Understanding what environmental management system training is and how it fits into your environmental program is crucial for success.
In today's business environment, staying in compliance with all applicable environmental laws and regulations can be pretty tricky. A solution for some organizations is to implement an Environmental Management System. However, using and understanding your EMS can be just as tricky! Some organizations find that training on their system, or the basics of an EMS can help their staff understand just really what is involved.
A great client of ours implemented an environmental management system a few years ago, and they really knocked it out of the park. The thing is a work of art! Unfortunately, things tend to change from year to year, including personnel. Recently they've been having some issues with their staff understanding and using the EMS and they've been struggling with getting the information across.
I said guys, let's conduct some training and get everyone up to speed. This won't be stormwater training or SPCC training, this will be specific to your EMS program. I received somewhat of a dumbfounded look and they asked what's environmental management system training?
It's a great question, and since environmental management systems can take all shapes, sizes, and forms, it's somewhat of a tricky question to address. However, let's dive into the details of what this type of environmental training should incldue, and how it might beneifit your organization.
So what is environmental management system training?
Start off by considering that an EMS is a different creature than most businesses are used to dealing with.
For most, environmental matters are completed on a piece-meal basis through a haphazardly constructed program. Get a permit here, try to stay in compliance, don't track it's due dates or requirements, get another permit, get an approval, update this, review that, and try not to let anything fall by the wayside. It's confusing, and from what we've seen, rarely works out well.
An EMS eliminates this problem altogether and is a completely different way of thinking with regards to environmental matters. And, like anything else that's new, different and requires some knowledge and expertise, you need to train on it. It needs to be taught to those that will be using it.
That means, whoever is going to be part of the EMS needs to be taught what it is and how to use it
When we conduct environmental management system training, we usually cover the following:
- The Environmental Policies of the Organization - Basically, what the organization stands for, believes in, strives for, their stance, etc. Imagine this as a business's 'environmental mission statement'. This ensures that everyone included in the training understands the core values of the organization.
- The Structure of the EMS Program - Who's responsible? Who keeps track of documentation? Who checks the EMS? What type of EMS is it? What are the various roles within the EMS? This kind of stuff.
- Legal Responsibilities - What types of permits and approvals are held by the organization? What are the terms and conditions of the permits or approvals? Who administers these permits and approvals? We'd also cover other things, such as if the organization operates under any type of voluntary certifications.
- The Aspects of the EMS - We'd identify the environmental aspects that the organization engages in, and their environmental impacts. In other words, what does the facility do to interact with the environment, and impact the environment? These can be both positive and negative. A common misconception is that aspects and impacts are only the negative impacts a company has. That's not the case.
- Future Plans to Reduce Environmental Impacts - Basically what's going to happen, when it's going to happen, the plan for how it's going to happen, the cost, and who's going to be responsible in taking part of this plan. This is what some folks would consider a program of continual improvement, which is the basis of what an EMS is.
- How to Overcome Issues - We'd discuss the facility’s corrective action program. This is how to deal with upsets, emergencies, or other unplanned occurrences impacting the environment in any way.
- How to Check the EMS - Is it done through a 3rd Party? Who's checking on the success of the program? How are we going to go through an audit? How is the check process carried out?
- An Overview of Management - We're not going over who your boss is, we'll cover the organization’s management overview of the EMS program. This is necessary to ensure the ongoing viability and support of the EMS, and its success in meeting its objectives.
That's it? That is EMS training?
As you can see, training can be, and normally is, vital for any and all involved personnel within the organization. It may not be everyone, but depending on the program, and the size of your organization, it may be. The more people involved, the better chance of it being successful. Without people understanding what the program is all about, it just isn’t going to work, or at least it’s not going to do what it’s supposed to.
Is environmental management system training mandatory?
First off realize that there really isn’t any rule or regulation that specifies that EMS training be conducted. Heck, there's no requirement that you even have to have an EMS!
So training, unlike most environmental regulatory compliance training, isn’t required at all.
Am I crazy by saying this? Maybe.
To be completely honest, the most successful programs I've ever seen have conducted training on a regular basis. What's regular? That depends on your company and personnel. Maybe it's monthly, maybe it's quarterly, maybe it's once a year. So is it necessary, no. Is it a good idea? Absolutely!
Without training, it's difficult to see how your time, money, and energy spent on your program is going. Sure you can wait for an audit or checkup, but what if you don't pass? What if your program is deemed insufficient? Then you're wasting your time and money, and you'll need to start figuring out why.
Figure it this way, without training, your program might just wind up being another notebook sitting on your shelf, collecting dust. And that’s not an EMS, that’s a shame.