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Mill employees’ safety should be top priority

ENVIRONMENTAL Management Systems (EMS) can save time, money and peoples' lives, when implemented properly. On Thursday afternoon, four speakers testified to that.Sponsored by the Environment Committee...


March 1, 2000
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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ENVIRONMENTAL Management Systems (EMS) can save time, money and peoples’ lives, when implemented properly. On Thursday afternoon, four speakers testified to that.

Sponsored by the Environment Committee, this session, Environmental Management Systems: Experiences and Evolving Approaches, allowed the 100 delegates who attended to be the jury — deciding the best strategic approach for the safety of the mill employees and its local community.

Patsy Inglis, Domtar Inc., reported about the success of the Canadian Chemical Producer’s Association (CCPA) Responsible Care Program at Domtar Windsor Business Center.

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Part of the program is the Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER), which the company says must be sensitive to community concerns.

“This is the most difficult of all,” she said, “because it says we must develop a process of regular communication and provide information about the hazard and associated risks of the products and operations to our employees, people on site, and the community.”

And although Domtar already has a good understanding of its own local community, Inglis said, the company still went door-to-door to give out flyers and has established a 24-hour hotline for complaints. Domtar also has an Emergency Brigade Team, specifically trained on spill containment, on stand-by 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Educating the community about the risks and hazards is a tough act, but is very worthwhile, according to Inglis.

“When you communicate the risks to the community, they (people in the community) put their guard down a little because they know that you know about it, and know how to handle it properly,” she explained.

She also emphasized that the Responsible Care Program is not just about environmental concerns, but health and safety as well.

The session chairman, David Wilson of Ecologico Consultants, also served as a speaker and talked about the implementation of ISO 14001.

He said ISO14001 could be both a bed of roses and a bed of nails. There are common misconceptions about the system, and because of the lack of understanding of the system, “many companies have made implementation far more difficult than it needs to be,” he said. “Most companies are still (establishing) procedures that ISO 14001 does not tell them to do,” he added.

The key is to treat the EMS as an ongoing process and not a project, he explained. “The ISO 14001 process does mean making commitments to environmental performance,” he explained. He advised the delegates that their companies must allow the standard to provide structure, but not drive the process.

“It is a guideline, it is a tool, it is an approach,” he said. “Use ISO 14001 to help you make the change rather than letting the standard lead you.”

Duncan Rotherham, ICF Consulting, Toronto, ON, introduced a consistent approach to ISO 14001 implementation within a multi-site organization.

“The ISO 14001 standard has been widely accepted as the EMS blueprint for the industry,” he said. However, implementing the EMS has generally been allocated to the facilities themselves due to geography and their site specific nature, he added. “This can result in the development of numerous, inconsistent, site-specific systems, at great expense to the organization,” Rotherham explained.

He told the delegates that successful companies have considered implementation of ISO 14001 type systems as a change management activity.

“The challenge is to build an effective EMS efficiently,” he said. “And to balance both effectiveness and efficiency.”

Michelle Atherley, Enviro-Source Inc., presented a case study of 11 mills in the Quebec pulp and paper sector. The study was aimed to develop a strategic approach to environmental management.

Lack of personnel is the first problem encountered by EM managers, she said. This plus the problems arising from re-organizations could spell trouble. Luckily, this could be avoided by more training and awareness of non-EM employees, she explained, and of better integration of EM-related tasks in other departments.

“Other places have designated trainers for each crew,” she said. “While some EM managers reported that they acted as ‘police’ for inspections in other departments,” she added.

According to Atherley, the key to a strategic approach to environmental management is analyzing EM difficulties and evaluating the impact of company management strategies on EM programs.

“Understanding could lead to anticipating, and possibly avoiding difficulties.”l