Phil Conran, a director at 360 Environmental, which has implemented Competence Management Systems across the UK, reflects on new rules around technical competence.
OPINION: A condition of operation for any waste site under an Environmental Permit in England and Wales is Technical Competence cover. Traditionally, this has been provided through a WAMITAB trained Technically Competent Manager (TCM) with sites having to provide varying degrees of cover depending on OPRA scores and waste types.
Last year, the Environment Agency consulted on proposals to tighten the management of technical competence, stating in the consultation ‘certain TCMs are not acting in a proper manner. Some TCMs are spread too thinly, providing cover at many waste sites at the same time, whilst other TCMs are known to provide poor or wrong advice to waste operators or operators are fraudulently using a TCMs credentials without the TCM knowing’.
One of the problems the Agencies had was the lack of a central register of TCMs and they relied on individual sites providing information on their competence cover when asked. Enforcement of this provision was lax, not helped by the lack of measures available to the Agencies where TCMs were not properly managing compliance.
For many site operators, it has also been clear that Technical Competence is a shortcoming in that it is a box that has to be ticked, rather than a mechanism for improving site efficiency and environmental risk management.
The consultation led to the recent Environmental Protection (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England and Wales) Regulations. This seeks to address the shortcoming by imposing a duty on all permitted facilities – both pre-and post the 2008 EPR regulations – to report their competence cover starting with their site waste returns for Q2 2019. This will give the EA and NRW full transparency on competence cover and expose where sites are non-compliant. The regulations offer the option of conforming through the old-style WAMITAB or the more recently introduced Competence Management System – CMS.
Competence Management System
Developed by the Energy and Utility Skills Council, CMS offers a new style of competence cover. Similar to quality standards such as ISO14001, CMS is applied to the site rather than an individual and ensures that all relevant personnel engaged with waste at the site – from the weighbridge operator to yard staff to the Directors and site manager – fully understand the conditions of the permit and the site’s compliance requirements. Employees undergo annual training specific to the site and its operations and processes are put in place ensure that the site is always operating to the correct standards.
Any size of waste company can implement CMS because it is tailored to the business and its operation. A site does not need the ISO Standards of 9001 or 14001 either, just the management system that allows the proper function and monitoring of the permit, as described in Condition 1.1.1 of the site permit. The main requirement is that there needs to be full business commitment from the Directors downwards.
Companies that have implemented CMS have found significant benefits that go beyond ticking the regulatory Technical Competence box. There is, of course, the removal of dependence on a single individual. Sickness, holidays or departure are no longer a problem as the site is permanently covered. But it is the business benefits that have been felt the most. Ensuring that the whole site fully understands the business, its operations and the legal compliance requirements imparts much greater ownership to employees. Site efficiencies improve. Staff look out for issues and deal with them before they arise.
Problems are also prevented from turning into major incidents. As an example, one site that had just implemented CMS had an incident where an articulated vehicle had its diesel tank ripped off as it went over the weighbridge. This would have led to a major pollution incident, but the site staff instantly reacted as trained, closed down the necessary drains and the pollution –and likely prosecution – was averted.
The MD of another company that had implemented CMS stated ‘This is been a game changer for us. It has changed the culture of the company and the site has become more efficient and productive as a result.’
At present, there is only one UKAS approved Certification Body accredited for CMS – Lloyds Register. 360 Environmental has successfully implemented the system across a range of operators and works closely with Lloyds Register to deliver the optimum tailored result for each site.
Author: Phil Conran is a Director at 360 Environmental which, he says, has successfully implemented CMS at many sites across the UK. More details are available at www.competencemanagementsystem.co.uk