Tag Archives: OSHA

Joseph Cotier, CPEA joins The Elm Consulting Group International LLC

The Elm Consulting Group International LLC, a specialty health, safety, environmental and sustainability (HSES) management consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of Joseph B. Cotier, CPEA as a Director of the firm beginning January 3, 2011.

“Joe brings 22 years experience in HSE auditing excellence and client focus to our team” said Patrick Doyle, Elm’s founder and Managing Director.  “He is a perfect complement to the firm.”

“I have known Joe personally and professionally for close to 20 years and know first hand about his expertise and exemplary qualifications.  We are very excited to have him become a part of Elm” said Robert Bray, Elm Co-Founder and Managing Director.

Cotier said, “I am happy to be a part of Elm and look forward to continuing to have a positive impact on the HSE auditing field – driving innovation both in the US and across the globe.”

Joseph B. Cotier, CPEA, has completed more than 350 EHS audits and management systems consulting projects in more than 35 states and 20 countries.   He has experience in a wide range of industries including petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing, electric utilities, breweries and consumer and pharmaceutical products manufacturing. Mr. Cotier is an air emissions expert with particular strengths in emissions inventories, leak detection and repair, and a wide variety of MACT programs.  Joe his has performed inspections and managed compliance orders as a Senior Air Pollution Control Engineer for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. He is a BEAC Certified Professional Environmental Auditor and recently completed his fifth year on the Board of Directors for The Auditing Roundtable, the leading professional association for HSE auditors.   He served as Secretary, Vice President and President, and now serves the Roundtable as Director on the Board.

Mr. Cotier will be working out of Glastonbury, Connecticut and can be reached at jcotier@elmgroup.com, +1-860-794-3617 (cell) or +1-860-430-1653 (office).

The Elm Consulting Group International LLC Launches iPad Environmental Audit Protocols

Following a successful implementation of the iPad for HSE auditing, Elm is today rolling out environmental compliance audit protocol modules for field testing this week.

“We believe this is the first formal environmental audit protocol implemented in the iPad form factor,” said Lawrence Heim, Director of Elm’s Georgia operations and the firm’s lead for iPad service development.

The protocols are reflective of a traditional paper-based format proven in the field over a number of years.   Modules selected for field testing are waste generation, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (“EPCRA”) and ozone depleting substances.

“In our view, this as a potentially dramatic step forward in HSE auditing.  While version one does not automatically generate audit findings or reports, it has other significant strengths in addition to the benefits already seen by Elm from iPad implementation,” Heim said.

Elm highlights the following features:

  • Flexibility.  The protocol can be used in a manner matching auditors’ own personal styles in collecting audit data.  Handwritten notes are captured in any format, including different “ink” colors, “highlighters”, and line weighting.  While the initial protocol version is based on Elm’s standard audit process, other custom formats can be developed virtually without limitation.
  • Adaptability. Elm’s iPad HSE protocol can be used alongside existing audit systems for initial data capture and organization prior to entering the information into less user friendly, highly structured audit systems.  Also, the resulting PDF file can be attached into other HSE audit systems as supporting documentation.
  • Merging related documents into the protocol.  Documents such as state regulations, permits, plans, applications, agency correspondence and enforcement agreements can be incorporated into the protocol itself without effort of retyping, restructuring or reformatting.  Once the appropriate document is merged, auditors are able to write notes and highlight text directly in the document.  Further, by using a cellphone camera, additional documents can be captured and merged into the protocol in a few minutes while on-site.
  • Languages. The iPad application in which the protocol was created can drastically reduce the need to translate audit protocols and related documents between languages.  Audit documents are captured in their source format and original language, eliminating language translation costs/errors and allowing auditors to use their local language.

“We fully expect a successful test, with only minor changes to Version 1 being necessary.  Additional environmental compliance modules are already in initial stages, awaiting our assessment of the field trials.  Health and safety modules will be developed soon after,” Heim stated.

Elm Trials iPad and Apps for Use in EHS Audits and Risk Assessments

Today The Elm Consulting Group International, LLC announced that it is testing out the iPad and certain applications for use in EHS audits.

Elm supports many clients with EHS audit processes, so we must be flexible in audit approaches.  Some clients have internally-designed audit tools that Elm uses in those instances.  Other companies have automated reporting, but are not confined in their data collection processes.  Our iPad use is likely to be of most benefit to those clients who do not have an existing computer-based EHS audit protocol/risk assessment systems.

Rob Bray, Managing Director in Elm’s California office:

We are optimistic that the data capture technologies in the iPad’s small and unique package will prove beneficial in the field.  These technologies include:

  • the ability to easily and quickly scan documents and annotate within those documents;
  • voice note capture and automated transcription;
  • handwriting capture and transcription;
  • advanced note-taking applications; and
  • where appropriate, photo capture and annotation.

Elm expects to utilize all of these features to manage, organize and consolidate audit/assessment data.  Certain applications will allow almost immediate access to specific information or notes that support each audit finding.  Finally, all data gathered – including auditor notes and even recorded interviews – can be aggregated into a single electronic document that can be emailed to clients for their records.

“We fully anticipate seeing increased efficiency and accuracy in the EHS audit process.  And our clients should be able to eliminate some costs for hardcopy audit data management – including paper, copying, off-site storage and archiving costs,” said Lawrence Heim, Director in Elm’s Georgia office.

A Question from Your Company’s President/CEO: How Come the Audit Didn’t Find That?

Those of us who have been in EHS auditing for awhile have faced this question, either as internal corporate staff or as an outside auditor.

You know the situation – an EHS event occurs at a site, it gets reported up the management chain and the questions (and possible finger pointing) begin.

How could we have let this happen?

How come we didn’t know about this sooner?

What did the last audit find?

And finally…..  Why wasn’t it found or addressed in the audit?

Most EHSS audit programs were built to address compliance or management systems conformance.  Today, companies are beginning to approach these questions in a constructive manner, looking to develop risk-based EHSS audit frameworks.  We at Elm are frequently asked how to incorporate the concept of “risk” into audit programs.  For those wondering where to start, here are a few tips:

  • Use existing risk benchmarks within the company.  There is no need for EHSS risks to use separate definitions.
  • Actively and aggressively coordinate with all aspects of the company.  The business impacts of EHSS exposures are relevant to a surprising number of functions and actitivities.
  • Conduct a thorough EHSS risk assessment.  During this process, encourage and embrace discussions of “Black Swan” events.
  • Generally a two-dimensional framework is effective to communicate risk likelihood and impact separately.
  • Create a risk profile assuming controls will fail.  Remember that at this point, you are identifying a “gross risk profile”.  Effectiveness of controls should be evaluated in a separate step.
  • Evaluate the risk profile for auditable topics and elements.  Once the appropriate topics are identified, audit protocols can be developed.  However, these protocols are typically beyond the scope with which traditional EHSS auditors are comfortable.
  • Develop guidelines for appropriate corrective actions.  For example, a risk that is high impact/low likelihood may be best treated with a financial solution to reduce the economic impact of a rare event.  A management system approach to such a risk may not prove relevant or effective.

These ideas may help provide some guidance on how to move ahead, reduce real business risk and generate demonstrable economic value.

Incubating Environmental “Black Swans” In the Nest

Our last entry discussed the concept of “Black Swan” events, a term created by noted author Nassim Nicholas Taleb to describe an event that is (a) so low in probablility that it is unforeseeable and (b) so catastrophic in impact that it changes history.

Certainly, risk assessments are predictive in nature and no one can predict the future with complete certainty.  But in our view, one of the best tools available for risk assessments is an open mind.    This can be a challenge in the EHSS world as we generally have engineering and other technical backgrounds.  We have been trained to seek absolutes and eliminate uncertainties.  At Elm, we believe that involving external support helps to identify and explore events (and their related exposures) that are relevant but get “technically rationalized” by internal staff.

With the BP oil spill and the December 2008 Kingston, Tennessee coal ash pond failure, we began thinking about some of the Black Swan events discussed with clients in the past.  Below are a handful of EHSS Black Swan risk events that we have discussed with clients over the past years – and some that are currently on our mind.

  • Radical change in EPA’s regulation of coal ash management (discussed several years before the Kingston event, and vehemently opposed by the client)
  • Catastrophic failure of GHG emissions trading market
  • Dramatic failures/errors in GHG footprint calculation methodology
  • Nationalization of privately-owned CO2 emissions assets
  • Regulation and class-action level public concerns over chemical content of consumer goods
  • Waste disposal liability for and public pressures about exporting electronic wastes
  • Dramatic increase in OSHA/EPA enforcement – frequency, severity and targeted industries/sites
  • Major expansion of pollution exclusions/limitations in insurance policies
  • Increased success of US-based NGOs in successfully obtaining US venue for lawsuits concerning EHSS allegations for non-US sites/projects/activities
  • Unprecedented shareholder and SEC pressure on public companies related to EHSS matters
  • Increased importance of EHSS in supply chains and procurement decisions

Perhaps these seem far-fetched to you or your company.  But if that is the case, the egg of that – or another – Black Swan is quietly incubating somewhere in your organization.

Law Firm Publishes Details on OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program

The law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP has published details about the upcoming OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).  The SVEP has been in development for more than a year, but Morgan Lewis indicated that a 27-page draft Directive was sent from OSHA to state officials in early April.

Highlights from the Morgan Lewis review:

According to the draft Directive, the SVEP will “focus increased enforcement attention on significant hazards and violations” by concentrating on employers that have demonstrated “indifference” to workplace safety obligations through willful, repeated, or failure-to abate-violations in four areas: (1) fatality or catastrophe situations; (2) industries that expose employee to the most severe hazards, including those identified in the draft Directive as “High-Emphasis Hazards”; (3) industries that expose employees to the potential release of highly hazardous chemicals; and (4) egregious enforcement actions. Once an employer is selected for the SVEP, OSHA will undertake a number of enforcement steps including enhanced follow-up inspections as well as inspections at other worksites of that same employer, potentially on a nationwide basis…

OSHA will consider any inspection that meets one or more of the following criteria as a candidate for the SVEP:

  • Fatality/Catastrophic Criteria. A fatality/catastrophe inspection in which OSHA finds one or more willful or repeated citations or failure-to-abate notices based on a serious violation related to the death of an employee or three or more employee hospitalizations. Violations under this section do not need to be classified as “High-Emphasis Hazards.”
  • Nonfatality/Noncatastrophic High-Emphasis Hazards. An inspection that finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices based on high-gravity, serious violations due to a High-Emphasis Hazard.  A “High-Emphasis Hazard” is one based on a fall or a specific National Emphasis Program (NEP) identified in the draft, and thus includes (1) fall hazards under general industry, construction, shipyard, marine terminal, and longshoring standards; (2) amputation hazards; (3) combustible dust hazards; (4) crystalline silica hazards; (5) lead hazards (based on sampling); (6) excavation and trenching hazards; and (7) ship-breaking hazards.
  • Nonfatality/Noncatastrophic Hazards Due to the Potential Release of a Highly Hazardous Chemical—Process Safety Management (PSM). An inspection that finds three or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices based on high-gravity, serious violations related to petroleum refinery hazards, i.e., hazards covered by the petroleum refinery PSM NEP and hazards associated with the potential release of highly hazardous chemicals, as defined by the PSM Covered Chemical Facilities NEP.

… Placement into the SVEP will trigger a number of serious consequences for employers. While actions taken against an employer will be judged on a case-by-case basis, SVEP employers may be targeted for:

  • Enhanced, Broad Follow-Up Inspections. Follow-up inspections of the cited workplace will be conducted after the citation becomes a final order, even if abatement verification has been received. In other words, these follow-up inspections are not limited in scope to whether the identified hazard has been abated, but will also include an assessment of whether the employer is engaging in similar violations. For Construction Industry worksites that close before a follow-up investigation can be conducted, at least one of the employer’s other worksites will be inspected.
  • Nationwide Inspections. Where the agency has reason to believe that a citation is part of a broader pattern of noncompliance, OSHA will conduct inspections at related worksites of that employer.
  • Egregious Violations. All “egregious” enforcement actions—cases where OSHA has alleged instance-by-instance violations of a particular standard—will be considered SVEP cases…

…while OSHA has not announced an implementation date for the SVEP, employers should take the time now, before its implementation, to audit their safety programs to ensure that they are not identified as repeat offenders under the program.

Employers should consider taking the following steps, among others, with counsel:

  • Audit recent citations to ensure (1) that steps to abate those violations have been completed, and (2) that similar problems do not exist in facilities that were not inspected. Employers that adopt a multi-facility curative process for violations, rather than instituting a site-specific, temporary “fix,” may be less likely to receive further citations under the SVEP.
  • Identify worksites with High-Emphasis Hazards and/or PSM hazards, and audit safety practices against OSHA’s NEPs in these areas. These areas of emphasis—from falls to combustible dust hazards—encompass a wide-ranging target group for OSHA enforcement moving forward. These are particularly vulnerable areas for employers, because the hazards themselves are often difficult to identify and abate from a safety perspective…
With the recent catastrophes in the mining and offshore oil industries, companies should expect OSHA to move swiftly and firmly with their new enforcement program.

West Virginia Coal Mine Tragedy Triggers Increased Regulatory Activity

Today Reuter’s reported that President Obama is ordering the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to step up safety inspections and enforcement of mines.

This action comes as the Administration’s response to the Massey coal mine explosion in West Virginia last week that killed 29 miners.

Largest Fine in the History of OSHA Announced Today

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced it is issuing $87,430,000 in proposed penalties to BP Products North America Inc. for the company’s failure to correct potential hazards faced by employees. The fine is the largest in OSHA’s history. The prior largest total penalty, $21 million, was issued in 2005, also against BP.

BP entered into a settlement agreement with OSHA in September 2005, under which the company agreed to corrective actions to eliminate potential hazards similar to those that caused the 2005 tragedy. Today’s announcement comes at the conclusion of a six-month inspection by OSHA, designed to evaluate the extent to which BP has complied with its obligations under the 2005 agreement and OSHA standards.

For noncompliance with the terms of the settlement agreement, the BP Texas City Refinery has been issued 270 “notifications of failure to abate” with fines totaling $56.7 million. Each notification represents a penalty of $7,000 times 30 days, the period that the conditions have remained unabated. OSHA also identified 439 new willful violations for failures to follow industry-accepted controls on the pressure relief safety systems and other process safety management violations with penalties totaling $30.7 million.