Blog

Articles about quality, environmental and safety compliance issues.

We are pleased to announce an update to NimonikApp.com to help you conduct audits and inspections more efficiently.

Merge Templates

Merge Templates

You can now select multiple Audit Templates and merge them into a single audit. Are you inspecting a Louisiana Facility? Merge Federal, State, Municipal and even Corporate and Industry requirements into a single audit protocol!

Filter Audit Items by Status

Filter Status
You can now filter Audit Questions by status, helping you quickly find any item that might be Un-Audited or a specific item that you know is non-conforming.


Last month, I attended the excellent Auditing Roundtable conference in Phoenix, Arizona. At the event, the lawyer Tim Wilkins from Bracewell gave a fascinating presentation of the legal complexities of the US EPA’s Next Generation compliance program. It should be noted that the program will focus on high impact industries with high risk for spills and leaks – think oil and gas, chemicals,  and similar types of operations.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines the program components as follows:

  • Design regulations and permits that are easier to implement, with a goal of improved compliance and environmental outcomes.
  • Use and promote advanced emissions/pollutant detection technology so that regulated entities, the government, and the public can more easily see pollutant discharges, environmental conditions, and noncompliance.
  • Shift toward electronic reporting to help make environmental reporting more accurate, complete, and efficient while helping EPA and co-regulators better manage information, improve effectiveness and transparency.
  • Expand transparency by making information more accessible to the public.
  • Develop and use innovative enforcement approaches (e.g., data analytics and targeting) to achieve more widespread compliance.

https://www.epa.gov/compliance/next-generation-compliance

The key element that Tim Wilkins addressed was the legal implications of the monitoring tools that were being deployed to high impact and high risk industries. Many permits issued to companies are based on modelling of emissions, not on actual measurements. This means that a company can respect its parameters and models, but if it actually exceeds the limits set in a permit or a regulation and the infraction is detected by the EPA’s new monitoring tools, it can be liable for a fine.

The EPA has explicitly said that it will use ‘any credible evidence’ to pursue polluters; this will likely be heavily based on monitoring tools, video footage and sampling. This will put increased pressure on companies with high risk activities to implement very strict and very robust controls to avoid any chance of exceeding their permitted limits as they will be more likely to be caught under the new EPA monitoring procedures.

The recent case of Volkswagen and their cheating software to change emissions during testing by the authorities reinforces the direction the EPA will take: more random testing with actual real-life monitoring programs. It will not be enough to pass a ‘test’ under specific pre-defined conditions; your operations will need to be constantly compliant in real-world environments. Testing now shows that 97% of diesel vehicles do not respect regulatory emissions standards.

Furthermore, companies will need to adopt the same or similar technology to the EPA to ensure that they know where their leaks or emission variations might lie. By installing their own air, waste and water emissions monitoring tools, they may be able to catch excess emissions before the EPA does and implement procedures to avoid undesirable pollution.

Another big element of the EPA’s program is to push for more publication of data. Their motivation is quite simple: shame. If they publish emissions and other environmental data in an open and publicly available format, companies that break the law (or even pollute a great deal while not breaking the law) will be exposed to bad publicity, further motivating them to improve their environmental practices.

Tim Wilkins also mentioned during his talk that more and more companies are leveraging the power of access to information requests and the freedom of information act to identify monitoring methods and issues at their competitors. With these types of requests you could foreseeably see how a competitor has been fined or monitored for environmental issues and use that information to improve your public standing and also inform your environmental programs and monitoring strategies to avoid facing similar issues with the EPA.

A further point was that it is absolutely critical to create a paper trail to demonstrate to the EPA that progress is being made and that there is a concerted effort to respect permitting and regulatory requirements. It will be fascinating to watch the integration of monitoring tools with regulatory updates and permitting limits in the next few years as companies gear up to deal with further EPA restrictions. This is well aligned with consumer trends towards the Internet of Things and connected devices.

A significant question that Tim Wilkins from Bracewell left the audience with was, “How do indemnity clauses in contracts apply in a world where respecting permitting limits and regulatory requirements is not enough?” What do you do if you purchase a plant that respected the regulatory requirements, but is then found to be out of compliance by the EPA’s Next Generation program? Is there an indemnity to be paid by the seller even though they respected the law? This question will certainly be clarified by the courts in the years to come and hopefully companies will continue to invest in their environmental compliance and especially their monitoring tools.


merchant container ship

Recently proposed Regulations under the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act (“EVAMPA”) would add administrative monetary penalties to the toolkit for enforcing Canada’s flagship environmental law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”). Maritime industry should be aware of potential new fines for environmental non-compliance, particularly regarding hazardous materials shipping, manifests, and disposal at sea.

The proposed Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations (the “proposed Regulations”) would create an administrative monetary penalty (“AMP”) regime for six environmental Acts, including CEPA, and some associated regulations. An AMP is a mid-range compliance tool, positioned between a written warning and prosecution. AMPs issue a fine to the offender but do not lead to prosecution. AMPs are similar to the tickets issued under the Contraventions Act yet cover a broader scope of regulatory offenses.

An AMP regime has already existed in the maritime industry for several years, in the form of the Administrative Monetary Penalties and Notices (CSA 2001) Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act (“CSA”). The proposed AMP regime under EVAMPA would establish fines in the same monetary range as those under the CSA. However, the proposed Regulations would create a different method of calculating the amount of the AMP and hold owners and operators to a different liability standard.

Under the proposed Regulations, violations would be classified into three types: Type A (minor or administrative non-compliance); Type B (non-compliance that creates a risk of harm to the environment or an obstruction of authority); and Type C (non-compliance that harms the environment). A baseline penalty amount for each type could be added upon if any of the following aggravating factors apply: history of non-compliance, environmental harm, or economic gain.

An important difference between the AMP regime under the CSA and the proposed AMP regime under EVAMPA is the treatment of continuing violations. The CSA AMP regime allows an offender to be fined  the maximum AMP amount per day a violation occurs in cases of only a select few violations. In contrast, an offender may potentially be fined the maximum AMP amount per day the violation occurs for any violation covered under the EVAMPA regime. The maximum AMP amount under both regimes is $25,000 in the case of a ship or vessel.

EVAMPA determines the liability of owners, operators, masters and chief engineers of ships and vessels at section 8 (2) and (3). Corporate directors or officers who own or operate a ship may be held liable for an AMP if they “directed or influenced the corporation’s policies or activities” leading to the violation. Similarly, “If a ship or vessel commits a violation and the owner, operator, master or chief engineer of the ship or vessel directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in or participated in the commission of the violation” the individual can be issued an AMP even if the ship is not issued one.

Under the proposed Regulations, a review of an AMP may be requested on behalf of a ship or vessel by the owner, operator or master, or an authorized representative of the owner or operator. Due diligence is not an permissible defence.

The proposed Regulations designate AMPs for provisions specifically of interest to the maritime industry, such as the disposal reporting requirement found at CEPA section 130(A) and the manifest requirements found in the Interprovincial Movement of Hazardous Waste Regulations. Also of particular interest to the shipping industry are the designated provisions of the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations and the Federal Halocarbon Regulations. Notably, the Disposal at Sea Regulations under CEPA are not covered by the proposed Regulations.

AMPs have become an increasingly popular form of environmental enforcement at both the federal and provincial level. Stakeholders in shipping have a unique industry perspective and may provide feedback on the proposed Regulations until June 8, 2016. Further information on the proposed Regulations, and the procedure for submitting comments, is available in the original Canada Gazette publication, here.


Businesses like Levi’s, David’s Tea and Stella Artois made quite a splash this past World Water Day (March 22nd) by showcasing their water-saving strategies on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. In honour of World Water Day, the Nimonik team is highlighting how businesses use technological innovations in legal tracking to achieve sustainable water management.

Platforms like Nimonik can improve an organization’s environmental accountability while saving time and money in the process. Whether it be a mining site, a governmental department or a university, water consumption can have lasting impacts on an organization’s environmental footprint. For businesses in Canada, a country known for its abundant water resources, staying on top of changes in environmental law is too often left as a low-level priority.

Environmental laws and regulations in Canada, specifically pertaining to water, have gone through significant changes in the past five years. Under the previous government, laws involving water conservation were simplified in 2012 to reduce regulatory redundancies with the provincial governments. This led to greater leniency in the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Species at Risk Act, among others. Ultimately, the regulatory burden has shifted from the federal government to the provinces, giving the latter more power to implement and enforce environmental legislation.

An outcome of this legal development has recently taken place in British Columbia, where the new “Water Sustainability Act” came into force February 29, 2016. This new regime for water management in the province replaces the former “Water Act” and now includes the regulation of groundwater, requiring all users of non-domestic (anything other than household use) groundwater to possess a license. For a list of other significant changes within the Water Sustainability Act, you can sign up to Nimonik’s legal updates service or begin a 20-day trial account.

Understanding changes in environmental law and maintaining compliance is critical for  businesses seeking sustainability. Businesses have a key role to play in how society chooses to manage the invaluable natural resources we have left – water being no exception. Ultimately, businesses are held accountable for meeting their financial, social and environmental obligations.  Technological advancements, as showcased by the Nimonik platform, give businesses the tools they need to emerge as leaders in environmental sustainability.

“We must always remember that business cannot succeed in a society that fails.”

– Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General

“As we think about this crisis…we should think about how we can create a global economic architecture which works better, for more people, in a more sustainable way.”

– Joseph Stiglitz, former World Bank Vice President 


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJohn Wolfe joins Nimonik as a Partner

Nimonik is very pleased to announce that John Wolfe has joined its organization as an advisor and a partner.

John Wolfe was most recently the Senior Director of Operations Integrity Audit, reporting directly to the Chair of the EHSD Committee of the Suncor Energy Board of Directors; responsible for operational risk identification, audit and assessment, and related governance programs for Suncor’s onshore and offshore operations around the world.

He is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of HSEQ lean management systems (process safety inclusive) (design, implementation and assessment), risk management, training and competence, emergency response, regulatory compliance, and audit and governance; working with many of North America’s leading companies.

He has worked with leading companies such as Imperial Oil, Enbridge, TransCanada, West Coast Energy, Union Gas, Suncor, Petrotrin, SABIC (21 petrochemical companies in Saudi Arabia), Ontario Hydro, Manitoba Hydro, SaskPower, Darlington, Pickering and Bruce Power, Atomic Energy of Canada, CN Rail, Holcim, and GM.  Prior roles included senior management positions with ERM (Partner), Boart  Longyear, (EHS Director), ICF Kaiser Canada (VP) and the Canadian Standards Association where he directed the Standards Division, managing some 5000 volunteer experts serving on over a 1000 active technical committees in 20 different technology areas.

Contact

To contact Nimonik and discuss ways John and the team can help you meet EHS and Risk management requirements, please email Luciano Ciccone, Head of Sales, at lciccone@nimonik.com or contact us at 1-888-608-7511

John Wolfe can be contacted at jwolfe@nimonik.com


MONTRÉAL, Canada — March 21, 2016— Nimonik, the leader in mobile solutions for environmental, health and safety legal compliance, has acquired Conformance Check inc., a twenty year veteran of legal compliance regulatory analysis. After three years of fruitful collaboration, the team at Conformance Check and their clients join Nimonik to help grow NimonikApp.com and its companion mobile solutions on iOS and Android.

Jonathan Brun, founder and CEO of Nimonik stated: “This acquisition will allow Nimonik to offer a fully integrated compliance solution with both regulatory content and cutting edge technology to companies in Canada and the United States. The years of experience at Conformance Check will help inform the direction and development of current and future Nimonik products.”

Robert Kolanko, Vice-President, Regulatory Compliance Technology Development & Integration and former Chief Operating Officer of Conformance Check explains: “Conformance Check’s history of supplying compliance assurance solutions to top corporations in North America will be enhanced by incorporating Nimonik’s state of the art web and mobile solutions. The combination of our companies’ top talent will provide unparalleled solutions for regulatory compliance assurance.”

The transition of over 50 000 regulatory requirements for Canadian provinces and territories, numerous municipalities and US states to the Nimonik platform will take place over the coming months.

About Conformance Check

Conformance Check has offered an environmental, health, and safety compliance tool and information database since 1992. Their content and technology has been a leader in the North American market with coverage encompassing legislative federal requirements for US and Canada, all Canadian provinces, and most U.S. states, providing a comprehensive solution to North American companies such as TransCanada, Imperial Oil and SNC Lavalin.

About Nimonik

Established in 2008, Nimonik offers web and mobile solutions to environmental, health and safety and quality managers in over 25 countries for over 125 jurisdictions. Nimonik’s solutions offer access and updates to regulatory requirements, industry best practices and international standards along with software to track, monitor and report on compliance performance. Nimonik solutions are used by companies such as L’Oréal, Glencore Mining, FedEx and other Fortune 500 companies to ensure EHSQ compliance.


Screenshot_20160316-184211

Nimonik is pleased to announce a free upgrade to our EHS and Quality Android Auditing App (version 1.6.5). It contains the following upgrades :

  • Auditors and Auditees are now listed in alphabetical order in all drop-down menus;
  • There is a left hand menu on the Tablet version of the app to navigate through Audit Items and see completion rate of questions;
  • Quickly see when an Audit is complete;
  • Issue an Audit Report without completing an Audit;
  • Automatic saving of Findings, Corrective Actions and other audit information without having to tap save; and
  • Various small bug fixes.

Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), employers are now required to verify that all newly hired employees present “facially valid” documentation verifying the employee’s identity and legal authorization to accept employment in the United States

The I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form is intended to validate identity and employment authorization in the United States of America for every employee hired by an organization after November 6, 1986 – both citizen and non-citizen.

Employers must ensure that the most recent version of the I-9 form is completed for each newly hired employee within the first 3 business days of the employee’s first day of work. Both employees and employers are required to complete the document with information pertaining to worker citizenship or alien registration status, and document review examination performed by the employer. Employers must then keep and store the completed I-9 form for 3 years, or one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later.

Enforced by Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the I-9 form must be made available by the employer for inspection by U.S. Government officials from the Departments of: Homeland Security, Labor, and Justice.

Failure to complete a form or other related violations and non-compliances for every employee may result in the substantial fines and prosecution of companies and hiring managers:

For more information, please visit: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/penalties

 

Avoid exposing your company to unnecessary financial and legal penalties with the I-9 Form U.S. Employment compliance checklist to help you through the I-9 process and forms. Demonstrate compliance during an audit with Nimonik’s easy-to-use platform and reporting features. Start your Free 20 day Trial at NimonikApp.com!

The English and Spanish versions of the I-9 form are available at: http://www.uscis.gov/


A serious workplace injury can not only change the life of an individual and their family, but can also cause a significant financial burden to the employer’s company.

According to the United States Department of Labour, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, businesses spend an estimated $170 million a year on costs related to injuries and illnesses. These expenses affect a company directly through medical bills and workers’ compensation, and indirectly with loss of productive work-hours due to worker impairment.

In an effort to mitigate the financial burden of injuries and safety violations, companies are now strongly emphasizing worker safety. Focus on safe practices has been measurably shown to decrease long-term, health-related costs, and improve the quality of work by boosting employee motivation and overall safety.

Implementing a strong health and safety program has shown to boost productivity by 13% in large companies, and save over $200,000 in smaller, 50-person companies.

At Nimonik, we value Environmental, Health and Safety compliance above all, and would like to offer the following free checklists to help improve your workplace safety:

Nimonik is committed to helping employers and employees maximize efficiency and adhere to environmental health and safety standards.
Save money and improve productivity, while keeping your employees safe and happy with a free trial of Nimonik’s award-winning solution today!

 


From Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/30490987@N04/6023900703/

A recent publication in Bloomberg shows that the renewable market continues to grow at a staggering rate. This growth is adding to pressure on fossil fuel prices and could very well be ushering in a new era for Clean Energy. Denmark was recently cited as having obtained 50% of their energy through Wind Power and as a company based in Québec, Canada, Nimonik is proud to say that Quebec is 100% clean energy – mostly hydro and a little bit of wind. The growth in renewable energy is all the more remarkable considering the  cost of oil, which continues to stay low due to geopolitical events such as the removal of sanctions on Iran.

With backers as large as China, and as humble as small-town investor, Bill Gates, the clean energy industry shows no signs of slowing down (Even the Eiffel Tower has gone green). Renewable energy has outpaced traditional energy, and is set to make significant gains on its progress already as US Lawmakers have agreed to extend tax credits for the solar industry for another five years.

The growth of renewables due to increasingly affordable cost, might encourage governments and municipalities to seek alternative sources of energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydro/tidal power. This may in turn lead to further drops in demand for fossil fuel based energy. Analysts are predicting a huge boost to the global GDP by $1.3 trillion dollars if market shares of renewable energy double. Germany has even gone so far as to say that renewable energy has won the technology race.

As the industry matures, rules, regulations and quality control processes are being put in place. Regulatory requirements will likely grow as as new materials and technologies emerge to help harness, capture, and grow this budding industry. Nimonik is working with a number of renewable energy organizations to provide them with legislative updates and tools to help audit their operations and ensure safety, security, quality, and environmental compliance.

If your organization is looking for tools to help increase compliance efficiency, start with a 20-day trial with Nimonik and see our plain language updates and powerful tools in real time, or contact us at info@nimonik.com and see how we can simplify compliance for you.