This article discusses an environmental audit of the new project headquarters of my development business in Doha, Qatar. The study provides a critical review of environmental sustainability, health and safety aspects and other considerations that are important to the workplace of the organisation.
The study would begin by reviewing the nature of the audit that has been carried out. This will explain to the reader what was studied and which fields were to be left. The spectrum then addresses the basic operations that have been undertaken. The study will then begin to discuss the related concerns found in the audit. The issue areas and key areas of concern in the audit would be included. Findings will be discussed and thoroughly analysed in order to define their consequences and components.
Finally, conclusions and inferences of the state of affairs are identified. They are presented and discussed in the form of a series of recommendations which are presented to the management of the company for a in improvement of environmental management in the construction company.
Principles of Environmental Auditing
In this portion, the basic elements and functions of environmental auditing will be addressed in the article. This will set the stage for the discussion of the audit components and the audit scope. In the environmental protection market, the segment would have innovative descriptions and relevant ideas and principles that describe auditing. The evidence reviewed in this segment is focused on a critical analysis of the literature that offers valuable insights into the key ideas explored in this article.
Auditing is described as a review of documents or accounts to check their authenticity and to verify elements that characterise the records in question (Alexander 195). This suggests that auditing is fundamentally involved in reviewing the material provided by a company to decide whether or not it follows the criteria to which the group claims to comply. In order to pass an opinion about whether they are valid or not, the audit requires an analysis of accounts and facts.
The environmental audit varies somewhat from the mainstream audit, which is often economic in nature. Environmental audit is a management technique consisting of a comprehensive, recorded mechanism and analytical assessment of the condition of an organization's environment, management and infrastructure, and the purpose of these audits is to ensure that the environment is preserved (Keil 22). Ultimately, the environmental auditing phase seeks to promote environmental management oversight and determine conformity with organisation practises that entail, among other aspects, fulfilling regulatory criteria (Keil 22).
Another interpretation of the environmental audit is that it requires the checking, either directly or indirectly, of a declaration of compliance or conformity with specified criteria and conditions made by the auditor (Hitchens et al 128). To better illustrate this, it must be remembered that any environmental assessment put out by the management of an entity is focused on a variety of conclusions or arguments. In other words, in order to prepare environmental studies, there are several specific and tacit terms that an entity has to stick to. The express ones are those that are specified in the corporate policies, whereas the inferred ones are those that an agency requires that involve industrial and legal environmental enforcement criteria. The essence of the environmental audit is therefore to test and check if certain requirements and criteria were followed at the time of preparation of the records in question, as the management argues.
Vincoli (91) acknowledges that four key elements of the environmental audit are current, including:
Systematic: It is important to perform an environmental audit in a systematic and established manner. This should include proven measures and instructions that must be met with a very high level and adhered to. In order to have a detailed idea in the audit, each stage has to expand on another.
Documented: Environmental audits need to be documented and all findings need to be documented and compiled. This will provide hard evidence that will be summarised in the audit report. The relevant documents will back the recommendations of the audit report.
Periodic: Environmental audits must not be done surreptitiously, it should be done in accordance to a clearly defined time table. This is because it would be of little value to stakeholders if it is not done on a daily basis and over a fixed period of time. Rather, this must be achieved from time to time in order to encourage quality development and the improvement of current concepts and frameworks of environmental management.
Objective: There is a need to conduct the environmental audit without prejudice. This is because there is the ability for biassed audits to trigger false results and less relevant conclusions. Therefore, in order to contribute to the better interests of all parties, they ought to be carried out according to certain common principles and targets.
Freedom is an important feature of environmental news (Friedman 57). This is because there must be no unfair interference by any stakeholder or interest group on the person performing the audit. Hence, there is the need for the auditor to conduct the audit with an open mind and a quest to discover relevant information in order to promote some degree of improvement in the system of the organisation in question.
The scope of environmental audits is to identify safety, legal and economic issues that relate to the environment (Richardson 270). In most cases, the short term impact of these three things are studied as part of the annual audits and this is done under the operational audit segment of such audits. This is opposed to the financial audit segment which is focused on profits and assets. However, for the examination of the longer term impacts of environmental matters and concerns, it is important for a specialised audit to be carried out in order to identify more detailed and more critical issues which need to be resolved in an organisation or a place.
In most cases, environmental audits are risk based (Cherenisinoff and Graffia 210). This means that environmental audits are done after the relevant risks and potential issues are identified. Based on these risks and issues, the audit is formulated to examine how the risks were dealt with in the period under review. Thus, the risks are checked and the ability of the organisation to deal with those risks are identified and examined in the study. From there, an opinion is made in relation to the impact of the risk on the reports of the company and how well the risks are being dealt with in the period under review.
There are five main features that are tested in a standard environmental audit (Riesel 81) and this include:
Reporting (Riesel 81)
This means that before the auditor sets out, he examines the policy position of the company. Thus, the auditor will asses the kind of environmental compliance standards that are being upheld by the company in question. From there, the auditor must examine the compliance level that were adhered to in the period under review. Afterwards, the next step will involve conducting substantive reviews to identify suspicious areas and relevant areas that ought to be tested. After that, testing can be done and the findings of all the four stages can be disclosed in the audit report.
The main areas of interest in environmental audits include:
Environmental management system
Transactions that occurred in the period under review
Treatment, storage and disposal facilities
Environmental liability and
Product audit (Vallabhaneni 108)
Audit standards vary, but the most popular is the ISO 1400 series which produces a broad framework of approaches that are used in environmental audits (Agarwal 141). This include the definition of the organisation, definition of scope and the coverage of the scope.
Boom Construction Ltd is a contracting company in Doha, Qatar which was established in 1995. The company is an agglomeration of numerous construction companies that operate in Qatar. It was set up to help build up the country after the oil boom of the late 1980s. The company is amongst the largest in Qatar.
Boom Construction has continued to improve over the past years and it has been involved in new projects that have various levels of sophistications. The company has various levels of competencies and it has the ability to deal with contracts independently or partner with international organisations to complete major activities.
This research will involve the examination of Boom Construction's current project site of Qatar Petroleum's premises. The project began in July 2008 and it will end in July 2013. The project involves the building and upgrading of Qatar Petroleum's premises in Ras Laffan Industrial City.
The site in Ras Laffan is mainly a desert community with dry humidity all year round. The biodiversity of the site is quite limited. The area is a booming region, hence migration and the population numbers are high, but the numbers are likely to increase further in the coming years. Water is the most important resource and hence, the role of waterbodies and air are important elements of the study.
Scope of Audit
The scope of the audit is to examine the Ras Laffan site of Boom Construction's Qatar Petroleum project. This will involve a critical analysis and review of the site and its environmental matters in order to ascertain their impacts and their influences.
The project will involve the examination of the compliance standards and expectations and the management systems used to deal with these matters. The transactions and how they are dealt with will be examined critically. Pollution matters, product status and treatment and disposal systems are examined in this project.
The research process include the identification of safety, legal and economic matters that are relevant to the site and its implications. Policy documentation is vital as well as substantive reviews and testing are used in the audit to ascertain the environmental analysis of the site.
The audit was conducted through a critical review of the various elements of environmental management. This report is based on the fundamental findings that were made in the following stages:
Stage 1: Studying of the Compliance Requirements and Environmental Liability of the Company
Stage 2: Documentation of the Environmental Management System from Staff
Stage 3: Site Examination and Testing
Stage 4: Substantive Review of the Environmental Reports of the Company
Stage 5: Interviews and submissions from management
Stage 6: Analysis of Issues
Stage 7 Compilation of Audit Report
Review of Issues in Environmental Audit
In the audit, the following issues came to our attention in the examination of the Boom Construction site in Ras Laffan, Qatar Petroleum premises
Compliance Requirements and Environmental Liability
From the initial studies, we noticed that the most relevant laws on the operation of the Boom Construction site is the Law 30 which promulgated the environmental protection rules which makes it illegal for any organization or group of people to cause what is defined in the statute as “pollution”. The law gives rise to the creation of permanent offices for the protection of the environment in places like Ras Laffan.
The environmental protection authorities in Ras Laffan are more focused on industrial issues and industrial accidents which could potentially harm the sea and destroy aquatic life. The environmental protection authorities in Ras Laffan however retain some control over sites in the industrialized city. Hence, all the companies that retain plants and other premises there are subject to the permanent environmental protection office.
Since the project site is ran by Boom Construction, the company has primary oversight for the institution and maintenance of an appropriate environmental standard. Also, there is a secondary environmental oversight by Qatar Petroleum which is the client and owns most of the industrial interests in the industrial city of Ras Laffan. Hence, the two organizations have an overlapping environmental control over the sight, although Boom Construction has the primary obligation of the site.
Environmental Management Structure
From the initial interviews and oral submission by the site manager, it was identified that the main environmental management plan for the site is in sync with the Qatar government's requirement for the use of Environmental Management System. Thus, the company maintains a well defined environmental management policy which states that:
Constant monitoring and analysis of site environmental impacts and the legal requirements.
Reducing pollutions and other emissions systematically by 15% each year through the use of improved technology and systems.
Immediate compliance with legal directives and requirements.
Creation of practical programs to deal with environmental issues that come up in operations.
Constant monitoring and reporting of issues that occur on the site.
Constant monitoring and evaluation of existing environmental policy and the improvement of the system that exists.
The primary obligations in ensuring that the environmental management and health/safety plan is upheld on the site is given to:
Site manager who plays the role of the general supervisor of the environmental team.
Environmental manager who plays the significant role of ensuring that all technical health, safety and environmental matters are dealt with and addressed appropriately.
External functions are upheld by the head office where reports are regularly collated and sent for critical evaluation.
Training is the responsibility of the head office but the environmental manager needs to conduct trainings every quarter and also call for emergency meetings under the permission of the site manager.
A walkthrough test of the emergency reporting system culminated in the following narrative about how a health/safety or environmental matter is reported and dealt with. It includes:
The issue must be reported to any supervisor or manager that is closest to the incident.
The supervisor/manager needs to get in touch with the environmental manager or his assistant instantly.
The environmental manager needs to take the basic details of the issue immediately upon hearing about the matter or situation.
An environmental management team must be dispatched to the particular point where the incident has occurred on or off site.
Further details and evidence must be gathered and if the issue is urgent, the environmental manager must organise immediate action to be taken and send a formal report to the site manager for further attention.
A detailed report must be filed by the manager and the report must be copied to the site manager and the headquarters of Boom Construction.
The incident must be monitored and regular reports must be determined by the environmental manager on site.
Testing and Site Examination
This stage involved a critical examination of the site of Boom Construction in Ras Laffan. The actual activity involved a joint review of the important checklists captured in the Appendices 1 – 10 below. The following issues were identified:
Poor Communication of Environmental Policy to Staff & Lack of Staff Knowledge
The staff members who come to work on the site are generally trained about environmental matters and environmental matters in the company and in the general sense. However, they are not given sufficient insight into the actual environmental issues and matters that are relevant to the Ras Laffan site. This is potentially dangerous and can affect their activities. The regular 3-month training is very superficial and does not include the relevant issues that can make a difference.
Grey Areas in Implementation of Environmental Policy
Some elements and aspects of the environmental policies can be classified as grey areas because they are not clearly defined under the rules. There are some areas like dealing with specific issues that the environmental manager needs to be given some degree of autonomy. As it stands now, there could be so many risks of possibilities which could ensue when the environmental manager is under constraint.
Limited Budget in Environmental Policy Implementation
The environmental policy implementation has a limited budget. There is the need to increase the budget to ensure that so many different aspects of environmental matters are dealt with.
Performance of Contractors not Regularly monitored
External contractors are not monitored. The environmental policy does not seem to affect third parties who have to work on the site. There is the need for the current environmental manager to take practical steps to ensure that outsourced entities work under the strict sense of the regulations on the site.
Energy Generation and Transmission is not considered in Environmental Plan
The generation of energy and the transmission of energy is not treated as a central element and theme of the environmental policy. In examining all the plans and all the activities, it appears that energy generation choices and energy transmission matters are not integrated into the plan to cut down on the environmental footprints of the site.
Waste carriers are not assessed for environmental competence
Like most third party entities, waste carriers are not critiqued and examined for environmental compliance. They are chosen with little concern for environmental matters. The main metrics used to select waste carriers is the financial and cost benefits that the environmental service providers promise.
Waste & Effluents are not Properly Documented subjected to Regular Analysis
The transfer of waste is not properly documented. Waste is transferred with little attempt to document it and document its impact and influence. Effluents are not always monitored or analysed. The impact is that the company cannot adequately measure its environmental footprints. And since this Ras Laffan project is a relatively minor project in Boom Construction's list of many projects, it is not a major concern to the company. However, waste must be checked and it must be added to the environmental footprint targets of the company. Without this, the discharge targets of the company cannot be adequately met and it is likely to lead to misleading reports.
Noise Emission is not Integrated to the Environmental Policy
Noise emission was never a part of the site's environmental plan. The site has not taken any conscious steps to integrate noise emissions to its systems and structures. However, the site is not isolated any more. It is now bordered by numerous residential facilities and other facilities. There is therefore the need to undertake an audit of the noise emission concerns and integrate it into the environmental policy of the company for the future.
Poor Measures for Environmental Modification on Existing Facilities
It was noticed that there are limited measures to deal with environmental modification in replacing existing structures and facilities. When new facilities and infrastructure are to be set up on the site, there is no real attempt to ensure that they are of a higher and better environmental value than the previous one.
Insufficient Scope of Halon Replacement Program
The existing halon replacement program is not enough to ensure that the firefighting capability of the site is kept up to its standard. The halon replacement is not regular and the changes are not made in relation to the improved versions of their fire-fighting equipment.
No plans to control pollution from fire-fighting waters
There is no conscious plan to deal with pollution that come out of the use of fire-fighting equipment. This means that any case of a fire outbreak can best be dealt with through a fire fighting approach or system that can be potentially hazardous to the environment.
Recommendations to Management for Action
In line with the issues identified in this study, we make the following recommendation to management to ensure that the weaknesses in the existing system are dealt with to a satisfactory level. This include the following:
Expand scope of training
There is the need for the company to expand the scope of training. This is because the current level of training has a limit of being confined to just a few areas which are theoretical in nature. There is a pressing need to get workers to understand the impact of their actions and know more about the relevant matters that make a difference in their operations. This will make them more committed to the longer-term impact and longer-term vision in dealing with environmental matters and issues.
Expand the scope of environmental manager
The environment manager is highly constrained. The power he has in operating an appropriate and an efficient environmentally responsible site is highly limited. There is therefore the need for the manager to be given more power and more control. He needs to have more rights and more abilities to get things done on the site. As it stands now, he has limited power and in case things go wrong, it is likely that he will be blamed alongside the site manager. Although the excuse of having limited power could exonerate him, this situation is a potential lose-lose matter. There is the need for the environmental manager to get more power and more autonomy to deal with issues and problems more urgently and handle things to a higher depth. The environmental manager is not on the same level as other line managers and this is quite worrying and challenging.
Formulation of Policy for Third Party Engagement
The site needs a policy for dealing with third parties. There must be a standard policy that must be sent to third party entities in order to regulate the level of environmental impact that they cause. This way, the site will play a responsible role in dealing with environmental trouble in the macro-cosmic sense.
Increase in the Environmental Management Budget
The existing environmental budget is woefully inadequate. Due to this, the site cannot get the services of third-party consultants and other companies to deal with issues and matters that are highly pressing. Training is limited and the site cannot bring on board more qualified third parties to train the staff members. In line with this, we propose a 55% increase in the existing budget of the environmental management team.
Focus on Energy Transmission Matters
Energy generation and energy transmission is not a central part in the operation of the company's environmental unit. It is important to take stock and information about the energy transmission of the site and provide detailed identification of existing levels and savings. This will help the company to assess its environmental footprints more critically and make appropriate changes to deal with issues and problems that will come out of.
Assessment of Waste Carriers and their Impact
There is the need for the assessment of the waste levels and the impact of waste carriers and their activities. This should be done by making a conscious effort to task the waste carriers with obligations on targets that will respond to national standards and levels of waste management.
Identification of a Noise Emission Plan
The management must ensure that a noise emission system and plan are available to the environmental management team. As the area of Ras Laffan improves and more people move to neighbouring lands, this will enable the company to assess its level of noise production.
Environmental Consciousness Plan in Facility Replacement
A conscious environmental plan that will relate to facility replacement will need to be developed by the management. Since the environmental policy of Boom Construction is to reduce the environmental footprints of the company through approaches such as improved technology, there is the need for the company to ensure that they buy more updated and more modern equipment whenever they need to replace existing facilities. This way, they can systematically cut down on emissions and other factors that result from using older and less energy-efficient products.
Improved and Better Fire Fighting System
Most companies have stopped using halon systems for fire-fighting due to the energy constraints and problems that they cause. The current system might not be changed soon. However, in the mean time, there is the need for the company to ensure that the current system is changed and updated regularly to ensure that they deal with a potential problem that could come up in a site as big and huge as the existing site. Also, there is the need for a fire-fighting pollution system. This is because the current system does not address pollution problems that will come out of the need to fight an existing fire outbreak. There is therefore the need for the company to either get an in-house system or an outsourced option to deal with the liquid that will come out of a fire-fighting activity. This will ensure that the environmental impacts of fire-fighting will be reduced significantly.
New Fire Fighting System
Recommendations to Management for Action
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