Understand why your facility needs environmental management system training to make the most of your environmental program.
Not long ago a great friend of mine retired from a prominent position within his organization. He was in charge of various operational aspects of his company, including their environmental program. Complete environmental compliance was always his goal, and through his commitment to using an EMS, he was always right on target.
Needless to say, his replacement has some large shoes to fill.
Well, he's trying his best to fill them, as I discovered in a conversation we had last week. My friend left him a note with my information which said "if you need help with any environmental matters, CALL DOUG!"
Long story short, my friend's replacement was coming to terms with using and understanding the EMS the organization was using. He figured out that while his predecessor knew it like the back of his hand, turns out the rest of the company was in the dark.
No big deal, right? Wrong.
I recommended some simple environmental training, specifically on their EMS, and got some surprising pushback.
Why do I need environmental management system training? It doesn't specifically require training.
Alright, you're technically correct. But, like everything else, the more you learn, the more you practice, and the more you understand, the better off you are.
Why do I need training on my environmental management system?
The new guy is, unfortunately, right. You don't need environmental management system training on your EMS unless it specifically says so. So in his case he doesn't technically need it.
But that's a terrible way of looking at things.
If you are going through the effort to develop and implement an environmental management system at your facility, whether to be hopefully certified under a standard such as ISO 14001 EMS or some industry specific option, then you have a lot invested in your work, both time wise and financially. Alternatively, if you already have an EMS, you need to be sure you understand it so you're not falling out of compliance (hint, hint, fines and penalties from regulators) or wasting time.
Simply put, any EMS is designed to help keep your program in check and under control in an easy, manageable way.
But let's say you don't have an EMS yet. That's ok!
There's probably one thing that I find that usually separates the top performers from the "rest of us", and it's environmental training. The top performers don't leave it to chance and don't make it something they hide in the closet to be used only for the chosen few who partake in environmental matters within the organization.
Training is, and should be, for everyone. It should be regimented and scheduled and conducted by experienced experts. The best organizations and facilities from our experience are the ones that place time and value in training. I'm talking about SPCC training, stormwater training, safety training, preparedness training, emergency drill training, etc.
Training on various environmental matters is usually required, so for some training, yes, you need it to stay in compliance.
Now let's say you've got that EMS. Is training on that the same as the training I mentioned above? Not exactly.
So how is environmental management system training different from environmental training?
EMS is more "top level". It's a management system (a means of effectively putting the whole puzzle together) rather than just a piece of the puzzle. It's more about how you do things, what your "system" is to get things done. And yes, environmental training is required by your permits, and yes permits are required to ensure compliance, and yes environmental compliance is a requirement for an EMS, but training on your environmental management system is not the same as your regular environmental training.
Let me give you some examples of what effective environmental management system training should cover:
- The specifics of your operation. Training on your environmental management system should include the specifics about your operation and its environmental impacts, both positive and negative.
- The environmental permits your operation has. You'll most likely have several permits, and your training should include information about all of them. Whether you'll receive in-depth training or a brief mention of them will really depend on your training, but as long as they're included, you're on the right track.
- Training for a wide variety of your staff. Your training should really involve a fair representation of your organization. Why? The more people who are included, the better 'buy-in' across your organization. The most successful systems we see, with the most 'buy-in', are the ones with a good sampling of employees actively participating in the program.
- Define specific, realistic outcomes of the program. Good training shouldn't focus on pie-in-the-sky type outcomes of your program. What are the cost savings? What does the program mean to the staff? What does the program mean to the organization, the community, etc? People respond to realistic outcomes, not CO2 reduction or kilowatt hours saved, etc. Discuss long-term goals, and why sticking to the EMS will benefit everyone.
- Transparency, transparency, transparency. Discuss the outreach and effects of your EMS with everyone. Your program effects everyone, from the staff to the community, so develop some sort of outreach to get the message (meaning the good and the bad) across to everyone.
- A clear chain of command. I said to include a wide variety of your organization in your program and training, but make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what. For instance, if a regulator comes to inspect the site, who is responsible for accompanying the inspector around the facility? Who's responsible for any follow-up correspondence? Should any deficiencies be found, who's responsible for fixing the issue? Make sure training clearly articulates who is in charge.
You don't need it, but you really should be doing training on your environmental management system.
If you think you can pull off all those bullet points above in a captivating, educational manner, go for it!
Chances are, you'll be better off hiring an expert for environmental management system training.
Alternatively, you could skip training altogether and hope your staff just knows this stuff. But come on, that's completely unrealistic. If you don't do it, if you don't include it as an integral part of your program, if you don't get everyone involved, your EMS is doomed to fail. At the very least, it will be limited benefit to you.