What is ISO 14001 and how does it pertain to water pollution prevention?
Hello, my name is David Cole and I’m Technical Director for Sandfield Penstock Solutions. I’m here today to talk a little bit about ISO 14001.
What is ISO 14001?
Well, I say 14001 very quickly, and I’m not going to go into great lengths with it. It is really so that a company looks at its environmental sustainability responsibility and how it impacts the environment.
What is the purpose of ISO 14001?
So, the purpose of 14001 is to actually allow a business to recognize how it impacts the environment, how it impacts sustainability, so it can set out a scheme and a plan to move forward on an ever improving process.
What kinds of pollution does ISO 14001 refer to?
So, ISO 14001 looks almost everything that it environmentally could impact a business. So, it looks at air pollution; it looks at its waste streams and its management’s streams; how it controls energy, so simple things like how your lighting works. And another one we’re obviously on the waste stream is how the waste leaves the site and how you actually impact in items that you send around the world; how your carbon footprint impacts on the business. But also there looks at how you would impact on water pollution which is more our field of work.
How do you go about achieving ISO 14001?
So, most people would employ an outside consultancy firm to look at their ISO 14001, draw them up a sort of plan which is their, their, their scope document, which means their achievable aims, what they achieve, and then year on year you try to improve on that and add a little bit more sustainability to your business. But it’s quite a simple process really of getting yourself a consultant who will help you then develop that scheme, and then putting into place to get accreditation.
Who should be concerned with ISO 14001?
Well, 14001 is rather an open quality with qualification, really. What we need to look at really is a lot of the food plants, manufacturing plants. I think the car industry really was the biggest starter of ISO 14001 in the early 90s when they drove ready to look at how they were going to be sustainable because of what they are as a motor vehicle trader, and so all of their tier suppliers became ISO 14001 compliant, but the food industry as well and they’ve also got their other ISO grades have come into it. So really, it’s, it’s anybody really with manufacturing or a business that needs to look at how it impacts on the environment.
So, what with the ISO 14001, you’ve got all these industries that are meeting it and doing it? Well, you’ve got your key people, so you’ve got environmental managers, your health and safety managers. But ultimately, you’ve got your board members who are there, responsible to drive ISO 14001 within a business. It’s, it’s got a position that by showing that the business cares and understands its environmental impact, it can move forward.
What is ISO 14001 not?
Okay. So, ISO 14001 shows a business understands that it’s got an environmental impact on the world, and it’s showing that it actually is interested in improving how it does things. But it doesn’t actually say that it’s got everything right, and it should never be a lie in the sand that says, “Right, we’ve got ISO 14001. We are compliant.” We quite often go to sites that will say to us, they’ve had a pollution incident and they look at it and they go, but we have a pollution containment plan in place and that’s it, there’s no movement there. The idea of ISO 14001 is it, it is, it is a starting point, and you should… is a never really is an end. You should always be adopting new ideas, looking for new sustainable technology and always looking for on what improvement. ISO 14001 is a very, very good, general overview of looking at a business and if you take a man of a car manufacturing plant, for instance, you know, the water pollution is a, is an issue if a pollution event occurs. But also using loads of energy, tons of lighting, loads of water, loads of resource.
So, the whole process really is huge because almost everything that that business does has an impact on the environment. So, you can’t really just look at ISO 14001 and say, a company that has ISO 14001 will have covered all the places, will have everything under control on the environment, certainly will have control of every point of pollution incident, will know all about energy, will all know about all the sustainability. It’s just a starting point. And hopefully what it does is it drives a business if you’ve got good directors and a good management team to actually pinpoint areas where it needs to make improvements on going.
Is ISO 14001 compulsory?
So, I said 14001 isn’t compulsory. If a company doesn’t have 14001, it doesn’t mean it’s, it’s, it’s less environmentally friendly or less environmentally aware. It just might mean that that type of accreditation isn’t really necessary. I think it’s really important just because you’re a business showing that you’ve got ISO 14001 doesn’t actually mean you’re any better dealing with the environment sustainability than a company that doesn’t have ISO 14001. All it means is that you bothered to take out the time because you set focus in your business. It might actually be that your customers make you have ISO 14001 rather than the fact that you really wanted it in the first place. It may make very little difference to how you run your business.
Does having ISO 14001 mean that you are protected against the risk of a water pollution event?
So, I say 14001 again is, is, as I’ve said is so, is so over, over encumbering, it covers everything. But it’s not always up to date with latest best practices. We’re, we’re quite often going to a site that will say, “We are ISO 14,001. We’ve got firewater containment as part of our policy. What is your policy? We have a drain map over there that we put over the top of that manhole to stop any fire water runoff escaping the site.” Twenty years ago, that might have been a really good idea. Probably now, we know from experience and loads of different incidents, but that wouldn’t probably work. So, the site may have tick the box, but it means that they probably haven’t moved forward since ticking that box 10 years ago. But probably having any conversation, it can give you a bit of a safety jacket that makes you think everything is okay. But you can’t prove anything unless you’ve done some sort of evidence base around that specific area or field. If you haven’t covered it, and you haven’t actually done it in great detail, the chances are that your ISO 14001 would have asked the question, “Have you got firewater containment?” Somebody along the route has gone yes. And that might be that they’ve bought a spill kit and they’ve plugged it next to the final outfall of the site. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve actually met the right best practice guidelines.
What advice do you have anyone thinking about ISO 14001 and water pollution prevention?
So, for anything, really, you want to follow our six-point checklist. Step one is to understand the regulation. Understand how that regulation actually addresses to your particular site. Risk assessment–understand your risk. Carry out a design and design your scheme that will give you full pollution containment. Implement that design, so you know that what you’ve got is now working. And monitor, manage, and then document what you’ve done and move that along forward as best practice changes you keep up to date with new technology. If you’d like to know more, why don’t you contact us at www.penstocksolutions.co.uk.
David Cole MSEE
David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.