)

Some of the most common causes of environmental issues relating to land are:

 

·       Hazardous waste, 

·       Chemicals,  

·       Deforestation,  

·       Leachate (i.e. from waste skips etc.)

 

Making sure your business has adequate procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of land pollution occurring is a key element to mitigating the risk of receiving hefty enforcement and the associated costs incurred, especially when it comes to remediation costs of putting the land back to its original state.

 

Back in 2013 a scrap metal company had been delivering large quantities of waste to a third party for disposal. The third party were licensed to take agricultural waste for deposit over agricultural land it owned, however the nearly 4000 tonnes of contaminated waste soil was revealed to include plastics, metals and household waste.

 

Norwich Crown Court fined the company £3600 after finding it guilty of allowing contaminated waste materials to be illegally deposited on the land. The court also ordered the company to pay full prosecution costs of £4718.

 

The documentation accompanying the waste was also found to be incorrect as it only identified soil waste and not the above waste types. In imposing the level of the fine, the court noted that the defendant’s actions were not primarily financially motivated and that there were other mitigating circumstances to consider, resulting in a lower level of fine than may otherwise have been applicable. (full story can be found here: Waste – Breach of Duty of Care)

 

Water pollution can be one of the costliest pollutions to rectify due to the extensive remediation costs as well as the pure size of the potential problems caused. A spill into a freshwater sewer left unchecked has the potential to pollute an entire eco system living in rivers, lakes, oceans etc.

 

Some of the most common pollutants to water are:

 

  • Sewage (may contain solids such as wood, plastic waste, textiles etc.).
  • Hazardous chemicals.
  • Unauthorised discharges from manufacturing facilities.
  • Construction site run off.

 

It is highly important to not only have the procedures in place for preventing discharge into water courses, but also what to do in the event of a spill or contamination, such as having appropriate emergency plans in place.

 

In 2017, a Leeds-based house building company was sentenced after it was found to be discharging contaminated run-off into a water course from a Huddersfield construction site. The effects that the discharges were having on the water quality in the watercourse were registered up to 3 kilometres downstream. The company were fined £120,000 for illegally polluting a watercourse and were ordered to pay an additional £8,706.71 in legal costs as well as a £120 victim surcharge. (full story can be found here: Watercourse Pollution).

 

Noise is an issue most companies identify as a health and safety issue for their workforce, but noise becomes an environmental issue when considering who or what it affects when it is being emitted outside of the workplace. Some of the causes of noise pollution are:

 

 

  • Construction Noise (such as drilling, sawing etc.)
  • Vehicles (Plant, delivery vehicles etc.)
  • Manufacturing Processes (such as assembly lines etc.)

 

 

By considering noise as an environmental as well as a health & safety issue your organisation is not only protecting the health and wellbeing of your workforce, but also reducing the likelihood of prosecution should the noise affect the surrounding environment.

 

After numerous complaints from locals and interventions from the local council, a Bangor based construction company were sentenced in 2014 for causing noise nuisance from a building site. It was reported that they were breaking the imposed conditions set by the council that the construction work be limited between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Yet residents, some with young children, have been disturbed by noise through weekends, early in the morning and late at night. The noise was caused from sources such as nail guns, saws, generators, skip collections at inappropriate times and forklifts continuously using reversing bleepers straight into residents living rooms.

 

The company were ordered to pay £6,000 for the four charges of breaching the relevant legislation and were also ordered to pay costs of £3,511.48 to the council as well as a £120 victim surcharge. (full story can be found here: Noise Pollution).

How we conduct business not only affects the local or regional wildlife, but also affects wildlife on a global scale. The UK is home to many protected species and adversely affecting their habitats can come at a great cost.

 

The most common causes of impact to fauna are:

 

  • Waste(leading to death in animals or habitat being destroyed)
  • Deforestation (due to high demand for materials etc.)
  • Noise(causing forced evictions of animals)

 

A civil engineering company were sentenced in 2018 for illegally dumping more than 5,000 tonnes of construction waste into two land hollows in Herefordshire. The dumping of waste was compounded by the fact that the site was a habitat for great-crested newts, a European protected species. According to the Environment Agency, the actions of the company resulted in the disturbance, injury and killing of some of the newt population.

 

Great-crested newts are the largest species of newt in the UK and are protected by UK law, meaning to disturb or damage them or their nesting sites is punishable by unlimited fines and up to six months in prison. The company were ordered to pay £50,000 in fines and a further £50,000 towards prosecution costs. (full story can be found here: Protected Species).

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SMAS Worksafe has become a corporate partner with IEMA

SMAS Worksafe has become a corporate partner with IEMA to promote, educate and develop organisations on how environmental and sustainability should be at the forefront of any companies business plan for the future.

IEMA identifies that only 13% of organisations have the right skills on board to implement systems as part of the new sustainable economy. SMAS Worksafe Preferred Supplier provides the necessary resources to support and maintain a company’s profile, demonstrating to key buyers how you place an environmental management system in line with other key processes.

The Preferred Supplier industry recognised question set ensures your organisation has a plan in place to implement a management system with further evidence showing how personnel are trained and communicated, monitoring is conducted to ensure your plan works and how you assess key suppliers.

For more information about IEMA, please visit their website at www.iema.net

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SMAS Worksafe partners with Premierline to arrange insurance packages to Worksafe members

SMAS Worksafe can now announce a fantastic new partnership with Premierline, a leading insurance broker known for providing an excellent service and  supporting businesses to truly understand and meet their insurance needs.

Not only will you get comprehensive and hassle-free business insurance the partnership allows Worksafe Members to gain access to insurance products from market leading insurers. They understand every business is different and so their expert advisors will make insurance recommendations and arrange a great value insurance solution just for you.

“Getting the right insurance cover in play is vital for any type and sized business and so we’re delighted to be able to offer our members access to discounted and competitive insurance covers from Premierline as part of their membership with SMAS Worksafe. The fact that Premierline will work to really understand each business before providing custom solutions to suit their needs, gives us huge confidence that our members will be provided the best service possible, and importantly, can operate their business with confidence that they have appropriate cover at the best price”.

Danny Marinou, MD, SMAS Worksafe

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Paying the price for a Concrete Jungle

By Stanley Gibbs, SMAS Worksafe Assessor

Emissions from the cement industry contribute to global warming 3 or 4 times more than the aviation industry. By using renewable fuel sources during the production of cement as well as adding waste products gained from power stations to reduce the need for limestone, a company in India are slashing its carbon emissions by up to 40%.

The manufacturing of cement contributes up to 8% of the world’s total carbon emissions. Dalmia are aiming to use 100% renewable energy by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2040.

The issues regarding carbon emissions and the cement industry show no signs of slowing down in the UK, with all major political parties pledging to increase housing in their manifestos. Regardless of how you will vote in the upcoming elections, the impact of cement on our global carbon emissions cannot be ignored.

The UK must explore climate-friendly ways to make cement such as those already in practice at Dalmia. Committing to building more housing comes at a price to our environment so exploring alternate methods for the manufacturing of cement and reducing our carbon footprint ensures that we are building for a more sustainable future.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-india-50522972/how-to-make-cement-more-climate-friendly

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Is your gas fitter Gas Safe registered and in date?

By Stanley Gibbs, SMAS Worksafe Assessor

The HSE has recently sentenced a gas fitter for carrying out gas work after his registration with Gas Safe register had lapsed.

The HSE has reported:

Mansfield Magistrates’ Court heard that, during September and October 2016, Adam Mansbridge replaced the gas central heating boilers at two different addresses in Mansfield and Worksop without being registered with Gas Safe Register. Following concerns, Gas Safe Register attended the properties and identified various defects with the installations, including defects identified as being ‘immediately dangerous’ and ‘at risk’.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Mr. Mansbridge’s registration with Gas Safe Register had not been renewed at the time the gas work involving replacing the gas central heating boilers was carried out.

Adam Mansbridge pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 3 (3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998). He was given a curfew order for 12 weeks, ordered to pay costs of £2,500 and to pay £500 compensation to one of the customers.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lee Greatorex said:

“All gas work must be carried out by registered Gas Safe engineers to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life. Appropriate enforcement action will be taken by HSE against those that fall below the required standards.”

Before you utilise a gas fitter/company to undertake your gas works, SMAS Worksafe recommends checking the Gas Safe register where you can find the individuals registration, as well as the business’s registration.

https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/find-an-engineer/

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Carbon Emissions – Building for our Future

By Stanley Gibbs – SMAS Worksafe Assessor

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) Major Contractors Group (MCG) have recently released a report (Transforming Construction for a Low Carbon Future) detailing the impact the building industry is having on the nations carbon emissions and offering guidance on what organisations should be doing now if the UK is to achieve the rapid changes demanded by politicians and society. Written by contractors, it is commercially focused, identifying how main contractors and the broader industry can provide their customers and wider society with a comprehensive and profitable construction service.

The chair of the MCG (Mark Wakeford), said ‘The UK is leading the world in affecting carbon reductions and our Government has recently pledged to move to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. This will drive huge change in people’s lives and place a titanic stress on businesses and organisations who will have to change the way that they work within complicated and sophisticated supply chains.’

He continues, ‘Nowhere is the change more difficult – and the opportunity so large – than in the UK building industry. We directly account for 10% of the country’s emissions and influence a massive 47% of all emissions through our work. However, the structure and nature of our fragmented industry makes rapid and coordinated change difficult.

This document is designed to prompt debate, but that debate must lead to action and it must do so fast. There is no time to lose to tackle climate change; the war on carbon must be fought. There must be an equal level of urgency in the industry to open our eyes to the challenges and opportunities ahead. In less than a generation, building and construction will have changed beyond all recognition. Anyone not preparing for this right now faces extinction.’

https://www.builders.org.uk/nfb-groups/nfb-major-contractors-group/mcg-carbon-report-november-2019/ 

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4 steps to follow for an Environmental Management System

By SMAS Worksafe

Not an ISO 14001 certified business? Not to worry. Here are the 4 steps to follow in order to establish an Environmental Management System for your business.

But first, what is the Environmental Management System and why would your business need it?

The Environment Management System is defined as a set of procedures and processes enabling the business to reduce and control environmental impacts and increase their operating efficiency. With its plan, do, check, act structure the system creates foundations for ISO 14001 accreditation.

How? Let’s explore the steps to EMS in the article below.

EMS in 4 steps

Step 1 PLAN

Establish the reason why to build an Environmental Management System, for example:

  • to improve environmental performance,
  • to prevent pollution,
  • to comply with regulations/legislations etc.

Write the environmental goals down, define the project scope to be able to refer to it while building the EMS.

Involve management in establishing the EMS and assign an implementation team. Remember, to include your employee’s input as they hold the knowledge of environmental and health and safety issues related to their work along with the experience of how effective the company procedures are.

Hold a meeting to discuss the company’s environmental objectives, timelines, ways to achieve them, and the budget. Follow up the meeting with communication to all your employees.

Regular progress reviews are the key to monitor how effectively the management system is being built up against its goals and project plan. Make sure the results of the reviews are communicated to the management and employees. Keep them engaged!

Step 2 DO

It’s time to have a look at your organisation from an environment point of view. Do any of your undertakings have a direct and/or indirect impact on the environment? The answer is: Yes. We all, big or small, have an impact on the environment.

Let’s begin with:

  1. Legal requirements. Check if any of your environmental process fall under environmental legal requirements (waste management companies require a waste license).
  2. Assess your Environmental impacts and aspects. Here you should assess how does your organisation interact with the environment. Identify environmental impacts (use of diesel oil, use of paper are the aspects, environmental impacts for those would include exhaust emissions contribute to climate change and local air pollution, use of paper contributes to resource scarcity as well as habitat destruction).
  3. The opinion of others is equally important. Gather the views of other stakeholders. These may include neighbors (members of the public), interest groups, clients etc. Your stakeholders may be looking at your company’s environmental aspects and impacts from a different perspective which can be included while you are building your environmental policy.
  4. Reveal your intentions. Write up an Environmental Policy, define responsibilities, policy arrangements, objectives, and targets.
  5. Your EMS will now consist of policies, procedures, manuals and assessments. Identify the needs and ways of controlling and monitoring your Environmental Management System. Remember to have in place a corrective action plan for continual improvement.
  6. Plan and deliver environmental awareness training for your employees. Discuss the environmental impacts and aspects of your company undertakings. Familiarise employees with the environmental policy, objectives and targets. Allow for the feedback! Plan for continual training and improvement.

Step 3 CHECK

Once environmental processes have been established, it is time to ‘Check’ the EMS through an internal audit.

You can audit the entire EMS at once or focus on a specific process and conduct multiple mini internal audits. The choice is yours provided the findings are supported by corrective actions and followed up by personnel responsible for that process.

Step 4 ACT

EMS is a living system. Like Safety Management or Quality Management Systems, the EMS requires regular management reviews.

This can be achieved through:

  • internal and external audits
  • management reviews based on the results of the audit
  • environmental performance reviews
  • communication from external parties etc.

Acting upon the management reviews closes the Plan-D0-Check-Act circle when the areas of improvement indicated in the reviews are implemented in the EMS during Step I” Plan” cycle of the process.

Create it, live it and enjoy it. We can all make a change toward a better tomorrow.

To learn more about SMAS Worksafe Preferred Supplier, click here.

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Making Modern Slavery Simple

By Marcus Rose – SMAS Worksafe, Director of Technical Services

Modern slavery is a hideous crime taking advantage of those that are vulnerable for wealth and greed. Statistic produced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) identifies there are 25 million people forced into labour around the world.

In the UK, the construction sector is susceptible to this risk due to non-English speaking workers, large labour force and short project deadlines set by clients to complete the work. Recently construction workers have been detained on suspicion of working in Britain illegally, CITB has worked closely with counter fraud, police and the home office. This is due to fraudulent card use and it’s been involved in cases of modern slavery.

IEMA has identified how there is a need for guidance on the preparation of modern slavery and what should a statement consist of and how to interpret them bit.ly/2nVnexg.

What can your organisation do?

Modern slavery should not be an ordeal to implement or manage. By implementing processes, organisations can monitor and help avoid the risks; while educating their supply chains.

Organisations that have a turnover of 36 million must comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and this should be demonstrated on their website. Those with turn over less than 36 million could still be requested or would like to volunteer a statement during procurement, by helping mitigate the risks and demonstrate best practice.

The Modern Slavery Act specifies the steps organisations has taken to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place while being transparent. The Act does not describe the detail in what a statement should include or the structure, but it does provide a non-exhaustive list of information that may be included, by describing and addressing the steps taken:

  • the organisation’s structure, it’s business, and its supply chains,
  • its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking,
  • its due diligence (ongoing assessment of modern slavery risks) processes in relation to slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains,
  • the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk,
  • its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate,
  • the training and capacity building about slavery and human trafficking

SMAS Worksafe – Preferred Supplier

If your organisation needs to implement a modern slavery process, SMAS Worksafe has developed a best practice Modern Slavery Statement that can be adapted and implemented for any organisation that is taking up the additional questions. Additionally, the guided pack addresses the requirements while providing a fact sheet and training PowerPoint to educate your organisation. To learn more about SMAS Worksafe Preferred Supplier, click here.

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How your company can stand up against bribery and corruption

By Leon Brimble – SMAS Worksafe Assessor

Bribery and corruption are one of the world’s most destructive and complex problems of our times; and yet, despite efforts on a national and international stage to combat it, it remains widespread. The following extract is from the New York Times about the repairs to infrastructure after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, the catastrophic Category 4 storm that struck in 2017 and left more than 3 million residents without power. The wreckage created, what is believed to be the longest blackout in US history, contributing to the deaths of thousands who needed access to electricity to run lifesaving equipment such as dialysis machines and breathing devices. Officials poured billions of dollars into repairing the power grid, though even now, officials say, it remains fragile.”

Two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials assigned to help manage restoration efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, have been charged with fraud and bribery, for allegedly trying to enrich themselves by helping a company that received $1.8 billion in government contracts.

One of the officials was identified as FEMA’s “primary leader” for restoring power on the island, pressured her colleagues and Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority officials to give government work to the company, Cobra Acquisitions.

In exchange, authorities said, the Company’s then President gave her helicopter rides, hotel accommodation, first-class airfare, personal security services and use of a credit card. And, when a friend and colleague left FEMA, the executive helped her get a job at Cobra Energy, authorities said. The U.S. attorney for Puerto Rico, said in a statement announcing the indictment. “These defendants were supposed to come to Puerto Rico to help during the recovery after the devastation suffered from Hurricane Maria. “Instead, they decided to take advantage of the precarious conditions of our electric power grid and engaged in a bribery and honest services wire fraud scheme in order to enrich themselves illegally.”

What can we use to combat it?
Bribery and corruption could be considered as moving targets and therefore difficult to identify and isolate. Companies usually manage bribery and corruption risk through a mix of internal processes, certification requirements, and basic good practices throughout their operations. This includes working with suppliers and contractors.

Management System
An Anti-Bribery management system can be used by any organization, large or small, whether it be in the public, private or voluntary sector, and in any country, for the bribery and corruption risks it may face.

Benefits of an Anti-Bribery Management System
• Enhances your controls to combat bribery and reduce the risk of it occurring.
• Gives your Stakeholders confidence in your organisations approach to bribery and corruption.
• Promotes an ethical business culture.
• Ensures that employees understand what is expected, which helps the organisation stay within the law.
• Supports the organisation against prosecution, as it demonstrates that you have taken sufficient steps to prevent bribery and corruption.
• Enables you to stay ahead of your competitors, demonstrating industry best practice.

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You wont’t get away with a waste crime

By Anna Haag – SMAS Worksafe Assessor

Three years after abandoning the site, the directors of Rowanoak Waste Services Ltd were found guilty on all counts regarding the illegal waste activities at Shaw Road, Dudley.

“Waste crime is a serious offence with tough penalties. It can damage the environment, blight local communities and undermine those who operate legally. We aim to disrupt, prevent and investigate illegal waste activity and take enforcement action where we can. In this case, those found guilty, by being in breach of their permit, continued to operate their site illegally and continually ignored the Environment Agency’s efforts to reduce the waste. The Environment Agency use all enforcement powers available where we believe environmental offences have been committed.” – The Environment Agency Officer in charge of the investigation

The Environment Enforcement Actions public search for “Rowanoak Waste Services Ltd” takes us back all the way to the year 2015, when the company was presented with Enforcement Notice under Reg 36 “Comply with conditions and remedy pollution”.  The site was left abandoned with nearly 2000 tons of waste in 2016 and ever since multiple complains about the odor were raised by the public as well as local operating businesses. The site generated dust which covered customers and business vehicles and buildings in the area and the debris from waste pules affected the air conditioning of the nearby businesses.

Four years later in August 2019, the Directors of the company were found guilty on all accounts relating to the illegal waste activities. The offenders received 12 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months, fees between £25,000 to £40,000 as well as 100 hours of unpaid work as well as being disqualification from becoming a Director of a company for 3 and 5 years respectfully.

Continuing to operate the site regardless of the enforcement notices and breaching the waste permit is a serious legal offense. Illegal and inappropriate waste storage and disposal have a destructive impact on the environment and will be punished by the Environment Agency. The waste management responsibility lays within organizations as well as with individuals. The Environment Agency says: “Everyone who handles waste has a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled correctly. Whether you are a business, local authority or householder you must make sure you know where your waste goes so it doesn’t end up in the hands of illegal operators.”

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