As an environmental manager, you face a myriad of time consuming tasks on a daily basis. One of them is the management of environmental data. The other is the tracking of compliance. If you are responsible for several site remediation jobs across the country, how do you make sure that the different tasks associated with these jobs are being carried out in a timely fashion? How do you track the performance of your environmental programs?
For small jobs, many managers use Excel spreadsheets to track deadlines. You can also use Microsoft Outlook to track the different tasks and deadlines. For example, if you are a large quantity generator, you program your Outlook to alert you a month before the March 1, 2010 deadline to prepare your biennial report. If you have quarterly reports that you need to file under your air permit, you set up the deadlines in Outlook or in a spreadsheet.
To track new regulations, by far the best and least expensive way is to subscribe to EPA’s listservers. Many state agencies have similar services too. And they are all free. All you need to do is to subscribe to the service on the agencies’ websites and they will email you alerts on new and pending regulatory developments. There are also commercial services such as Business and Legal Reports www.blr.com that offer regulatory updates for an annual subscription fee.
If you are a Fortune 500 company with limited staff and multiple locations – either domestic or worldwide – a spreadsheet may not be the right tool for you. You might want to consider subscribing to commercial services that track both compliance issues and deadlines for you.
There is a company based in California that provides such service. It is called Locus Technologies. Its website is www.locustec.com. It has recently rolled out a series of programs (e-Task, ePortal and eSite) designed to help medium and large companies track their environmental performance worldwide. According to Marian Carr, Locus’ Vice President, many of their customers are Fortune 500 companies – including several major energy and defense companies. The costs of such programs are based on the number of users with a subscription fee of between $15 and $25/person per month plus an annual license fee.
Carr maintains that her company is not in the business of keeping track of changing regulatory requirements. It partners with other companies that specialize in that area. What this company does is integrate compliance updates into its tracking program so that its users will stay on top of the deadlines.
Programs like that being offered by Locus are designed to allow company employees from different locations to update their activities online with relative ease. The data base resides on a remote off-site server that is accessible to the customers’ senior managers who want to have a bird’s eye view of their corporate compliance picture.
According to Carr, eTask has a simple intuitive user interface and is easy to learn. She said: “eTask is very simple and I would be shocked if it took more than a one hour webinar to get up to speed on the application”.
After viewing a demonstration of eTask, it is clear that it can be a useful tool for medium to large scale companies with multiple locations. If you are a small company, you may be better off tracking your activities with spreadsheets or Outlook.
The storage and management of environmental data is also becoming a big concern for many companies. Employees may be storing their environmental data on different spreadsheets at multiple locations. That can become a problem when someone in senior management wants to look at the big picture. A similar problem arises when you have different consultants working on different projects for you. Your environmental data are going to be stored in different formats at different locations. There is no guarantee that these formats are compatible with one another. You are at the mercy of your consultants.
You basically have two options. One is to have your consultants send you backup copies of all your data and then you find a way to make them compatible. Another option is to store all your data at one central location under one format. Companies like Locus store their customers’ environmental data at one central location.
One note of caution: If you are looking for an integrated system, you want to look for systems that have document management tools, site information and permit tracking tools built into it.
Tracking compliance performance will be a higher priority in the coming years. With the Democratic White House and Congress, you can expect a much more focused approach on environmental regulations and compliance enforcement than in the previous eight years.