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Aviva urges businesses to be more environmentally responsible

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Fines for environmental damage have doubled in the last five years[1] and businesses that do not comply with the regulations are facing increasingly severe penalties, warns Aviva Risk Management Solutions (ARMS), the new name for Norwich Union Risk Services.

The implementation of the EU Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), came into effect across the UK this year – March 2009 in England, May 2009 in Wales and June 2009 in Scotland, and requires that EU member states prevent and remedy environmental damage.

James Draper, principal consultant for ARMS, says: “With the new legislation and an increase in the cost of landfill tax, businesses are cutting more corners when it comes to waste disposal, one of the most common areas where businesses are penalised.

“Companies producing a large amount of packaging need to be aware of their environmental obligations, which may involve recycling or recovering an amount from the packaging. Businesses with a turnover of more than £2 million and that handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year are obliged to set up a recycling scheme.

“Many businesses are unaware of their responsibility or fail to make admissions about the levels of packaging being produced. A soft drinks company recently received the largest ever waste fine of £261,268 for failing to meet its requirements to recover and recycle packaging waste between 1999 and 2006. The company also paid £3,755 in costs to the Environment Agency, in addition to £6,854 compensation for unpaid registration fees for the years in question.[2]”

“After waste disposal, the second most common risk is in relation to trade effluent or liquid waste.  Some businesses will have consent from the Environment Agency or local water undertaker to discharge a certain amount into controlled water, such as a river or to a sewer. If consent has been granted, businesses must adhere to the stipulations to avoid causing damage to sewers or the environment,” adds Draper.

“Oil tank leaks and spillages are among the most common causes of water pollution.  They can easily be forgotten once installed until something goes wrong, so businesses should ensure they are maintained properly. Under the Oil Storage Regulations stiff penalties will be imposed for not complying.

“Emissions are another risk to consider. Most businesses are permitted to produce a certain level of gas and vapour, but those that emit over the stipulated amount must have some sort of abatement control in place.  Businesses can implement measures to reduce CO2 emissions from cars through car-sharing schemes, increased use of public transport or video conferencing technology for example.

“Having identified all the environmental hazards associated with a process or activity, it is important to identify the risks associated with these. To evaluate the risks, the probability and consequences of hazard control mechanisms failing should be considered.

“Businesses should carry out a review in adequate detail to monitor volumes of waste, effluent or CO2. This should be conducted over a sufficient period to ensure that any day-to-day fluctuations are not given undue weight.

“When the risks have been assessed, they must be controlled. This can be done by implementing physical safeguards, for example bunds, barriers or control systems, which may be dependent on information given in site rules. Controls may also require training or supervision and any limits set by legislation must be incorporated into these measures.

“A strong overlap exists between environmental and health and safety hazards control so it may be possible to use information obtained from a health and safety risk assessment as part of the environmental review. Work should always be cross referenced.”

ARMS provides a range of environmental training services including a one-day awareness course, NEBOSH Environmental Diploma and tailored training at a customer’s premises.

A series of Hardfacts guides on environmental protection are available here

[1] www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/109955.aspx

[2] www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/109955.aspx