What Kind of Systems Show “Reasonable Care” for Pollution Prevention?

Every organisation has a duty to prevent pollution occurring from their activities and you should put the necessary systems are in place to ensure this.  This blog will cover some of the systems you should consider.

Why do I need proper systems?

If you do cause pollution and are prosecuted, your sentence is determined by the Sentencing Guidelines; a set of standards put in place to establish rational and consistent sentencing practices for environmental offences.  The guidelines take factors into consideration including size of the business, environmental harm caused and culpability (how at fault the organisation is).  The lower the band of culpability, the lower the sentence is likely to be.  In order to be considered within the lower band, you must demonstrate that you have taken reasonable care to put in place and enforce systems that would be reasonably expected to avoid the offence.  So how do you demonstrate that?

Know your site

You must have comprehensive site knowledge so you can develop the necessary systems.  This will include a verified, easy to understand drainage plan with all drains and site infrastructure.  You should also complete a thorough environmental risk assessment that will cover all site activities, the risks and current controls.

Pollution controls

Following your risk assessment, you should have identified the appropriate controls required to help prevent pollution.  Those required should be in place and other desirable controls should be considered for implementation.  They may include bunding of liquids, interceptors on drains, designated vehicle wash areas and waste controls.

Checks and maintenance

Regular checks should be carried out on your site to ensure that pollution controls are in good condition, working and to identify any problems.  Checks should include liquid storage, spill kit arrangements, general housekeeping, waste arrangements and all other areas that could cause pollution.  You should also have a scheduled maintenance programme in place to service and check all required infrastructure, including drains and interceptors to ensure they are in good working order and continue to provide pollution protection.

Emergency procedures

You should have robust emergency procedures, including all emergencies and procedures for protecting the environment, to reduce the chance of an incident and include the steps to take if an emergency does occur.  You should consider spill kit types, quantities and placement and fire water capture and management.  It is very important that all staff are trained in emergency procedures and that they are widely available.  You may prepare a Pollution Incident Response Plan (PIRP – read about what they are here) that you can use in staff training and to be available for the emergency services if you have an incident.

You should have systems in place to show reasonable care to prevent pollution.  This will reduce the likelihood of pollution from occurring and, if it does, reduce the pollution that escapes your site.  You should have full knowledge of your site, identify the controls in place and put additional controls in where necessary.