Legally Speaking: Yes, You Need an Environmental Policy
For most of us, the first thoughts we have about an environmental policy come after we encounter a problem. It’s when our crews tear off an old roof to find an outbreak of mold that we look around for someone to tell us what to do.
It is too late to consider a policy after you discover asbestos, mold or even lead paint in a large renovation project. The time to prepare a good environmental policy is before you need it, not in the heat of a battle!
Currently, the construction industry is confronting an outbreak of legal and practical issues caused by outbreaks of mold and mildew. This problem is so large that some major insurance carriers have stopped insuring homes because of the potential liabilities associated with these environmental concerns.
While our industry is facing this legal challenge, it is prudent for the roofing contractor to create an environmental policy that will address how it intends to confront, remedy, report and otherwise manage such important issues as mold and mildew. Early preparation is critical to head off any problems before they occur. Programs and policies create a proactive setting in the midst of rapidly changing laws, court rulings, insurance guidelines, and other regulations.
The typical roofing company, however, does not necessarily need a policy that addresses every known environmental issue. The cost alone of this type of comprehensive policy is prohibitive. A roofing contractor can circumvent this costly expenditure by preparing a simple policy that sufficiently addresses the vast majority of issues at hand.
An effective policy must address three primary factors:
1. What is your company’s policy?
2. How will you comply with basic environmental issues?
3. What is your practical approach?
It is important to keep in mind that because of rapid changes in the law and the complexity of the issues, no guideline or policy can cover every circumstance. Yet, without a policy you will have little or no control over problems when they arise.
The components of a simple policy include:
- A plan for compliance with laws and regulations.
- A method to identify and prevent environmental problems at the start of a project.
- A program for the involvement of all employees in the identification and remedy of environmental issues.
- A system for training employees in environmental matters.
- A program for self-monitoring progress and problems with the plan.
- A method to involve subcontractors in the plan.
- A process of review of the plan where updates to procedures can be made due to changes in laws and regulations.
- A procedure for cooperation with authorities.
- A list of specialists with contact information.
Moreover, many contractors have found success by incorporating the environmental plan within the company safety plan. In this manner, the company’s safety director can be responsible for the development, enactment and performance of both plans, and can efficiently address many of the issues common to both.