Consolidating and Centralizing your Legal Requirements

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On November 15th, 2018, Nimonik was honoured to have Kate Page of TransCanada and Jessica Tran of TransMountain present at Nimonik’s first online EHSQ conference. Access the full recording here.

In 2013, the National Energy Board of Canada introduced changes to the Onshore Pipeline Regulations that required companies to implement a robust management system and demonstrate compliance to all of their legal requirements. This initiative drove both organizations to take a hard look at the way they were managing their legal requirements and make some critical changes.

Five years later, a few key takeaways and benefits were clear to both companies.

    1. Centralize your legal requirements and the compliance team 
    2. Document your assessments
    3. Get subject matter experts involved and ensure they have time

 

1. Centralize your legal requirements and the compliance team

A company’s legal requirements or compliance obligations are often spread throughout an organization. In a given organization, you will find systems for human resources, environment, safety and other regulated parts of the business. Even within these departments, information will often be found in a mix of emails, Word documents, Excel and software systems – not to mention various people’s heads! As one might imagine, having a decentralized approach to legal requirements brings a set of risks.

Both of the experts agreed that centralizing your legal requirements provides a lot of benefits to your organization. The initial centralization process can be painful. To centralize the data, you will need to obtain buy-in from the people who currently manage the data, track down their data (which may be in various systems) and acquire new software systems to centralize it. But, centralizing your management of legal requirements allows you to standardize the format and the revision process of regulatory requirements. Both TransCanada and TransMountain made changes to their organization structure,  centralizing their compliance team, to ensure that regulatory compliance assessments were well managed. There was agreement that the organizational structure change was critical to the roll-out of this project. Without a central team of people, it was unclear who was responsible for tracking changes and what the data format should be. Ultimately, legal requirements need to be processed by experts at the company and if you want the data to be centralized, you need people who are focused on that task.

Both TransCanada and TransMountain made changes to their organization structure,  centralizing their compliance team, to ensure that regulatory compliance assessments were well managed.

Centralizing also helps you to access your legal requirements quickly. This is particularly useful when you have to inform your contractors, partners and other parties about your legal requirements.Being able to quickly show this data, rather than having to search through documents, enables your organization to push decisions forward fast as you can point to the legal requirement that underpins the decision.

The third benefit of centralization is the ability to consolidate existing documentation, knowledge and expertise in one database that and make it available to your entire organization.

2. Document your assessments

From the discussion with Kate and Jessica, a major takeaway from the discussion was the benefit of standard and easy to access documentation of assessments. Both organizations assess the regulations in two phases.

Both organizations assess the regulations in two phases.

First, an assessment of applicability is made and when something is not applicable, the documentation is stored. For applicable requirements, there is then an assessment process by subject matter experts to determine compliance and actions. This practice may seem like extra work, but it has the major benefit of creating a paper trail of your assessments for auditors.

3. Get subject matter experts involved and ensure they have time

The third lesson I learned from Kate and Jessica was the importance of getting subject matter experts involved. Though they centralized the team, the tool, and the data, they absolutely required experts in the field to provide their notes and assessments. An expert can be anyone from an engineer to a scientist who has a deep understanding of the operations and the risks and who understand how a regulatory statement may apply to the organization. A regulatory expert may be able to read a regulation, but determining the applicability to a specific situation requires people with on the ground experience. But, expertise alone is not enough – they also need time to do this work that is often on top of their day to day responsibilities. Both Kate and Jessica mentioned that you have to ensure that your subject matter experts have the time to complete their assessments.

There is no doubt that implementing a robust legal requirement database with a well defined workflow(i.e. Reg Updates → Applicability of Reg → Applicability of Clauses → Compliance to Requirements), the involvement of subject matter experts, and a process for handling updates is a big undertaking. However, if your organization is serious about EHS, a critical first step is moving your EHS compliance program from a reactive undertaking to a proactive program.

If your organization is serious about EHS, a critical first step is moving your EHS compliance program from a reactive undertaking to a proactive program.

This is not an easy journey due a few reasons. First, regulatory compliance is often viewed as a cost and not an investment, secondly people often do not have the bandwidth to add more work to their responsibilities, and thirdly it takes a centralized concerted effort with involvement of many partners. But, once you have centralized and analyzed your legal requirements, the organization will be better positioned to demonstrate its compliance to any interested partners.

Contact Nimonik to learn more about how we can ensure you have a comprehensive compliance program in place with the tools and resources to make it a success.

About Nimonik

Organizations around the world rely on Nimonik to comply to environmental, health, and safety (EHS) and quality regulations and standards. Nimonik offers an up-to-date database of EHS and Quality regulatory requirements with an easy to use software, mobile auditing, and air quality and noise monitoring devices.

The integration of our regulatory content, software and monitoring devices help our clients stay much ahead of the compliance curve.

To discuss your business requirements, get in touch with us here.