Challenges of doing business during the current pandemic include prioritizing legal obligations and managing environmental duties. Let's look at some issues affecting industry during this time and how integrating environmental compliance information can help.
1. Establishing COVID-19 Teams
Including an environmental-savvy individual (and a potential backup) on your company's COVID-19 team will help keep those obligations at the forefront. A team is a good way to maintain contact with colleagues and contractors and confirm availability. Many contractors have had to invoke force majeure clauses due to the virus and are not able to provide service as expected.
2. Review Approvals and Permits and Confirm Operational Levels
Ensure your internal teams understand what is involved if ceasing or expanding operations becomes necessary. If operational changes occur, knowing when to notify regulators and understanding exemptions that may be in place is vital.
3. Emergency Amendments to Approvals
Some regulators have already issued guidance on this possibility. Companies often require amendments to their original approvals if changing operational requirements. Get in touch with your local Ministry contact to find out what has been implemented and how to move forward with an emergency amendment.
4. Reporting and Compliance Deadlines
Most annual reports are due on specific dates and missing a deadline in an approval or administrative order is an offence. Some jurisdictions have issued temporary modifications to reporting obligations, but not every province has made it clear. Staff in many engineering companies are working remotely and completing reports can be delayed. Filing a document that requires the physical stamp of an engineer on time might prove to be impossible.
Companies need to assess the likelihood that a regulatory deadline may not be met. If this is a concern, you should contact the regulating body and submit a written request for an extension immediately.
5. Essential Service Designation
It's important to understand what services are considered essential. If your company is a designated Essential Service and continues to operate, there still may be restrictions to certain activities. Refer to the jurisdictions in which you operate for more clarification on essential services. It's also extremely important to check regularly for updates as designations and restrictions have changed several times. Ontario revised their list from 74 to 44 within a matter of days. However, the environmental industry sector should generally be available to assist companies' operation.