Environmental regulatory software helps firm cut noncompliance findings

A significant drop in the number of noncompliance findings is among the benefits reaped by a Fortune 500 energy conglomerate thanks to an innovative approach to environmental, health, and safety auditing. Dynegy, Inc.
By Staff February 1, 2000

A significant drop in the number of noncompliance findings is among the benefits reaped by a Fortune 500 energy conglomerate thanks to an innovative approach to environmental, health, and safety auditing. Dynegy, Inc., Houston, TX, experienced the decline while growing through mergers and acquisitions from a staff of 300 in 1995 to over 3000 today.

The environmental compliance assurance review process at the company’s Midstream Services operation brings together many participants from multiple levels of the organization in roundtable settings. Paul Lankford, Manager of EHS Compliance Assurance, was determined to make compliance reviews positive and user friendly and to convey ownership of the findings to the plant staff. Says Lankford, “Convening in a roundtable setting enables us to efficiently get critical, in depth information from multiple sources. The setting engenders cooperation and the staff gets expert level training in EHS issues.”

Company compliance assurance teams include a team leader, a collateral auditor who is responsible for five or six facilities and reports to a regional vice president, and a subject matter expert. But it is the plant staff who has the nuts and bolts information about the workings of the plant. They provide invaluable input during the roundtable discussions. Depending on the regulatory focus of the day, observes Lankford, the plant staff frequently suggests opportunities for solutions. They are the ones, he adds, who, for the most part, are responsible for how findings are resolved.

But much of the program’s success can be attributed to having the right tools. After researching numerous products and talking with other users in the industry, Lankford selected Dakota Auditor software to help his company achieve its compliance goals. The program provides a systematized structure throughout the organization and focuses the user on the precise regulations that apply to the facility being reviewed. It spells out the specific requirements in easy-to-understand language.

The software, notes Lankford, “helps us ask the right, indepth questions about the subject matter, which enable us to get deeper into the issues.” A variety of staff, all using the same software, is involved. Best practices are shared across the organization and underlying problems that used to recur year after year are now identified and corrected.

Explains Lankford, “The software confirms the necessity of taking certain corrective actions. It takes the contention out of the findings in the subject under review by directing the user to the specific regulation or government guidance document either in its regulatory digest or on the web.”

Each plant reports to Lankford on the number of findings they’ve resolved in the preceding quarter. Those reports go to senior management and are presented to the corporate board of directors. “Those quarterly reports are the line of communication between the team members of each facility and the highest level in our organization,” says Lankford. “We’ve gone from using mundane checklists to being on the cutting edge of compliance assurance in our business.”

The Dynegy, Inc., web site is located at www.dynegy.com. Dakota Software Corp. may be reached at 7 Tobey Village Office Park, Pittsford, NY 14534; phone: 716-381-8710; fax: 716-381-1614; web site: www.dakotasoft.com .

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