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Confused by ISO14001 regulations and how to comply

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a series of standards relating to the management of environmental systems. This set of rules and standards are commonly known as ISO14000 with the ISO14001 and ISO14004 systems outlining the rules to follow for proper environmental management. ISO14001 standards are generally very broad, allowing companies to customize their environmental management systems. An important step, for example, is to make sure you have the right tools to intervene in the event of spills that can damage the environment.

These standards require organizations to be ready to intervene in the event of spills harmful to humans and the environment, and therefore to develop an intervention programme. This means having the correct tools to intervene and stop spills and providing continuous training and updates for staff.

Commitment to being in compliance

ISO14001 requires organizations to be informed of and compliant with laws regarding their waste. Emergency procedures must be planned, documented, implemented and reviewed periodically.

Section 4.4.7 (emergency preparedness and response) ISO14001 requires: “The organization shall create, and maintain in place, procedures to identify potential risks and incidents; plan emergency intervention and response plans in order to mitigate any environmental damage in the event of accidents.

The kits with absorbent products are a very effective system for keeping absorbent products at hand in case of pipe breakages, leaks from IBC tanks, tank and drum breakages and all the losses that can occur on a daily basis within an organization and which can damage the environment. In addition, it is recommended to keep products such as containment dams and drain covers close at hand, in easily accessible and visible places, in order to prevent harmful substances from reaching sensitive areas.

The appropriate use of absorbents and containment systems help prevent spills from contaminating the environment outside an organization and mitigate the environmental impact outside its walls. As part of a spill response program, areas should be created for the storage of sanitary pads and emergency response kits. These areas must be located in places where liquids are used, transported and stored.

Safe storage

Storing liquid substances in containment tubs or pallets can prevent damage in the event of spills from the container. Absorbent devices must be used and provided in areas for the storage of raw materials, laboratories, areas for product development, as well as in places of waste collection and storage; this for every type of organization.

Section 4.3.1 (planning environmental aspects) ISO14001, requires; “the organization must create and maintain procedures to identify the environmental aspects of its activities (products or services), to determine those that have or can have a significant impact on the environment”.

In addition to preventive measures for the storage of liquids, special attention and precaution is required for the storage of hazardous, flammable, corrosive and reactive chemicals.

Maintenance and improvement

Organizations that want to be certified must create a series of environmental objectives and work to achieve them. Waste reduction and recycling areas can significantly reduce an organisation's environmental impact by reducing the volume of solid waste sent for disposal.

Section 4.3.4 (environmental management programs) requires: “the organization must create and control a program to achieve its objectives”.

Using absorbents such as socks and cloths, rather than granular, can help an organization reduce the volume of waste generated. Mechanically wringing out saturated pads helps to further reduce the volume of waste.

For example, funnels with a non-return system can help recycle liquids and at the same time prevent airborne contamination or accidental spills.

The rules and standards to be achieved, contained in ISO14000, can help the development, construction and supply of products and services in a more efficient, safe and clean manner. They also help keep trade between countries easier by having common rules on environmental management; instead of having to comply with individual environmental rules of each individual country.

Organizations that have obtained and are seeking to obtain ISO14001 certification are aware of their responsibilities towards the environment. The commitment of these organizations is an example for anyone who wants to preserve and improve the environment in which we live.

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