How to Set Up a International Environmental (Health and Safety) Program - Part 1

Businesses look to Environmental (HS) professionals to set up the company's International (and this applies to Domestic as well) Environmental (HS) programs that are compliant with the multitude of regulations.  

A question arises in my mind as to why look to a non-lawyer to establish a program designed to defend a company against legal complaints or violations?  The answer is simple as the E (HS) person works on the practical side of working with these regulations.  Typically the regulation is civil in nature, but there is a criminal side as well.   The difference is essentially based upon intent.  

Example:  A company has a hazardous waste drum of methyl ethyl death that it is transporting to a hazardous waste disposal facility.  As it is being moved within the warehouse of the company it falls over and spills.  This was probably an avoidable error, but there was no intent.  So it is civil.  Versus the same company taking the drum to the creek in the back of the company property and dumping the contents.

There are many E (HS) professionals who understand the regulations, and how to implement an E (HS) program to defend against fines, and penalties.  In fact the way most companies still design, or want to have designed, their E (HS) programs is around regulations, based upon the strategy of 'Defense'.  And so this is how the common E (HS) professional is trained in establishing and implementing a program, from the defensive mode.  The predominate goal and question is "what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the regulations"?  

The problem with this strategy is that the company is always chasing a ghost, and blaming the ghost for being difficult to be caught.  What does this mean?  Minimum requirements are more difficult to attain because these tend to be moving targets.  Regulations, laws, and the like are in a constant ebb and flow of change.  The regulator has their own view of what the regulations say it is all quite variable.

So what to do?

We need to go back to the basic of regulations (aka laws, rules, etc) to understand how to design a Environmental (HS) Management.  

Regulations are the guidelines, or parameters, of how society operates.  Without boundaries there would be anarchy, or people going wild.  There are two primary thoughts on the implementation of EHS regulations:
1)  Strict - The interpretation of the regulation is based on exact wording, with no ability to modify based upon the circumstance.
2)  Intent - The interpretation of the regulation is based on what the drafters intended to address, this gives the ability to adjust based on the particular circumstances.

Pros and Cons on each thought, but there is always a middle ground.

In the USA, in the Environmental world the regulators are moving towards risk based, which is along the lines of 'intent' as described under implementation.  The Health & Safety world exists mainly in mood of strict, so that each element is prescribed in the regulation.

This is why the typical approach of most companies to 'chase ghosts' simply does not work, and frustrates all involved.  So how to determine how to build your EHS program knowing that there are wide variance in variables?

Before any EHS program can begin there needs to be a meeting of the minds.  Senior decision makers must decide what are the no BS EHS priorities of the company.   This can be defined in the mission statement.  But also needs to be defined in policy.  If senior decision makers are not 100% behind this endeavor, then it is destined to fail before it ever begins.  

If the company’s Senior decision makers are not supportive of EHS, a professional EHS person has a choice to make; either continue on with the good fight hoping that management changes its mind (aka Change Maker Extraordinary), or leave for a company that is proactive and in tuned with having a world class EHS program.  The Change Maker Extraordinary has to be ready for the frustration of being blamed when penalties, violations, and perhaps even injury or deaths occur, even though they tried to make a corrective change.  This means having to keep a file of memos documenting each corrective action denied in the event they have to defend themselves in court.  

As long as the Senior decision makers are supportive, being a normal Change Maker is easy.  A normal Change Maker is one that works to change the employee mind set regarding EHS.  Still not a easy task, but doable.  This involves following the steps outlined here.

So now let us assume the Senior decision makers have blessed the establishment of your world class EHS program.  Now what?

When I learned to fire a hand-gun as a police officer the instructor taught me not to focus on the sights, but to look through the sights with both eyes open to the target.  Bring the target into focus and align the out of focus sights with it.  This is the same strategy.

In order to determine that you need to know how far is the target, what is the windage, etc. Now this leads to the first item on your to do list.  Define your target or goal.  It can't be to be compliant with regulations, or zero-accidents, these are measurements of how well you are doing.  The goal has to be built around the business and its particular operation.  It encompasses operation's goal.  This seems easy, so try it.  Oh by the way, it is impossible to do without input from operations, and senior management.  


  • Specific, Clear and Understandable
  • Measurable, Verifiable, and Results Oriented
  • Attainable
  • Relevant to the Operation
  • Time-Bound with a Schedule and Milestones

Let's move on to the next step.

This is the Baseline Risk Assessment (BRA).  The BRA gives you your target parameters.  It also gives you the risk priorities.  From this a firing solution, also known as solutions to the risks, can be designed based on company priorities.

The BRA is a no-harm no-foul assessment of a facility.  The results are never to be used to penalize anyone no matter what the issues maybe, except if there are serious life threatening items.  The BRA provides the user with a clear understanding of the current state of affairs for a facility.  It cannot be overstated the results of a BRA can never be used against the facility management.  Otherwise the likely hood of getting a real picture of the facility is slim to none. 

On the Internet there are many examples of what a risk assessment should look like.  Which one to use?  Not anyone of these examples will match your facility.  So now what?

The EHS manager must take time to learn about the facility, the staff, and the operations, usually a week depending on size; Preliminary Phase.  From this information they will then devise a BRA that is broken down into the various media to be evaluated; commonly called multi-media.  Depending on the operation and size the evaluation maybe first divided according to location.  If the facility has a warehouse, a manufacturing area, a maintenance shop, and administration office.  Each area would then have the media associated with it assigned such as warehouse may have haz/non-haz waste storage, forklift, noise, lighting, etc.  The manufacturing area may have electrical, mechanical, LOTO, noise, haz/non-haz waste handling, ergonomics, etc.  And on and on.  Each area will have its media defined in advance of the BRA which should be as all encompassing as possible.

The BRA is then conducted unannounced by the EHS manager.  There should be no time for preparation.  The objective is to get a real picture of the facility.  I remember many inspections being conducted to look at how operations really look, but these inspections would be scheduled. The managers would all run around cleaning up, making sure everyone’s desk were clear, and we were dressed appropriately.  Once the inspection was over, everything when back to normal.  Nothing is accomplished, except wasting everyone’s time.

The attitude of the EHS assessor should be cordial, open, and overall cooperative.  Dress should be no better than the shop level manager.  The goal is to be relatable.  Speak slowly, and never use EHS jargon or acronyms; think Clear, Concise, Communication.  In fact the less you talk the better.  The assessor's primary tools are eyes and ears. 

Assessors should conduct the assessments alone.  This way they are not navigated, and there is less distractions.  All questions will be written down and brought up after the walk through.



Djibouti - Environment, and Business Assessment

I have been asked to provide a financial risk assessment of the Republic of Djibouti similar to the one I did on Somalia.  With nearly 4 years of experience I suppose I can provide an assessment of some sort.

The Republic of Djibouti is a speck of a country with most of the population residing in and around Djibouti City.  Note the country name and capital names lack of imagination, which is a cursory indicator to the country itself.  You can read the history of Djibouti on the internet.  It is very boring.  No country existed until the Europeans showed up and put borders up to identify Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.  Before that it was just a place that normal people avoided.  It has only 2 redeeming features found in its deep sea port and industrial salt.  It has been referred to as the gate of hell for good reason.

The best overall assessment comes directly from the US Ambassador to Djibouti, Ambassador Geeta Pasi, and I quote her, "The only thing good in Djibouti is the watermelon, and that isn't even grown here."

It is hot, hot, and more hot, add to that days of humidity and it is even more hot.  Nothing grows here, except down around the city.

The soil is salty and of very low quality.

There are no endangered plant or animal species in the area.  I did find ducks at a artificial wetland created by the US Military's sanitary water discharge.  When I reported to the military that there were ducks, which no ducks have ever been seen in Djibouti, in the wetland, the seabees immediately destroyed the area.  What ducks?  What wetland?  :-)  I still got the photos :-)

Regarding plants, I wouldn't expect any unknown cures to be found in these badlands.

The drinking water is of very low quality, and is being contaminated with salt, with help of both the city and US Military Base (Camp Lemonier) pumping out water from the primary aquifer faster than it can naturally recharge.  This allows for infusion of sea water which is pushing its way inland to fill the void created by the two users.  Actually, the US military water pumps impact the aquifer more due to its proximate location next to the ocean.  The US military doesn't really care about its impact to the aquifer, because they use very high tech reverse osmosis water filtration, while the locals have none.  There is biological water quality issues regarding this water as well.  So for most people not native to the area, this water is off limits.  Which is good from an economic stand point for the water bottlers in the area.  Avoid Zam Zam as a drinking water source.  It is known locally as water that will cause people to get sick, but without many choices the poor public takes its chances with Zam Zam.

Sanitary system is near non-existent.  All sewer flows out a discharge point raw into the ocean in town.  Recently the Ministry of Sanitation made some improvements to the discharge point by putting up a wall so no one sees it, out of sight out of mind.  I have never seen any ocean water quality testing so I can't comment on the impact this sewer is having to fish or even swimmers.  For myself, I don't eat any fish in Djibouti.

Air quality is moderate to sub-par.  By driving out of the city up to a location called Arta, up on a high hill top, you can see down on Djibouti.  From this vantage point you can see how bad the air quality is around the city...nasty.

Waste management is a oxymoron phrase when used in regards to Djibouti.  The EU is once again trying to help the Djiboutian manage their municipal waste by installing a modern landfill.  Only problem is that Djibouti ain't got enough working dump trucks to pick up all the waste.  In the poorer sections of town the waste is still tossed on the ground for the goats to eat, natural recycling.

There is zero in country capacity for handling of any hazardous waste.  If you need to address this topic, just cry and hide your head in the ground like a Djiboutian.  There is actually some expertise in this area, but no equipment or seriously trained and organized staff.  There was a petroleum spill at the port which no one knew how to address, so the oil simply washed up on land.  Now there is a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the oil company.  Both the Port of Doraleh (DP World) and Port of Djibouti have no real response plan in the event of a spill.  The answer from both is that the Port Authority will take care of it.....head in the sand.

Side note regarding spills.  You want to clean up a site in record time?  Have a spill in Djibouti and see it cleaned in the time it takes to wire transfer $XXX,XXX.00 to an Swiss bank account.  A Russian transport provides a good example.  This 'un-named' ship dropped two 55 gallon drums of oil into the waters of the port.  They were recovered with most of the contents.  But the Minister in charge of the port, named not included but he is the current Ambassador to China, had a study conducted that showed that the port waters were significantly damaged.  During this investigation the ship was held in port.  The ship's owner flew down from his Russian enclave and met with the Minister.  Direct discussion took place, and $500,000 wired was the cost to get a clean bill of health---just like that.

Environmental Risk Conclusion
Huge financial risk associated with any manufacturing activity that has the potential of contamination on land or water.

The ability to establish a business is straight forward and easy.  Business law is the same as you are familiar with in the EU or USA.

The process of setting up a business is made complicated by the number of hands that are stuck into your pocket, especially for western businesses.  These hands include national government, as well as in-country agents.  The biggest hand in the pocket comes from the President and his wife Kadra Mahamoud Haid.

He is a chart that outlines the business ties that will help the user determine where their investment is best spent:

The US Embassy in Djibouti provides US businesses with no support.  They will hand you a pamphlet with contact information for setting up your business in Djibouti.

Although there are reports that private land ownership is liberal.  This is not quite true.  It is based on the government's or the Minister of Land and Budget's mood or one of his friend's mood.  Documents can appear and disappear, and names can be changed.  You can have a land document that looks official along with being sealed by the right people, but that doesn't guarantee nothing.  Just assume that as long as your business is doing good you are okay.

There are now 10 local banks in a country of 850,000 people, and a economy of no more than $2 billion USD, with just a smattering of economic activity.  It is incredibly difficult to get a loan, and if you can circumvent the red tape that money will cost you on the low end 9% up.  But beware there are
some banks on the US watch list, that could get you caught up with terrorist.  Don't ask the US Embassy which bank to trust, they will only send you to a web site for you to figure out yourself.  The reason for so many banks, money laundering.  I actually overheard Russians speaking with a lawyer on money laundering at a restaurant.
The labor laws are a nightmare.  No business will want to deal with hiring anyone directly.  Which is the purpose of the mess.  You need to use one of the local labor brokers.  So you know how that works, for every $1 you pay the worker gets $.25 if he/she is lucky, and then they have to pay taxes on the full $1.  There is the other part of the labor story in Djibouti, most Djiboutians are heavy drug addicts; from the President down to the ditch digger they all MUST have their khat ( ).  There are some that utilize sociably as one would drink a beer after work, and fewer still who don't touch the stuff.  But for someone considering establishing a business in Djibouti, and using the local labor market for skilled reliable real.  It would be far less frustrating to just ask for 10 names, pay them $1000 per month and don't expect them to ever show up.  If they do show up, don't expect much work.

As a westerner everything you purchase will be jacked up in price by at least 50%, but don't be surprised to see 100%.  Everyone, French/Djiboutian businesses, will do their best to convince you that is normal prices.  It is Djibouti, sorry.

Key Point:  There are 'tribes' here.  If you have a supporter from one tribe, that doesn't mean you can get things done.  The other tribes may have people in the positions that you need to have something accomplished, and if they don't support you, well you get the picture.

Terrorism was not a issue prior to June 2014, but now it is of high concern for western companies and personnel.

Risk is associated with application of the law.  It is based on what a local wants it to be.  You as a business owner have no legal protections, even as a corporation or limited liability corporation.  Criminal law will be applied before commercial, so you or your general manager can end up in jail.

In the likely event that you are picked up by the police you should know that Djibouti has a constitution and laws.  They provide the same rights you as a westerner are familiar with no matter what anyone might want to tell you.

You have the right to a lawyer, if you can't afford one the court will assign one.  You don't have to speak to the police without a lawyer present.  If you don't speak French, the police have to provide a translator.  Never ever ever ever sign anything the police hand you, no matter what they say.  The police can only hold you for 48 hours without charges.  Your embassy must be contacted within 24 hours.

The embassy consulate's job is very specific but important as quoted by Consulate Byron Hartman, "to ensure that the host country laws are applied equally and fairly to you".

The embassy won't bail you out, or give legal advice.  But if your human rights are being violated in anyway, such as no lawyer, they are obligated to protest (officially).  There is no such thing as 'Bail', but they are not going to hold you for more than 48 hours, unless someone high up really doesn't like you.  No matter what is told to you, unless the US Embassy agrees, never ever give up your passport; by the way it is against US law for the US Embassy to agree.

Business Risk Conclusion
The law is applied arbitrarily.   Your investment is in high risk.  Plan on at least 30% of your capital to go towards government personal pockets.  If your company is too successful, plan on it getting taken away.


Djibouti Regulations

Here is the skinny on Djibouti and laws and regulations.  If someone tells you something other than what I am writing down here, I would say check out their motivates.

I have often heard it said that Djibouti is different, especially when it comes to the law.  I would agree Djibouti as a country is unique, but no more so than any country is unique to another.  This one happens to be no bigger than a large Texas county, and has fewer people than the City of Austin.  It is backward, with people who are generally less willing to work than most but expect to be paid.  The welfare mentality runs rampant.  There are exceptions to every rule, but very few exceptions can be found here.

Law:  This country's law is based on French law as it was written in 1977.  1977 is when Djibouti got its independence from France.  I am guessing that it was easier to just keep the law the same, versus trying to maker their own.

Now let us read that again.  The law in Djibouti is based upon French law as it was written in 1977.  What does that mean?  It means that there is fundamentally no difference in Djibouti law and western law.  Even the procedures are the same.  This applies to criminal, civil, and business law.

If you have a grasp on USA law then you understand Djibouti law.  Even the constitution is basically the same.

Now there is a separate legal system for family law that is based upon the Muslim and tribal traditions. The locals also have another legal system they will utilize, before formal court.  It is the tribal elders.  This system is enforceable by the normal legal system.

What is different is implementation.  Djibouti's governance is not so democratic, with few checks and balances.  The law is enforced based on who you know and what they think they can get from you, simple as that.  

Environmental law is a very good example.  It is impossible to find the codified environmental law for Djibouti, yet it exists.  How do I know that?  Well there is a Ministry of the Environment.  It is impossible, even for the crazy Djiboutians, to have a Ministry of Environment without there being some sort of guidance document, a legal one.  What they do is a mystery, because implementation of environmental protection is not on the forefront of the Djibouti mindset.  Although the capital city, essentially the whole population of the country lives here, has a huge huge issue with water quality (salinity and bacterial)  there are no active legal protections occurring for its primary water source.  The local power company is located near downtown and operates on bunker oil, air quality issue?

Now there was a huge court case against a western petroleum company for a oil spill at the port.  Of course there was, as the potential fine is in the millions of dollars; easy money.

Americans are viewed as rich, so the law is enforced strictly--against Americans.   The legal community is even more close knitted here than in most other places, because they have no place to go.  Yes, yes there is an exception to this rule as well.  These lawyers will charge triple their normal rate to represent an American.

The notary is a paperwork lawyer, and the advocate is a court room lawyer.  Both will rake a American over the coals, so be very careful.

From the military perceptive, as of the date of this blog there are no final governing standards.  For EHS this means that the Oversea Baseline Environment Guidance Document is the ruling document,
 but it is guidance not regulation.  The Djiboutian's are hands off when it comes to the US military base (Camp Lemonier), although they do have the right to enforce Djiboutian environmental law. Why don't they?  They are happy the American's pay millions for the right to use the base, moral of that lesson:  Money talks.

Answer to the Question:  There is no fundamental difference in law between Djibouti and the West.

Additional information.
Western businesses need to be aware that they are high visible terrorist targets.  Djibouti simply is not capable of providing any real security.  The US does not provide any support for businesses in Djibouti, other than to give phone numbers and web sites.

If you are small western business looking to do business in the Djiboutian economy the recommendation is don't do it.  Don't trust any 'in-country agent', don't trust the government, and certainly don't trust the legal system.  This is especially true if you don't have money to throw away.

If you are a large western business looking to do business in the Djiboutian economy the recommendation is to be very cautious.   Bring your own legal counsel to oversee any legal counsel you engage in Djibouti.

Never ever give any money in advance.

International vs USA EHS Standards: Upstream, Midstream Oil & Gas

I've been asked, regarding the Oil & Gas industry, what are the differences between the USA and International EHS standards.  Interesting question, and one that is very easy to answer.

There really isn't any major difference in the basic legal standards.  The difference remains in the execution of those laws on the books.  Think of it this way, in the USA you really have 50 individual countries that have an overarching standard, but there are 50 individual standards associated with each of those countries.  We of course refer to the 50 countries as states, and I'm not including those other places that are wishy washy such as Puerto Rico.  

So, before I get to much further let us talk about the USA standards.  The federal government has its regulations, and each state has their own.  Now the states' regulations are not less governing than the
federal.  The thing is that in general all the state regulations are the same, yes yes there are some nuance differences that set one state apart from another which typically depend on the industry.  Such as Texas has a lot of petroleum based industry, so that the air regulations are not as tough as those found in California.  

Tough is based on perception.  Air regulations in the USA is a EHS category that ebbs and flows with every passing minute, but the basics again remain the same.  What remains the primary difference between the 50 states is the execution.  Go back to the Texas and California examples. Texas economy remains heavily influenced by the petroleum industry, which California's is not.  So the execution of the regulations in both states is not quiet the same, although the regulators in Texas may want to say otherwise.

One of the things I have seen with most all industries is their confusion on the regulations of the locations they operate.  The reason for the confusion is the goal of meeting the minimum standard.  Why do I say that?  If a industry focused on the best available method, and equipment then the minimum standard would be meet.  But some industry managers believe the bottom line is hurt by keeping up with the regulations, and they are right.  This is because they are operating their facilities one step beyond the minimum standard (regulation).  There is also a economic reason for the minimum, because some companies have evaluated the economics of fine versus compliance.   

Now I'm digressing

It all comes down to implementation of the regulation by the state, as well as the country.

Internationally the situation is the same.  Basically the same regulations, just difference in  implementation which will include who is being regulated.  In underdeveloped (formally referenced as 3rd world), and developing countries there is a double edge sword based on the industry.  We are focused on Oil & Gas right now so let me speak on that subject.  Oil is a commodity that all oil companies seek, and pay high dollar.  This is something known by all countries, and is seen as easy money.  There are many competing interests from the developed countries both West and East, so big revenues for all involved both private and government.  No one wants to upset that golden goose, so some of those minimum standards may not be expected by the country regulators.  Now if the project is financed by the international financial fund then there is the potential that some level of minimum standard, even for appearance sake, would be expected.

The answer to the question that started this whole discussion:

For the planet there are similar minimum standards for EHS requirements for the Oil & Gas Industry. 

Now how to figure it all out is the question.  You recall my discussion on minimum standards, and the madness that creates?

I'm a strong advocate of proactive management, such that the company establishes the highest economically feasible standard possible.  By doing this the company should be maximizing profits, while meeting nearly every regulator requirement.

In order to accomplish this feat (not really that hard) requires a cooperative working relationship between the EHS and Operations divisions.  And just as important this requires that the EHS leader point of contact be business savvy.  Most EHS professionals can recite the specialty regulations from heart, but do not know how to merge these with business operations.  It is not unusual to hear an EHS manager complain about how no one listens to them, the Rodney Dangerfield of the company.  This is because EHS has the reputation of being overly cautious, and impedance to real world operations. 

A corporate level EHS manager must be business astute, maybe not MBA but at least understand the business model in order to integrate EHS into that model.  No matter how old and mature the industry, Oil & Gas is not new, there is room for improvement.  This is where a good Corporate EHS Manager and EHS Management System comes into play.

A good EHS management system will be built on the highest standard, so that no matter where the industry operates it is the same process; cookie cutter.  The company staff do not work off of different standards simply due to location.  All the equipment and training is then uniform and standardized; this saves money. 

This is not a revolutionary, or touchy feely endeavor.  It is all based on practical business sense.  Looking for the next software solution, behavior based this or that, check list, computer system, etc will not do as much as simply having the EHS and operations teams sit down and run through each process, to include equipment/material, to identify potential improvements in the process as well as safety concerns from those who are in the line of fire. 



So with all the pipelines being laid across the world in response to the new found energy savior, natural gas, what is the do's and don't in safety?

The best approach to this topic is my favorite response to any EHS topic and that is to utilize a risk-based Health and Safety Management approach that is systematic and focuses on the realities of that location's particular situation.

Senior level managers of Oil & Gas companies typically have the mindset that falls into two groups; duplication of past documentation, and generating new documents.  This mindset is based upon whether the company finances or obtains financing for the project, and on the location. 

Here is how it typically works.

Oil & Gas companies that finance their own international projects are not financially bound by external standards and guidelines, and typically feel immune from immune from most of these standards.  The established pipeline operators, with extensive experience, most likely have management staff with many years of on-site construction experience in all aspects of pipeline construction.  These companies will have a Construction EHS Operations Manual (perhaps with dust in the back corner of the project manager’s office), which will be referenced within the contract, and so be contractually binding.  All parties, Contractors included, will be obligated to comply with the established construction practices in this manual. Because they have been doing these sorts of projects for several years they have a corporate way of doing it; we’ve always done it this way syndrome.

The EHS MS documentation for those companies that are successful will have been integrated into the process so that it is streamlined, and the work will be executed quickly and safely.  

In instances where a Company has financed an international project, the lenders will have many expectations outlined in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that will require the development of numerous, predominantly Environmental and Social documents within the EHS MS.  Oil & Gas Companies with experience managing international pipeline construction projects generally have knowledgeable staff and an established Company Construction EHS MS (the same dusty one). 

Companies lacking an experienced construction team, often start a project with a severe handicap; lack of documentation.  Such companies may utilize an existing (plagiarize) company Operations EHS MS to show the lenders (regulators) that they are complying with the intent to control the risks associated with the construction process, not recognizing that operational risks and construction risks are as different as night and day, and must be managed using different methods.  Additionally, a construction and EHS management team with little or no practical knowledge of pipeline construction may be recruited for the project, drawn from the company & offshore exploration or refinery sectors.  

International Oil &Gas companies, that are accustomed to working under International Financial Institution (IFI) standards, with operations originating in those regions, with well established standards, often have a library of  EHS Management documents.  The problem is that the EHS document library of some of these companies is so extensive that without a systematic EMS management system in place much of the paperwork and processes serve no real purpose in identifying hazards, evaluating risks, or preventing accidents.  

Contracted construction management staff that have worked for these Oil & Gas companies on other projects, often wrongly assume that the way they operated in their last project is the way they proceed on all projects.

An EHS library comprised of many volumes of documents does not deliver a safer project; when was the last time you saw a project manager with a EHS document open?

A real EHS Management Systems has to be tailored to the requirements of the project, the safety culture of the national workforce and other variables, and may be different from project to project.   

A lack of a comprehensive knowledge of pipeline construction hazards and risks during the engineering phase, when documents and contracts are drawn up, is the single most frequent cause of the failure of an EHS management system, that can cause a project to be less profitable.  This is when the EHS program is blamed for the reduced profit, and any related issues that may occur.

A mistaken belief is that the EHS manager must be experienced with pipeline construction and possess a detailed knowledge of pipeline construction methods.  This comes usually from consultants, or people who want to sound like the sky is falling.  The truth is that a truly well rounded EHS manager is trained in how to facilitate the development of the EHS management system.  It is the operations people who are the experienced professionals.

Be wary of construction and QA management who may claim on their CVs to be experts in risk management, especially if they proclaim that they can do it all.  This also is not true.  

What is needed is a good corporate EHS manager that understands the systematic approach.  But in order to be a good corporate EHS Manager requires the backing of the corporate office, and cooperation from the operations team.  Otherwise the EHS management plan becomes a document that is drafted in a vacuum that is not based on reality, and is destined to fail.

A good corporate EHS manager that is integrated into the operation will be able to correlate lessons learned during the construction phase to be collated for future projects. This critical knowledge can then develop a EHS management system that is based on reality, and is supported by operations.

There is a perception that Health and Safety management is more difficult to assess than Environmental management because environmental issues for the most part are quantifiable and HS issues are perceived as not quantifiable.  This perception is incorrect.

A properly completed project risk assessment undertaken by a trained EHS professional will identify Physical, biological, social, and archeological baselines.  By the way these types of risk assessments are also called Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA).

Due to a universal lack of knowledge of historic pipeline specific lessons learned and to a fear of assuming liability, best-practice baselines in EHS are limited to compliance with work place regulations and codes of practice of the location, neither of which are aimed to manage risks specifically during pipeline construction.  Once again a good EHS manager will be able to build a program from the knowledge of the professionals, the people who do the job day in and day out.  This is there EHS management program.

Over the last 40 years two factors have a come into play which impact EHS management:

The workforce has aged and now it is not unusual to see septuagenarians as site supervision, welding pipe or operating side booms. During the 60s and 90’s, Construction Managers worked their way up through the trades during which time they learned the work inside out.

As the population has aged, the younger generation, brought up in the age of digital electronic devices, is not interested in this type of work, which includes arduous conditions, long hours, often poor accommodation, and isolation from family and friends.  This lack of interest, as the older generation has retired, has resulted in a loss of the accumulated knowledge of the previous generation and the widespread entry of management-engineers with little or no practical knowledge of the work process.  It is not uncommon to find workers in their 60’s working on international projects, and in some locations, which they have no business. 

So now it is not unusual to find foreign workers taking the positions, which adds another complication to the mix--Communication

Work Phase Risks are known by Pipeline Industry EHS experts. The Pipeline Construction Industry is more than 60 years old.  The equipment and methodology have not changed a great deal over time.  Many lessons have been learned.  Application of these lessons learned through seamless on site supervision will deliver project target EHS goals. If your project team does not have access to a database of these lessons learned, you would be well advised to bring in an external advisor to establish a usable EHS Management System that is duplicable and to provide mentoring for your EHS staff.

Most all countries have highly developed national EHS legislation, including stringent due diligence legislation, which assigns accountability and culpability following accidents.  As a large company, perceived to have deep pockets the application of those regulations can be more sever for you than a similar in-country company.

On all projects, locking the Contractor into written detailed EHS commitments, identified in a contractually binding commitments register, EHS plans, procedures, and other EHS documents, is one effective method of delivering an accident free project.  

Contractually binding documents which identify specific project EHS standards, objectives, expectations, penalties for non-compliance and rewards for exceptional performance, provide the assurance that all EHS hazards and risks will be identified and controlled and the work performed in a manner that will not pollute the environment, nor expose the workers and general public to risks.  

Without penalties for non-compliance, the Contractor management will not follow the established plan as closely as they will with monetary penalties attached to non-compliance.  These financial incentives ensure that your Contractors allocate sufficient resources to ensure their front line supervision, the right of way foreman, embrace the requirements in your EHS plans and procedures.  The success of your EHS management system hinges almost entirely on these foremen, many of whom will be, if not illiterate, be unable to digest a complicated EHS plan.  If the Contractor foremen do not buy into the EHS MS, accidents and losses will occur.  It is critical that during the planning and preparation of documents, to ensure that the Contract foreman is part of that process, so they are owners of the procedure and process.

Additionally, during the engineering phase of the project, early EHS input into the tender offering,  and contractually binding project documents such as the project execution plan, pipeline specifications and other critical project execution documents is essential to ensure that risks will be managed during execution.

Client project management staff, including EHS management, may have limited knowledge of the actual work methodology and less knowledge of the pipeline construction industry historic and reoccurring accidents and their causes.  If management staff does not have the accrued experience and knowledge of lessons learned, and is not familiar with how the work is executed, they will be a non-factor or worse in your management team, and will require external support.  Often this lack of experience in pipeline construction is a consequence of project HR recruitment policies. Industry specific experience takes second place to academic and engineering credentials on recruiting agency internet sites and job application forms, when sourcing EHS management staff for international projects.

There is a belief among EHS consultants and others that the corporate EHS manager must be trained in specifics of the industry.  This is a false belief, due to the fact that the corporate manager is a facilitator, while the operations’ staff are the experts.  No one knows the job, or should know it better than the operations people.  This is why the utilization of the LEAN process along with a risk assessment is critical in the development of the EHS MS.  The team comprised of operations and EHS devises together the EHS MS protocols, which are then formatted into workable documents that are usable by the operations group.  Otherwise if the EHS MS is authored by the EHS professional it may or may not be based on reality, and thus be one of those crazy EHS documents that are scoffed at by most operations’ staff.

EHS cannot be managed on a computer screen from a distance.  It must be managed primarily onsite, at ground level, through the use of those who are actually doing the work.