Let’s take a look at 6 administrative practices within environmental management :
- Environmental benefits of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”
- Housecleaning, housekeeping, and sanitation
- Hazards related to color, signage, and poor communication
- ISO 14001
- Life-cycle assessment
Environmental benefits of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”
Environmental sustainability principles include employing a hierarchy of “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” The environmental benefits of each of these strategies are as follows: Reduce refers to reducing use of materials or products in general. For example, purchasing one television instead of one for each room reduces the carbon footprint and energy use overall. Reuse is the next-best strategy to environmental sustainability and refers to reusing materials rather than discarding them. For example, giving clothing to another family to use rather than discarding it saves resources. Recycle refers to making a discarded product into new materials. For example, discarded metal can be remelted and re-refined into new metal that can be manufactured into new items. Recycling generally uses less energy than making materials from virgin sources, but it can be labor intensive to segregate materials into a form that can be recycled.
Housecleaning, housekeeping, and sanitation
Housecleaning refers to the process of cleaning an area: sweeping, wiping surfaces, throwing away trash, etc. Housekeeping means putting things away where they belong. Every tool, piece of equipment, and material should have a designated storage area. Hazardous materials should have a storage area designed specifically for them. Sanitation means ensuring the facility is clean and germ-free.
It includes such issues as the following: Safe drinking water. Clean working toilets. Clean areas to prepare and eat food. As well as insect and rodent control.
Housecleaning, housekeeping, and sanitation can all reduce hazards. For example, putting equipment where it belongs means that no one is going to trip over that item and the item cannot fall on anyone. Providing a sanitary environment also reduces disease transmission and can lessen exposure to hazardous substances.
Effective housekeeping is important from both an environmental and safety standpoint. Poor housekeeping can increase the volume of waste generated by causing spills and by accumulating out-of-date materials that must be discarded. From a safety standpoint, housekeeping can create slip, trip, and fall hazards; can block emergency exits; and can block emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers. Setting housekeeping policies and enforcing them, along with employee training and an inspection program, are the key elements of an effective housekeeping program. Effective housekeeping begins with only necessary materials in the work area, with everything having a designated location, and with clear communication of these guidelines. Employees should be trained to clean up as they go along throughout their shift and should set aside time at the end of shift to clean up completely. All tools should be replaced into storage lockers and containers, and returned to storage locations. Surfaces should be kept clean. Effective housekeeping promotes a safe workplace and increases job satisfaction, because it is more pleasant to work in an orderly environment.
Controlling hazardous chemicals
Part of housekeeping is removing dust and cleaning up spills. Hazardous dust needs to be regularly vacuumed from surfaces so that it will not become airborne. A vacuum that traps the contaminants must be used. Materials can become airborne when they are loaded, unloaded, and transferred to other containers. Transferring within a closed transfer or exhaust system can protect workers from being exposed to airborne dust and vapors. For liquids, it is also helpful to use drip pans or containers to collect overfill spills and leaks. Leak detection programs can include both automatic sensors and regular visual inspections of valves and pipes. The sensors can trigger alarms or even shut down a process. Repairing leaks quickly minimizes any potential exposures. Workers and supervisors who use hazardous chemicals need to receive training on what hazards they face and how to protect themselves. This training will help them stay safe and is also required by OSHA standards and by law in some states.
Hazards related to color, signage, and poor communication
Color is used for marking hazards and relating information through color-coding. However, hazards related to color can occur because of color blindness. In addition, everyone must understand and remember what different colors stand for. American National Standards Institute (ANS), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) all have standards designating what different colors symbolize. Following these standards helps workers remember what colors mean. Signs can also mark hazards and provide safety information. To be effective, signs need to be multilingual and standardized. It is also helpful to include symbols along with text or as a replacement for text. Organizations like OSHA, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), and other federal agencies provide standards for signage. Following standards for color and signage enables workers to quickly and easily understand the warning or hazard that is being communicated. Poor communication can lead to hazards when instructions and warnings are not clearly and correctly communicated to co-workers, managers, supervisors, customers, and end-users of a product.
ISO 14001 is an international environmental management standard that is managed by the International Standards Organization. It is based on a management system model that requires a company to “Plan, Do, Check, Act” with regard to managing environmental impacts. It requires a systematic review and documentation of environmental aspects and impacts of the company’s activities. It then requires that these risks be controlled and that the company develop goals and objectives to reduce environmental impact. Compliance with applicable environmental regulations is expected as a baseline, as is ongoing continual improvement; ISO14001 requires consideration of environmental impacts that are not governed by regulatory requirements. Additional key components of the ISO 14001 standard are a system of internal auditing to check conformance with the standard, a documented root cause analysis system and corrective action process, and continual review and support by top management of the company.
The term “sustainability” is used to refer to developing systems that do not deplete natural resources at a greater rate than can be replaced either through regeneration or recycling. A
sustainable farming system, for example, is one that nourishes the soil and replaces nutrients in such a way that farming can continue during future generations rather than depleting nutrients from the soil. Sustainability programs are also undertaken by companies to examine their processes and products from an environmental resource viewpoint with an attempt to minimize resource use and increase recycling of wastes and by-products. Key aspects of sustainability programs are to examine the feasibility of using renewable energy, reducing water usage, substituting less toxic raw materials, and producing less solid and hazardous waste.
A life-cycle assessment is a method of assessing the environmental aspects and impacts of a product from manufacturing until final disposition. For example, if one is considering a computer, consideration would be given to the energy to produce the computer and its components, the mining of the metals in the computer, the fossil fuel depletion that occurs from creating the plastics, the chemicals used to create the semiconductors, and the resources used to create the packaging. Consideration is given to how the product is used and what its environmental impacts are during its use. Finally, one would consider the environmental impact of its final disposition. For example, if the computer is discarded in the landfill, what toxins are potentially released to the environment? What are the benefits if it is recycled? Life-cycle assessments can be used to consider and compare products or when evaluating different manufacturing design options.
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