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Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

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U.S. And China Try To Change The Climate Change Conversation

On November 12, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a bilateral agreement to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since these countries are the two biggest economies and largest emitters of GHGs – and are in a period when they seem to disagree about almost everything – this agreement has substantial symbolic value. But will it have much practical value?

Climate Change Adaptation Plans—EPA Issues A Model

Strategic planners around the world are preparing “climate change adaptation plans,” designed to identify their organization’s key activities and missions, evaluate how climate change might affect them, and develop organizational changes designed to anticipate and adapt in ways that preserve the organization’s performance. On October 31, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its own Climate Change Adaptation Plan. EPA’s divisions (Water, Air and Radiation, etc.) and 10 regional offices also issued plans covering their activities. These Plans provides a collective model for multi-level organizational plans, and also tell organizations in the US what help to expect from EPA when they plan for their own adaptations to climate change.

Complying With ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 Requirements

STP Launches New Online Gap Analysis Tool

Auditors and Quality Managers across all manufacturing and service industries use ISO and OHSAS standards to put their Environmental and Health and Safety Management Systems into practice. These standards help implement effective and efficient EHS requirements, or VPP Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. In this blog I review and summarize the two standards, their aims and obligations.

Pardon? Did You Say Something About Industrial Noise And Hearing Loss?

Yes, we did. We said that noise, as a by-product of industrial processes, is one of the most pervasive occupational health concerns, contributing to approximately 16% of the disabling hearing loss in adults on a worldwide scale. Ten million people in the U.S. alone have a noise-related hearing loss and twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise each year. In 2007 the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimated that approximately 23,000 cases of occupational hearing loss were reported as causing hearing impairment and that this alone accounted for 14% of occupational illness that year.

New Sustainability Reporting Standards for the Transportation Sector

Should transportation companies disclose information about the environmental footprint of their fuel use? What about information on accidents and safety management? Often, the answer is yes. In fact, any company must, under U.S. SEC rules, provide such non-financial information in its financial statements, if the information would materially affect a reasonable investor’s assessment of the value of the company. As investors increasingly focus on measures of a company’s sustainability—its environmental and social performance—the pressure to disclose this information in financial statements grows. The challenge for companies lies in identifying exactly which sustainability information is material, and how to report it. 

OSHA Seeks Comments On Workplace Airborne Contaminants

In September I blogged about OSHA’s Airborne Contaminant Standard, which sets ambient air limits for over 400 workplace air contaminants to protect employees from exposures to airborne chemical and particulate contaminants in workplace air. In October, OSHA issued an extensive Request for Information (RFI), asking for comments on a variety of approaches to setting these limits in the future. In the RFI, OSHA notes that most exposure limits date from 1971, and so they don’t reflect four decades of advances in understanding of chemical toxicology. OSHA is attempting to build on legal requirements for standard-setting developed by court cases since 1971, and to update—the agency doesn’t say finesse—some of the limitations. The RFI asks over 50 questions, and solicits comments no later than April 8, 2015.

Effective Traffic Control Management Assures Worker Safety

We drive by the “Be Work Zone Alert” billboards all the time, reminding us to slow down and drive safe through road construction zones, with compassion-provoking reminders like, “Be alert, our mom’s at work.” And indeed, rather than feel annoyed at the roadwork construction that delays our driving progress, let’s continue to be mindful of the real risks that the workers face every day on the job.

Reconsidering External Threats From Terrorists and Other Criminals

Although most “workplace violence” incidents are low-level psychological or physical altercations between co-workers, Canadians have just been tragically reminded of the dangers of murders by interlopers. Government buildings are the likeliest targets for terrorism, and financial and retail buildings the likeliest targets for non-political criminals, but all workplaces face at least some of these most severe risks. There’s no way to eliminate these risks, but commonsense workplace security measures can reduce them. This note discusses approaches to evaluating and reinforcing security against external threats – which are important subsets of broader workplace violence prevention efforts.

Minimum Wage Rising For Federal Contract Employees

Every employer probably should know that employees have a right to receive at least the “minimum wage” for the hours they work. But employers may or may not focus on the fact that there’s not just one “minimum wage” – there are many, depending on the jurisdiction, the employer’s business or governmental sector, and the employee’s status. The federally-mandated minimum wage for most employees is $7.25 per hour (set in 2007 under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)), but some categories of workers can be paid lower wages, and some states require higher wages. Employers with scattered and diverse activities and work forces need to track developments under each applicable situation.

PHMSA Requires Advance Notice of Construction-Related Events

To ensure that operations at gas pipelines, gas pipeline facilities, and LNG plants and facilities are in compliance with a range of conditions, operators of such plants and facilities must provide the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) with 60 days’ advance notice of construction-related events. This advance notice allows time for reviews and inspections to identify any potential compliance issues and avoid costly design changes or delays.

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