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Improvised Planning Is Costly: 7 Regulatory Compliance Tracking Factors

Posted on Thu, Aug 20, 2015

"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." - Epictetus

Despite best mitigation efforts, emergencies and disasters occur. Although emergency managers can relate to Epictetus’s antidote, it has been proven by the abundance of regulatory fines and fees that responses should not be improvised. Numerous government agencies require that responses be planned for, exercised, and compliant across multiple fronts.

While organizations may see compliance efforts as challenging, the purpose of regulations is to shape practices to limit harm and protect communities and the surrounding environment. However, every month, companies across the nation receive regulatory enforcement mandates.

Regulatory non-compliance is expensive, time consuming, and potentially dangerous to company employees and the surrounding communities. For example, a Seattle area marine terminal that transfers large quantities of ethanol fuel and grain from rail cars to tanker trucks was fined more than $420,000 by Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries for numerous non-compliance issues. Additionally, the agency placed an immediate order to restrain the company’s ethanol transfer operation because of inadequate emergency response planning. Compliance costs are typically lower than the expenditures associated with non-compliance fines, litigation, reputational risk, and government mandated shutdown of operations.

Many industrial facilities must comply with multiple regulations sanctioned by various government agencies. For example, one specific industrial facility in Louisiana has to meet as many as 700 individual requirements. In order to ensure optimal compliance capabilities, companies should have an effective compliance management process in place that can enhance efforts, and limit the potential for fines and operational downtime.

In recent years, advanced technology has allowed an increasing number of companies to automate emergency preparedness, response processes, as well as regulatory compliance. One of the most important aspects of maintaining compliance is ensuring that required response plan and associated revisions are submitted to the proper regulatory agencies in a timely manner. The various agencies have different submission requirements regarding initial and plan revision compliance.

A company must associate each regulatory requirement with applicable mandatory submission requirements and tasks for each facility. From a corporate standpoint, incorporating a regulatory requirements tracking system can ease the complicated exponential challenges associated with managing multiple regulatory requirements for numerous locations. A regulatory compliance tracking system can eliminate redundancies that typically occur across converging compliance specifications

A methodological tracking system should itemize applicable federal, state, and local regulations, and include categorical information that satisfies that regulation. A tracking system should, at a minimum, contain the following components:

  1. Operational categories: Categories can range from air quality and hazardous materials, to construction safety and general safety and health. Depending on the detail required by the regulations, further breakouts by subcategories may also be required.
  2. Applicable Regulation Level: Regulations should be further broken down to Federal, state or local regulation categories.
  3. Time/Date Stamping: The time and date that each regulation was last updated.
  4. Compliance Feedback: Applicable notes regarding compliance or non-compliance.
  5. Industry Standard: Apply best practices related to compliance with specific regulatory requirements, when practical to do so.
  6. Facility Compliance responsibility: Identify contact assigned to maintain compliance for each regulatory requirement.
  7. Action Item Reporting: Provides a list of outstanding and completed action items, along with due dates and person(s) assigned. Reports should have filters to customize queries as required by the users.
The results of an effective compliance tracking system is an efficient and integrated program that optimizes the efforts of all stakeholders and allows for optimum compliance.

Tags: Response Plans, Regulatory Compliance, Facility Management