Ask Enhesa Vol. 15

by Enhesa 07 Dec. 2018

Featuring contributions from Katsiaryna Anoshka, Siyang Song, Mark Atkinson, Elizabeth Tomassetti, Jimena Murillo Chávarro, Sansanee Dhanasarnsombat, Kim Stefanski, Danyelle Baron and Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford.

You asked and we answered!

Enhesa’s team of multilingual regulatory analysts are committed to providing quality insight and analysis around the latest EHS news and developments via our Enhesa Flash, webinar series, and blog posts. In response, our team often receives a variety of questions regarding the broad realm of the EHS topics we cover. To meet this demand, we launched “Ask Enhesa”, a reoccurring blog series where our senior thought leaders will take the lead in answering all of your most relevant and topical EHS questions.

Let’s get started.

 

I am particularly interested in Russian environmental legislation and air emissions. I have heard that they have started the preparation of industrial "BREFs" similar to the EU approach—could you explain more?

By the order of Rosstandart No. 707 of June 11, 2015, in the framework of the All-Russian Research Institute of Standardization of Materials and Technologies, the “BAT Bureau” was established to coordinate the activity of Technical Working Groups in developing Information and Technical Reference Documents (the equivalent of EU BREFs). However, not much has been adopted/implemented by the Bureau thus far.

 

Is it a requirement to have an educated HS&E Employee in Colombia or any other South American Country?

Let’s look at Colombia and then a couple of other examples from the region.

In Colombia, as of June 1, 2017, each employer, regardless of the size of his company or activity, must develop and implement an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (Sistema de Gestion de la Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo or SG-SST). It must include the implementation of health and safety measures in the workplace, improvement of the conditions and the working environment and effective control of hazards and risks in the workplace. The Colombian legislation (Decree 1072 of 2015) implicitly establishes that there must be an employee (or employees) responsible for the implementation of the SG-SST.

The legislation is not clear regarding the qualifications that the employee responsible of the SG-SST for companies with more than 50 employees must have. However, the employee must be a professional in occupational health and safety and have been certificated in the Ministry of Labour’s 50-hour virtual training on Occupational Health and Safety Management System.

If the responsible person of the SG-SST is not an employee, they must have a hold an occupational health license (licencia de salud occupational) provided by the local Health Secretariat (Secretarias Seccionales o Distritales de Salud).

In Argentina, there is no obligation to have an EHS employee. However, all facilities are required to have an internal or external Occupational Medical Services (Servicios de Medicina del Trabajo) and Occupational Hygiene and Safety Services (Servicios de Higiene y Seguridad en el Trabajo).

In Uruguay, there is no generic obligation to have an EHS employee. However, facilities carrying out industrial activities in the chemical, medication, pharmaceutical, fuel, and renewable energy industries with at least 20 employees must have an internal or external Prevention and Health at Work Services (Servicios de Prevención y Salud en el Trabajo). The services must be internal if the facility has more than 100 workers.

In Paraguay, all facilities must appoint a Safety Advisor (Asesor de Seguridad) in charge of Occupational Health and Safety. The regulation does not clarify if the advisor can be an employee of the facility.

 

Can you provide more details on the China Environmental Protection Tax Law?

According to the Environmental Protection Tax Law, facilities discharging pollutants directly into the environment are subject to an Environmental Protection Tax as of January 1, 2018. This tax has replaced the previous practice of Pollutant Discharge Fees, meaning that facilities no longer need to pay Pollutant Discharge Fees.

The Environmental Protection Tax Law provides a list of taxable pollutants that are subject to the tax, as well as the tax assessment and calculation measures. The taxable air pollutants and water pollutants are measured in Pollutant Equivalent—a comprehensive measuring unit of taxable pollutants based on the nature of the pollutants, the level of harmful impact on the environment by the discharging activities, and the technological and economical aspects of the pollutant treatment. In the same media (water, air, soil, etc.), different pollutants of the same Pollutant Equivalent would cause roughly the same level of environmental pollution. The idea is to charge more money for pollutants that impose more harm on the environment.

Provincial governments determine the applicable tax rates (subject to the range of tax rates set by the Law) and local tax bureaus (county level or above) collect the tax on a monthly or quarterly basis (pursuant to the provincial implementation rules). Most provinces have already published the applicable tax rates for their jurisdictions.

 

Is the Paris Agreement going to meet its goals without the U.S?

The answer to this depends on the level of commitment from several stakeholders—not only governments, but also the private sector. However, we have seen a number of positive signs indicating that the Paris Agreement goals could still be met even without the commitment of the U.S. Federal government. First, several states have formed the Climate Alliance and are committed to the Paris Agreement goals. These states collectively have already reduced their emissions by 15 percent, which is more than half of the U.S. share of the Paris Agreement goal. While the Climate Alliance needs more states to sign on if these states are going to meet the U.S. goal by themselves, they still have made significant progress.

Second, many countries have already pledged to continue to combat climate change as shown by their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As of today, there are 162 INDC submissions to UNFCCC, representing 190 parties. INDCs outline steps to be taken towards emission reductions and also address steps to adapt to climate change impacts, among other things. Since President Trump intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, regulations would not be made to move the U.S.’s INDC forward, but this is where the Climate Alliance comes in.

The private sector’s level of commitment also indicates that the Paris Agreement goals could still be met. Several major corporations have committed to science-based targets for reducing their emissions as they foresee climate risks affecting their businesses and bottom lines.

An additional consideration, though, is that the U.S. can only officially withdraw from the Paris Agreement in November of 2019. The actual withdrawal could then happen on November 4, 2020, which is the day after the next U.S. Presidential election. With an election campaign and an election between now and the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a lot could happen. Considering that 2023 is when emissions data will first begin being analyzed to determine the progress that has been made toward achieving the goals, there is the potential for additional changes in the landscape of U.S. national climate policy.

 

Are any countries passing or proposing harassment and anti-violence requirements requiring mandatory manager or employee training?

 

We we could not find any mandatory training requirements for the U.S., Australia or New Zealand.

There are no mandatory training requirements in the UK either. However, guidance is available for both employers and employees.

Also, specific guidance on sexual harassment has recently been published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Companies should ensure that 1) they have safeguards in place to prevent sexual harassment, 2) ensure that harassment can be safely reported without fear of retribution and 3 ) plan how they intend to prevent harassment in the future.

Similarly, in Canada, although it is not mandatory, training for supervisors and managers is encouraged.

 

How likely do you think it is that the EU will adopt Germany's approach regarding persistent MOBILE and toxic (PMT) substances under REACH?

The German approach has been discussed at the EU level and it has received some positive feedback, although the momentum seems to have been lost in recent months.

It is worth noting that in February 2018, a report was published on research which examined selected substances with regard to their PMT characteristics. As a result, a total of 134 substances registered under REACH (due to suspected PMT characteristics) are recommended to the UBA for further investigation for scientific and regulatory review.

There has not been much information on this issue since February 2018. However, Members of the European Parliament submitted a question on this topic to the European Commission. The European Commission responded in September 2018, stating that the REACH Regulation already allows for the identification of substances as SVHC when they fulfil the relevant criteria (such as CMR substances) or there is evidence of probable serious effects to human health or the environment equivalent to the REACH criteria. The Commission’s response is very neutral, neither supporting or opposing German’s proposal.

In Enhesa’s opinion, if they have enough scientific evidence ECHA will back it up. Member States could be something different, but Denmark seems to be supportive.