New features of chemical establishment surveillance: remote inspections and inspections of the corporate group
The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) has introduced new methods for monitoring the handling and storage of dangerous chemicals. Tukes aims to increase the effectiveness of the monitoring and establish a more customer-oriented approach with the changes. The changes do not require any additional measures from companies.
If the scope of chemical storage and handling operations is large-scale, a permit granted by Tukes is required. Traditionally, Tukes has inspected chemical establishments to ensure that the facility complies with the terms of the permit as well as the legislation.
Now Tukes has introduced the following new methods in the surveillance of chemical establishments in addition to facility inspections:
- inspections of the corporate group. The inspection reviews the procedures used by the corporate group to ensure safety (safety management system).
- remote inspections with a remote connection. The usual inspection is carried out either partially or completely remotely via video conference, for example.
Alternate inspection methods are always considered together with the company on a case-by-case basis as well as based on risk. Alternate inspection methods are not used, if the company wishes for a traditional facility inspection, or if arranging for a remote connection is difficult.
Inspections of the corporate group focus on safety principles
An inspection of the corporate group can be carried out on a company with several different sites, meaning establishments that carry out extensive handling and storage of dangerous chemicals.
“An inspection of the corporate group means that it is not necessary to review the same corporate group safety principles at every site that belongs to the group; instead, it is possible to focus on the current issues of each site being monitored and compare the principles of the corporate group with the currently prevailing practices,” says Senior Officer Tanja Heinimaa.
The data from the inspection of the corporate group is used in the inspections carried out at each site. With inspections of the corporate group, the best practices presented by the authorities in issues such as developing the safety management system can be easily transmitted throughout the whole group. The inspection of the corporate group can also be carried out via a remote connection.
Remote inspections can be used especially at sites that are inspected often and are obliged to provide a safety report and a major accident prevention policy document. Remote inspections are also suitable for facilities, where the inspection frequency has been increased.
However, remote inspections do not replace traditional inspections; instead, every site monitored by Tukes is visited regularly. The inspection can also be implemented so that the site tour is carried out on establishment, while the rest of the inspection is carried out at another time via a remote connection, which may make scheduling easier for the companies and the authorities.
Remote connections enable smoother surveillance
In addition to new inspection methods, Tukes uses new practices in its surveillance:
- using remote connections
- developing the inspection methods.
One of the most important and the most widely used ways of utilising remote connections is holding meetings with companies and the authorities in connection with issues such as planned changes at the sites being monitored and processing permits to establishments. A remote connection also enables other authorities and stakeholders of the companies to participate in a part of the inspection on site.
Tukes sending the company an inspection programme with questions to be answered in advance has proven to be a good practice. Before the inspection, the company sends the answers to Tukes, and they can be reviewed in more detail during the inspection. The company’s answers are used in the inspection report.
The questions help the companies to be well prepared for the inspection. In the view of the companies, the amount of work done in advance has not been too high, and it tells them which issues will be handled during the inspection. The goal is to be able to spend more time on the site tour and current issues during inspections, listening to the customers’ wishes. Inspection themes can also be selected.
The new practices have been piloted at Tukes from 2017 to 2018. The experiences have been positive, and the pilots have also sparked interest in international authority stakeholder groups.
In accordance with Tukes’s strategy, Tukes wants to develop its operations by listening to its customers’ wishes in future, too.
“We happily welcome feedback and development suggestions. We hope that we will receive feedback on the new operating methods, so that we can get the maximum benefit of the inspections for developing safety activities and taking care of current surveillance issues,” Heinimaa says.
Tanja Heinimaa, [email protected]