Corporate leadership teams must prioritize compliance with environmental, health, and safety regulations by financially supporting, authorizing, and directing management to initiate and sustain best practice emergency management measures. The intent of these regulations is to protect employees, communities, and the surrounding environments and reduce impacts in the event of an incident. Through consistent and dedicated support, executives can create a culture that prioritizes regulatory compliance, proactively prepares for threats, risks, and potential disaster, and has the ability to effectively respond if an incident were to occur.
Prioritizing compliance, preparedness, and response not only facilitates a unified culture of safety, but heightens a company’s ability to fulfill their moral responsibility to protect employees, the community, and the environment. Establishing an effective preparedness and response program enhances a company’s ability to:
- Recover from financial losses
- Limit or eliminate regulatory fines
- Limit damages to equipment or products
- Reduce the potential or duration of business interruption which could impact market share
- Reduce exposure to civil or criminal liability and lawsuits in the event of an incident.
- Enhance its image and credibility
- Reduce insurance premiums
Executives must maintain profitable operations, yet ensure compliance with a complex array of federal, state, and local regulations. The consequences of being out of compliance can be damaging to the company, personnel, community, and professional reputations.
A compliant preparedness and response program includes multiple safety processes and procedures, as well as training, drills, equipment testing, and interoperability coordination. From a budgetary standpoint, emergencies, disasters, and incidents are expensive. Fortunately, compliance and mitigation costs are typically much lower than the expenditures associated with non-compliance fines, litigation, reputational risk, and government mandated shutdown of operations.
To ensure effective and compliant preparedness and response planning programs are in place, executives should propose the following questions to company managers:
- What activity presents the highest risk to our people and facilities, and how can these risks be minimized?
- Are there any newly identified threats and risks that require additional resources for mitigation?
- Are the individuals accountable for safety, preparedness, and response planning compliance receiving adequate training?
- What additional support is needed to improve safety, preparedness, and response planning compliance?
- Are company and contractor safety, preparedness, and response planning training programs being verified, and are the outcomes documented efficiently?
- When was the last time response plans had been verified and updated?
- Is employee input and/or feedback being utilized to improve safety, preparedness, and response planning processes? Do we have any recent examples?
- What were the top three high priority results of the last exercise?
- What lessons learned can be utilized for improvement to our process and procedures?
- Can our compliance verification continue to be handled internally, or do we need to seek external expertise to validate compliance?
Improving preparedness and response capabilities requires coordination across all levels of an organization. Collaborative pre-planning and exercising interoperable responses can minimize regulatory surprises and result in a more effective and timely response. When applicable, executives should encourage collaborative planning and exercises to validate response team positions, align priorities and common interests, and motivate participants to seek compromise for the good of an effective response.
Internal resources or outsourced compliance expertise can often enable a company to leverage regulatory knowledge across the entire company. In order to reduce managerial and administrative efforts required to manage compliance, companies often utilize external experts or consultants to ensure appropriate response planning and compliance measures.