Environmental Data Management System


A comprehensive and centralized data management environment is the foundation for any successful EH&S Department. This system makes reporting easier, allows for incident recovery, and, most importantly, ensures that you comply with your permits and regulations. Facilities with the best data management receive minor environmental penalties and fines. Yet professionals in North America insist on manually collecting data, calculating emissions, and transcribing Safety Data Sheets.

ERA wrote this article to help EH&S managers understand the benefits and logistics of automating their management and the common fines often received in manufacturing facilities.

Why Environmental Data Is Important

Let’s begin with the obvious. You are legally required to gather, compile and submit environmental data if you work in an industry with strict operating regulations or require permits, like the oil and gas and coatings industries. It is the responsibility of the business to prove compliance. Whether you are required to meet a reporting deadline, as is in the case of TRI, or prepare for a future audit, failing to have the data available is a cause for a fine.

However, there are other reasons to collect this information. One of the most important is to ensure that your industrial activities do not damage the local environment (or global, in the instance of air emissions). This is a goal in and of itself for some. A ‘green’ process of production can demonstrate your commitment to climate change and sustainability. Environmental data can be used by B2C businesses and B2B companies alike to increase consumer loyalty, encourage sustainability investment, and cement employee happiness.

This last benefit is especially relevant for fields where the safety of an employee is at stake. Construction workers do not want to work at a construction site without having a safety record. A firefighter would also be reluctant to respond to an emergency without knowing the exact location of any potential hazards. Tier I forms and OSHA Inspections were created to provide the necessary data for proving that your production process is safe.

This application was covered in a different a href=”https://www.era-environmental.com/blog/environmental-data-managementsavedthousands”>article/a>, which went over e example of environmental specialist studying his facility’s water usage and discovering faulty that cost the company thousands every month. This application was covered in another article. It described a real-life example where an environmental specialist studied his facility’s usage of water and discovered a flaw that cost the company thousands of dollars every month. This particular problem could have been solved by taking a closer at the accounting records, but there are others that are inherent in the design of the air, waste, and water systems. They are, therefore, almost impossible to improve without consistent data collection.

What is an Environmental Data Management System (EDMS)?

It is hard to convince practitioners of EH&S to collect environmental data. it takes too much time. This is why the federal and state government feel they need to ‘incentivize them’ with environmental penalties.

In the 1990s, after the advent and proliferation of personal computers and the internet, companies that offer software systems for collecting and processing data to ensure compliance began to become more common. Users felt (and feel) the price of generating routine compliance reports is less than the potential penalties.

While an Environmental Data Management System is still defined today as a program that manages a facility’s compliance with environmental regulations, it has evolved into a database, which can be used to automate a lot of tasks. It monitors equipment, takes measurements and rolls them up, performs calculations, validates and formats the data for submission.

An EDMS can be used to overcome situations beyond your control. For example, when a facility is accidentally out of compliance. The way you manage data can make a huge difference to the cost and effectiveness of your recovery, even if you weren’t able to prevent the incident.

A Case Study on Environmental Data Management Systems

This is a real-life, extraordinary example of how ERA’s client reduced the compliance pressure by implementing a CEM (Continuous Emissions Monitoring System), a type of EDMS.

The client’s facility was required to collect data on 42 permits. Most of these required near-constant or constant monitoring. Three full-time environmental specialists would measure water flow every four hours at a minimum. This information would allow them to prove that they were compliant and correct any incipient problems before they became equipment shutdowns. They could avoid fines and save hours of labor reporting and restarting equipment.

Even the most well-maintained equipment may fail at any time. The hydrochloric scrubber of the facility experienced a pressure loss that was outside the range of acceptable (as specified in the permit). The newly installed CEM, which monitored the scrubber’s performance and automatically collected data for every minute of operation, was programmed to alert EH&S the moment the measurement exceeded a threshold.

They were able to quickly bring the production into compliance, and thanks to the minute-by-minute account of the scrubber’s operation – how long it malfunctioned and to what extent it exceeded the permit’s limits – they also had the capability to show regulators that the period of noncompliance noncompliance was less than 24 hours.

In the past, the EH&S Manager at this facility would calculate the noncompliance noncompliance time. In these cases, his best estimation was three days. This would mean he reported a 72-hour permit violation and paid environmental fines that were three times higher than the actual amount.

Implementing an EDMS will save you more in the long term than simply assuming the worst-case scenario of noncompliance noncompliance. The company saved around $70,000 per year by reducing the number of data entry hours monthly (from 204 down to 38). The specialists could focus on the more complex tasks they were hired for instead of doing tedious numbers crunching.

Everyone involved found it easier to comply with the law.

Manufacturing facilities should be aware of other penalties, which are easily incurred without using these practices.

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