Regulatory compliance. Two words that can send a shiver down the spine of the most experienced Project Manager. While compliance makes a lot of sense (in most cases that is), it shouldn’t slow down or have a negative impact on your operations.
Put simply, trying to be compliant means doing things the right way, according to laws, policies and regulations. While many of them are imposed by local authorities like governments, others represent a choice that an organization made at some point in order to align with its values, like B Corp Certification, ISO Standards, permit obligations, and AA1000 stakeholder engagement standard, for instance.
Even if many see compliance at a necessary evil, it’s first and foremost a warranty for regulators and governments that external organizations are doing business in respect of local customs and regulations. Plus, it’s definitely a piece of the puzzle for projects that are struggling to maintain their social license to operate. If you’re at least compliant with state and national laws, you must be doing something right.
With this article I’ve decided to show and prove that even if compliance can seem like a burden, if you’re well prepared using proven processes and the right technological tools, you should be able to tame that beast!
What should a good compliance process include?
Let’s begin by looking at it from a distance. At Boréalis, we like to keep the compliance process simple, yet apply it rigorously to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. If we break it down to the simplest it can get, there are 3 main steps to managing your compliance:
Now let’s dive into the details of each step.
At the planning stage, you’re setting up the areas you’d like or need to report on, the linked documents, conditions, etc. There are 5 questions you need to answer to ensure you’re not forgetting anything and remember, planning is the most important step:
|WHERE||Where are the compliance geographical areas?|
|WHAT||What are the conditions your project must be compliant with?|
|What are you measuring your compliance against? Add relevant documents.|
|When do conditions apply? Construction? Operations? Both?|
|What are the impacts on your project if you’re not compliant?|
|HOW||How are you measuring your obligations?|
|How will you be inspecting your activities (inspection programs) in order to ensure compliance?|
|WHEN||How often are your inspection programs carried out?|
|Is this a one-off before an activity? Is there a recurrence? i.e.: weekly, monthly, yearly|
|Is it a yes/no someone inputs or does it read from data (like water samples analysis) and auto-determine compliance?|
|WHO||Who is responsible for each inspection?|
Now that you know everything that needs to be looked at, it’s time to monitor it all! Get notifications of upcoming inspections that fall under your responsibility. Carry out inspections, track observations, non-compliance, and take corrective measures according to planning.
This is usually when all the hard work pays off, if you’ve been consistent that is. Audits can be either internal or external, depending on what authority you are accountable to for each area of compliance. If all corrective measure were implemented as issues were raised during the monitoring step, your audit should be a success. Then it’s back again at the planning step: compliance is an ongoing process that evolves with your project. Furthermore, regulations might be updated or new ones can affect your operations.
When compliance becomes more complex: Dealing with multiple geographical areas
While many organizations don’t have to worry about more than managing their compliance for one site, like for example a mine pit, others have to deal with an extra level of complexity. For the sake of this example, we could either be talking about a transport company that has trains, or about a pipeline (no matter what it is helping move, whether it’s petroleum or even waste). Any linear construction project would work too.
Such linear projects cover vast geographical areas, which often also means they have to deal with different governments and regulators. Imagine if your pipeline is subject to nearly 200 compliance documents, which themselves contain over 2 000 conditions, all of which can apply to over 250 geographical areas. Furthermore, your project line can cross different parts of land where different conditions apply, like waterway network cables, transmission lines, another company’s pipeline, railways, highways, etc. And if all that wasn’t enough, chances are you won’t be working everywhere at once. Where will you need to work next and what conditions apply? Even if some conditions only apply to a tiny area (like 100 x 100 meters), non-compliance can lead to a project shut down…
Don’t forget that some compliance documents are only relevant to some geographical areas, so you must be able to georeference your data, including inspection programs, breaches, corrective actions, evidence, responsible departments, etc.
Technology and GIS to the rescue
Luckily we’re now living in a technological world and that can save many headaches to the ones who have to closely follow-up on compliance. So the question is, what are the top 10 features you should be looking for in a compliance management software or application?
The ideal tool should:
- Rely on a simple process, including workflows.
- Allow data imports and exports.
- Include a flexible reporting tool, with export options (Excel, PDF).
- Have mapping and GIS integration.
- Be user-friendly, using latest technologies and rely on industry-level security.
- Be accessible from anywhere by all team members (not saved on a single computer hard drive during inspections in the field).
- Have a notifications and alerts option when conditions are breached, when inspections are scheduled, due or late.
- Ready to deploy: you shouldn’t lose time customizing an empty box!
Are you looking for a tool that will ease compliance management? Well, Boréalis might be the tool you’re seeking. We’ve been helping clients meet their social and environmental performance goals for over 15 years. Contact us today to learn how we can do the same for you!