Keeping track of ever changing environmental expectations from legislation, corporate standards and specific stakeholders is quite a challenge, as is the tracking of management decisions and actions following from these expectations.
I recommend compiling a set of documents designed to provide single point access to all information relating to the management of environmental issues, while providing accessible overviews of the management strategies of each environmental issue, their drivers and the associated targets, programs and tasks. A good way to achieve this is by a set of intranet pages.
Risk sources and hazards
ISO14001 does not make a distinction between risk sources and hazards, but I suggest you do. ISO causes confusion by referring to these as aspects. Environmental risk sources are the activities, processes and equipment that have the potential to cause, or contribute to, pollution; such as industrial processes and trucks. Environmental hazards are the pollution or hindrance caused by these. You can’t assess the significance of risk sources, but you can of the hazards they exhibit.
The identification of environmental aspects follows the identification of environmental risk sources and their emissions and discharges (hazards) and should result in a comprehensive list (or register) of all potential environmental impacts from which to select aspects that need to be managed.
The international environmental management standard ISO14001 provides a definition of environmental aspects, but is not very clear: i.e.: “Element of an organization’s activities, products or services that can interact with the environment”. An element of an organization’s activities could be anything from a specific activity, the use of a chemical, a piece of equipment, an environmental objective, an operational practice, a plant component, an environmental impact, a specific process, an emission or discharge, a non-routine event, etc. I have seen quite a few aspect registers. Some of these only list emissions and discharges, while others list interactions between risk sources and environmental sensitivities, but most have a mixture of the possible interpretations of ‘element’.