After a very short Element 2 , let’s move on and consider Element 3. Element 3 is a medium sized element that officially requires 8 hours of tuition time. This element covers environmental management systems and emergency planning over five learning outcomes. Most of these you are required to outline. As with Element 2, there is a great deal of information that is similar to other work areas such as quality or health & safety.
A key learning point for Element 3 is the structure of an environmental management system as stated in the ISO 14001:2015 standard. This is an ‘explain’ learning outcome so it must be learnt to a high level of detail.
When studying EMS it is important to learn the framework of ISO 14001. At a very high level this is Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). Some of you will be aware of this structure from other work activities as it is the basis of many workplace management system, not just EMS. I would recommend that you learn this relatively simple model first.
Just a quick word on initial environmental reviews. This can be achieved by comparing what is in place for each requirement of the standard. Most organisations will have some elements in place already. Therefore it is important to know what these are to avoid duplication when developing an EMS.
Applying Plan-Do-Check-Act to EMS
Once you have completed this you then need to think about what occurs at each of the four parts of PDCA. In ISO 14001 speak these are: context of the organisation, leadership, planning, support, operation, performance evaluation and improvement. If you apply a bit of logic you can work this out to a certain extent. Take, for example, performance evaluation (Check). The constituents are all some form of checking activities that are undertaken at different levels. This includes therefore:
- Monitoring and Measurement – The more day to day low level checks such as undertaking general environmental inspections. These are completed on a regular basis.
- Audit – The check on how well key issues in the workplace are being managed. This is undertaken on a much less regular basis and is more high level than an inspection but not as much as a management review.
- Management Review – Where the results of and other strategic EMS issues are considered. This is done on quite an infrequent basis. For most organisations this would be annually (although no timeframe is stated in ISO 14001).
Similarities with other ISO management system standards
The overall structure of ISO 14001 is very, very similar to other ISO management system standards such as ISO 45001 and ISO 9001. If you are really struggling, think about how these standards work and add an environmental angle to them. From there, you should be able to still develop a good answer.
You could also use the ISO 14001 standard structure for answering questions that surround controlling a specific environmental risk like pollution or waste. Take, for example, waste. The EMS element could be applied to specifically cover areas such as risk assessment, policy, operational control, training, monitoring and audit etc. You just apply these to waste management and it spins off an answer! Having some kind of framework helps a lot when answering exam questions.
It is important that you learn EMS – it is a very key concept for the course overall and in the workplace.
Just as in safety management, several environmental incidents could be avoided if organisations effectively managed their contractors. This is generally another area of Element 3 that is very similar to the approach adopted by other workplace disciplines, particularly occupational health & safety. Therefore, if you are struggling, think about how this would be completed for the discipline you are more aware of and tinker to make it more relevant to environmental management. For example, when selecting a contractor you might review their environmental policy and check environmental risk assessments.
There are several key learning points in Element 3, but I think we can safely say that spending a lot of time understanding EMS is a very important task. Next we will take a look at Element 4 environmental – risk evaluation and control.
John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MIEMA
With over 19 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.