As many of you know, I encourage feedback and try to reflect what’s happening in the industry, so when I was ‘accused’ of being soft last month as I hadn’t had a rant for a while (not since December anyway), I thought a homage to ranting would be in order.
The aim is to prevent us all rambling on about regulatory visits and inconsistency from any of the many bodies that visit our sites. The suggestions are simple and you might say obvious, but so many operators I know wish they had done more to record their dealings with inconsistent officers and these suggestions are based on their experiences.
If you do keep good records and still get bad service, then have a moan safe in the knowledge that you have information you can use in anger. For any regulatory officers reading this, if you are thorough, consistent, approachable and understand the industry you regulate, then take a virtual pat on the back from us all.
Make detailed notes in a diary (not the site diary) when having regulatory discussions of any sort so that you can refer to them later. It sounds simple, but so many people tell me that what is said on site is not reflected in inspection forms or letters following an inspection. Whilst there is the potential for your recollection to be disputed, your contemporaneous notes serve as a logical system to challenge some of the individuals out there that say one thing on site and then write about something completely different when they get back in the office. So now that you have your notes in your diary, I suggest you write to the officer by email so that it arrives in their inbox before they arrive back at base and speak to colleagues to see what can be added to the advice that you weren’t given during the site visit. Make sure to ask for a read receipt.
When having meetings, there is an over-abundance of smartphones, all of which are capable of recording a conversation. I’m not advocating covert recording – but put your phone on the meeting table and ask if the person you’re dealing with minds you putting the meeting on record. There should be no objection (as long as you offer to send them the recording), as it saves everyone making notes and potentially missing something.
Phone systems are not cheap, but if you have a system that records calls you will be aware of the ease with which you can retrieve a conversation if the matters discussed are in dispute. It’s worth considering, as I deal with dozens of people every week, some of whom have a limited ability to recollect what was said if it is in our client’s interest. Take photos of your site daily on your phone, as they can be backed up to the cloud and not lost if your computer dies
Research, Print and Read
Make sure you have a copy of your site management system available. Go through it and use a highlighter to mark out the key storage times and limits, for example, so they can easily be referred to. Also download relevant guidance and print a copy for the site office, so that when something is quoted, the document can be brought out to aid the discussion. If the person visiting can’t refer to the relevant section they are quoting, they shouldn’t be doing an enforcement related job.
Don’t forget that you are responsible for health and safety on your site. If someone arrives on site and does not follow your health and safety procedures, then make them aware that they should not be on site unless they are willing to do so. Being a regulator and enforcing one aspect of legislation does not make a person immune from other legal requirements. Record any breaches in your site diary and remind the officer of the breach by email, copying their manager in if they do not show any interest in compliance. It could be not observing site speed limits, inappropriate parking, not wearing PPE etc. You will be surprised how many people can dish it out but not take it.
What I do advocate for all sites is making a public register request, where such a register exists, or a freedom of information request to obtain records held that relate to inspections of your site and other sites in your area. Given the level of inconsistency in some places and the personal nature of some inspections, it may help level the playing field if the regulator knows they are being monitored as well. If you know another site is being given an easier time when it’s a mess and you are being picked up on very minor issues, you can at least ask why.
Whilst giving evidence last year, I was confronted with the question, ‘You go as Enviroman don’t you?’ Given that the cartoon bears a striking resemblance to me, I could hardly say no. The issue was that I had written, apparently good advice, and was asked why I hadn’t given that advice to my client. Whether it was relevant or not, it shows that some people do their background work, even if it is trying to rattle someone else by picking one article out of over 100. It could also be said that the regulatory body involved could also have given the same advice as well. Either way, this scenario shows that being well prepared does not always take much time, but can save hours later on.
Marco Muia BSc (Hons) MSc MCIWM is the Managing Director of Oaktree Environmental Limited. He specialises in all aspects of waste planning and regulation consultancy. He also holds the level 4 COTCs for Hazardous Waste Treatment and Transfer. You can contact Marco on 01606 558833 if you have any questions about this article or e-mail him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wastechat.