EHS: Top Trends to Watch in 2022

07 Jan
EHS Trends 2022

Environment / Safety / Technology Enabled Business Solutions

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As we’ve seen businesses manage their way through the pandemic over the past two years and a new Administration take hold in office, a number of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) trends are rising to the surface. Some of these may sound familiar, as certain challenges and opportunities in EHS remain ongoing. Some are just gaining traction as we move into the new year.

Here are the top EHS trends KTL’s EHS professionals are keeping watch on in 2022—and some advice on what you can do to prepare…

OSHA Enforcement: Happy 50th Birthday OSHA!

The Build Back Better Act (BBBA) introduced the first amendment to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act in nearly 20 years. This would include increased funding to make significant improvements in workplace safety protection for American workers, as well as significant increases in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) maximum penalties. While the future of the BBBA is uncertain, it provides a good picture of where OSHA is headed by enacting high enough penalties to significantly impact businesses that violate the law and injure or kill workers. While OSHA doesn’t have the resources to audit or fine everyone, the agency will likely make an example of a few major violators to deter others from non-compliance.

To prepare: Make sure you have the processes, programs, and systems in place—and documented—to ensure you are always protecting employees’ safety and health and meeting OSH Act requirements.

EPA Inspections and Enforcement: Focus on Ammonia Refrigeration

With the new Administration, 2021 brought a significant uptick in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multi-media inspections, enforcement actions, and large penalties for violations, particularly related to anhydrous ammonia storage, risk management, and chemical accident prevention planning. Many of these violations have been uncovered as part of a National Compliance Initiative (NCI), which is working to enforce the regulatory aspects of the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Chemical Accident Prevention Program, including Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulations (40 CFR Part 68), General Duty Clause (GDC) (CAA Section 112(r)), Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) (CAA Section 312), Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations (29 CFR 1910.119).

To prepare: If your facility uses anhydrous ammonia and you have not conducted a hazard analysis, you are at significant risk of incurring enforcement actions of fines. It is important you invest the time and resources required to:

  • Understand the hazards posed by chemicals at the facility.
  • Assess the impacts of a potential release.
  • Design and maintain a safe facility to prevent accidental releases.
  • Coordinate with local emergency responders.
  • Minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.

PFAS/PFOA Contamination

Because of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances’ (PFAS) persistence in the environment and widespread use in firefighting foams and products that resist grease, water, and oil, PFAS contamination is an extremely complicated issue—and concern is mounting over its impacts and how to regulate these chemicals going forward. On October 18, 2021, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced EPA’s comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to tackle PFAS contamination through increasing investments in research, leveraging authorities to act now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released, and accelerating cleanup of PFAS contamination. More and more facilities are going to be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and future regulatory action.

To prepare: Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.

Resource Constraints and Compliance Efficiency Tools

There are a few trends we see time and again, which generally can be tied back to many EHS “departments” (which often consist of just one person) lacking the resources—financial and personnel—to manage the sheer number of EHS requirements they are required to comply with. Frequently, companies may not understand or have the resources to manage everything that needs to be in place to satisfy compliance requirements. This is an area where EHS compliance efficiency and tracking tools are becoming essential to allow companies to do more with fewer resources.

To prepare: A compliance management system (CMS) brings information technology (IT) and management systems together to coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information in such a way that helps organizations remain in compliance and operate efficiently. A CMS can help provide operational flexibility, generate business improvement, and prepare organizations to address these and other EHS compliance challenges that will continue to surface. 

Hazardous Waste Incineration Backlog

The changing hazardous waste market continues to create a fair amount of uncertainty regarding whether hazardous waste management capacity can actually meet demand. Many Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) and Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) are still experiencing a hazardous waste incineration slowdown, and most of the permitted transport, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) are backlogged. EPA predicts that this backlog may not fully resolve until the end of the first quarter of 2022. EPA has offered multiple existing regulatory options for various regulated entities that generate and manage hazardous waste as temporary solutions to address the backlog.

To prepare: If you are in the situation where you are coming up against your time limits, contact your EPA Regional Administrator and ask for guidance on how to manage the situation. Keep very careful and accurate records of all hazardous waste information to demonstrate appropriate management.

Environmental Justice and Citizen Science

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14008 – Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, amending EO 12898, which directed federal agencies to develop environmental justice (EJ) strategies to help federal agencies address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs on minority and low-income populations. EO 14008 further directs Federal agency actions to support making EJ part of its mission by identifying and addressing the effects of all programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations. As part of EPA’s EJ efforts, the Agency is charting a new pathway for the use of citizen science. Citizen science engages the public in identifying research questions, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, and developing technologies and applications to resolve environmental problems. Citizen science provides a resource in times of restricted budgets and to address dispersed or hyperlocal environmental issues.

To prepare: Equipment loan programs are available for anyone who would like to participate. KTL is aware of clients receiving money from the state to make equipment updates. In addition there are a number of EJ grants, funding, and other technical assistance available.    

Sustainability

As developing nations continue to industrialize and increase their material consumption, resource demands and pressures on our supply chains will only increase. The Biden Administration has committed to a net zero economy by 2050, and the number of net zero commitments from local governments and businesses continues to grow and push further down the supply chain. There are more incentives for businesses to find clean/renewable energy solutions and to manage waste more sustainably. As one example, Sustainable Material Management (SMM) considers the entire of a product and/or process to help create a circular economy.

To prepare: Consider the following sustainability activities as part of your company’s business strategy:

  • Conduct a lifecycle analysis (LCA) to identify and quantify the inputs and outputs in a process and use data to assess the potential environmental impacts across the lifecycle.
  • Check with your local utility to have an energy audit completed of your facilities.
  • Get input from employees on what initiatives are important to them by enacting a sustainability committee or adding sustainability to your EHS agenda.

Set Your Goals for 2022

With these trends toward more regulations, more enforcement, and more focus on sustainability, EHS management needs to play a more integral role in company strategy. Companies must take the time to be informed, be prepared, and be proactive. Establish company-wide EHS priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to ensure the required programs and systems are in place for 2022 and beyond.

If you would like help evaluating your currently EHS risk level and assessing your priorities for 2022, please contact KTL. 

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