30 Minute Presentation
An Environmental Management System for Utility Construction
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a comprehensive program that enables a company to continually improve environmental performance, voluntarily adopted in the United States. By applying a Plan-Do-Check-Act model, a company annually evaluates progress for the past year and sets new objectives and targets for the upcoming year. The USEPA and many states recognize facilities that demonstrate commitment to improving environmental performance through the adoption of an EMS.
Unlike facilities, a utility construction project can stretch tens or even hundreds of miles, and encounter a myriad of environmental concerns. Presented is a case study for the development of a compliance program for the field operations of an electrical utility construction company, modeled after the EMS framework. The EMS is organized into sets of environmental procedures and instructions, implemented through a comprehensive training program. Eleven environmental aspects for utility field construction work were identified, and a method for evaluating and prioritizing the significance of each was developed. The criteria used to evaluate each of the environmental aspects were 1) the potential for adverse effects, 2) the extent of applicable regulation, 3) the potential financial consequences, 4) the ease of applying controls, 5) the cost of the controls, and 6) the effectiveness of the controls. The environmental aspects were prioritized by significance as follows: 1) wetland and stream protection, 2) spill prevention and response, 3) erosion and sediment control, 4) threatened and endangered species, 5) site rehabilitation, 6) stormwater conveyance, 7) record keeping, 8) waste management, 9) noise and vibration, 10) air emissions, and 11) cultural resource protection. Based on these results and recent job-related events, spill prevention and response were chosen as the objective for the first year. The year’s targets included 1) the development of a pollution prevention (P2) plan, 2) ensuring all crews had immediate access to and training with spill kits, and 3) developing environmental instructions for spill response and reporting.
A comprehensive training plan was developed that distills the myriad of environmental regulations into principles readily grasped by foremen and shared with crews, from new employee orientation to daily morning job briefings. Active jobs are regularly reviewed, and incidents are used as a training tool. The adoption of an EMS provides the company a process for developing, evaluating and revising procedures and training for continual improvement of environmental performance. The EMS is a model for integrating environmental excellence into a company’s business model.