In light of recent events, the Environmental Protection Agency is using new monitoring techniques to evaluate the quality of companies’ classifications and reporting of hazardous materials. Ironically, as we all learned recently, even the EPA itself isn’t immune to catastrophic, if preventable, mistakes. New compliance regulations increase the importance of standardized risk identification, mitigation, and monitoring strategies.
Two takeaways from this new development:
- A variety of companies, particularly those that don’t consider themselves regular handlers of hazardous waste, may be under the magnifying glass. This means they risk noncompliance and therefore costly fines.
- The scrutiny suggests hazardous materials might be mishandled more than we think. Improper handling, consequently, increases the likelihood of even more headline-worthy accidents.
Companies matching takeaway #1 (i.e. they weren’t historically concerned with this type of compliance) need to become more educated if they are to avoid future incidents, according to Suzanne Murray at Haynes and Boone. Many organizations, including hospitals, research labs, and retailers, are potentially guilty of two offenses: incorrectly classifying the nature of their waste management processes, which is considered negligence even if unintentional, or not reporting in the first place.
The worst-case result of these reporting deficiencies is another tragedy that unleashes hazardous materials unknown to first responders. For that reason alone, it is a good idea for all organizations to find a solution, such as Enterprise Risk Management software, that will improve accurate risk identification.
Too often, organizations try and manage Environment, Safety, and Health (EHS) compliance data in a system disconnected from where they house and report hazards. A unified approach that not only assesses safety hazards, but also links those assessments to compensating controls and monitoring methods (like incident collection and audit testing) creates value by ensuring your risk and control processes are linked to desired business goals, such as fewer safety incidents.
More likely than another spill or explosion is the possibility that more and more institutions will find themselves slapped with hefty fines preventable through the use of an ERM system. As we’ve observed countless times, the risk and compliance universe is growing increasingly intricate and therefore difficult to safely navigate. Ms. Murray’s advice, according to The Wall Street Journal’s “Risk and Compliance Journal,” is simple: “Look at what you’re using, make sure you understand the quantities and requirements and, if in fact you are not reporting correctly, you need to register and report.”
For more information about identifying enterprise-wide risks and ensuring they’re being reported properly, download our free eBook, 5 Steps for Better Risk Assessments.