ISO 14001 - 4.3.1 Environmental Aspects

L
#1
ISO-14001

I am currently working on an ISO-14001 program for my company. I am having trouble with 4.3.1 Environmental Aspects. I don't know where to start evaluating. Any ideas?
 
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J

Jon Shaver

#2
You're starting at the right place. You can only improve if you know what it is you're trying to improve.
Think about "significant environmnetal impacts" that your facility has. Things like ozone depletion, air/water pollution, waste generation, flora/fawna degredation, toxic exposure or even something simple like odor. Then consider what you do to cause these impacts (VOC emission, releases of other hazardous substances, wastewater effluent, waste removal, stormwater discharge, etc). These are the aspects of your operation that cause the impacts. The word "significant" is a key part of determining the environmnetal impacts that define your aspects. So if your operation has a slight odor problem and also emits a lot of VOC then the VOC is regarded (by reasonable persons) as more significant.
Hope this helps. As I said, you're starting at the right place. Considering your env'l aspects carefully will help a lot as you define objectives and programs.
Jon
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#3
You need to look at every aspect of your operation that can have an environmental effect(definition of Environmental Aspect). Some seemingly minor operations or practices could be classified as having a significant impact when added up across the board.

Look at the amount of electricity, natural gas and water you use.

Identify your waste streams. Not just the Hazardous stuff either. Look at your paper waste. Are you killing too many trees.

Are you using office materials that can be replaced by less hazardous stuff?

Look at the toilets. Are they water friendly or do they use 20 gallons a flush.

As an EMS Auditor I would look for the above and more.

Under 14001 the organization has to take a top to bottom look at ALL, not just some of its Environmental Aspects.
 
R

Roger Eastin

#4
Perhaps, I am just a wasteful capitalist, but I have a hard time seeing some of those areas that Randy listed as "significant" environmental impact areas. I agree that we need to be environmentally conscientious, but is that the same thing as some area that has significant environmental impact? Perhaps, it's a macro vs micro thing...
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#5
I was only listing potential "Aspects". Each organization has to establish its own set of criteria as to was constitutes a "Signifcant Impact".

The standard states that each organization is have a procedure to identify "the environmental aspects". The word "THE" is the catch (confused yet?) "THE" is non-prescriptive and can be interpreted as ALL.

"Environmental aspects" are basically anything the organization does that can interact with the environment. It must also be remembered that "Aspects" don't have to be negative. Positive "Aspects" also need to be identified if they exist. A positive "Aspect" could be a recycling program.

Organizations can get wrapped around the axle if they read too much or too little into the standard. Objectivitiy has to be a prime factor when establishing a program. this is real hard for some people.
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#6
A key phrase that sometimes escapes folks is "continual improvement'. No matter where a system is, there is always a possibility of improvement. Nothing is 100% except death and taxes. That's why once the "significant impacts" are determined, based upon the organizations criteria, the targets and objectives are to be defined to show the improvement.

P.S. I like your accent John............
 
J

John C

#7
I'd go along with Randy here and I think Jon is pointing that way when he looks at a slight odour v a big VOC. The VOC is significant and the slight odour is not. But, an impact that is slight in one context, can be significant in another. A problem that has traditionally been a non-issue, like the leakage loss in the British water system before privatisation, is now a major issue with consumers, suppliers and the European Commission. A brick in your toilet cistern made be no big deal but, along with all the others, it can save us flooding a valley. Also, if I have a clean(ish) operation, should I do nothing? If I've cleaned up 90%, should I stop? I get the impression that ISO 14000 has this thought out and aims, more or less, to take a similar percentage of impact off the top of everyone's activity. Quite right too.
rgds, John C
 
J

John C

#8
I'd go along with Randy here and I think Jon is pointing that way when he looks at a slight odour v a big VOC. The VOC is significant and the slight odour is not. But, an impact that is slight in one context, can be significant in another. A problem that has traditionally been a non-issue, like the leakage loss in the British water system before privatisation, is now a major issue with consumers, suppliers and the European Commission. A brick in your toilet cistern made be no big deal but, along with all the others, it can save us flooding a valley. Also, if I have a clean(ish) operation, should I do nothing? If I've cleaned up 90%, should I stop? I get the impression that ISO 14000 has this thought out and aims, more or less, to take a similar percentage of impact off the top of everyone's activity. Quite right too.
rgds, John C
 
R

Roger Eastin

#9
I am with you guys here. However, the initial question came from someone who was just getting started and it seems to me that company should be focusing on the major items, not how much toilet water they use. Having said that, though, a more mature operation should focus on continual improvement(which may include recycling and water usage).
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#10
That's very true about not worrying with toilets except when you look at it this way.

Let's say a 1000 employee organization seeking registration under 14001 does not have any of its operations that create waste water (not very likely but possible).

Now looking at basic human needs, each individual has to answer the call twice daily.

With an average flush of 5 gallons per, and a 200 day work year, this comes to 2,000,000 gallons of waste water.

In some areas of the world, like where I live and work in the Mojave Desert, I think we could say toilet usage would be a "Significant Aspect" and create a "Significant Impact". In fact I think in some places back East like Georgia, parts of Tennessee, and the Carolinas that are experiancing a drought right now, 2,000,000 gallons of water is real important.

That's why each organization is encombered with taking a look at everything and determining itself what is significant.

I, as an auditor, would look at this.
 
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