Regional regulatory changes: How EHS is evolving around the world

Less is more when it comes to these major regulatory changes – streamlining legislation to strengthen EHS compliance in many corners of our world.

by Nina Janjetović, Flore Moens, Sunita Paudyal

There’s a wave of regulatory changes rolling across the world – and it’s not only from the White House’s new resident. While we’ve all been talking a lot about the Biden administration, many other regions are turning their own regulatory regimes on their heads. Even if they’re far from your facilities, these developments could still mean big changes for businesses across our increasingly smaller world (and its increasingly connected value chain). Here’s what’s going on in EHS compliance around the globe.

India regulatory changes: Consolidating to keep up with today’s EHS needs

In an effort to align with more stringent laws like those of Europe and the US, India plans to overhaul its Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), chemical, and environmental regulations. The idea? Less is more – or, more appropriately, less legislation that is more progressive. While the REACH-like chemical management developments are still mostly secret (and the environmental regulatory changes are still in speculation), the region has already taken major steps in the health and safety arena.

To meet the modern-day demands of the rapidly growing industrial revolution – and India’s large labor force – the country is consolidating the old to make way for the new. As one example, its Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code consolidates and repeals 13 existing outdated and limited protection OHS Acts.

Bringing a major shift in duty of care, the Code will expand the scope from current laws. The new consolidated regulation pushes beyond protecting only factory workers, construction workers, and dock workers to encompass all types of employees. It requires the central government to formulate and adopt technical EHS standards for several provisions, such as personal protective equipment and machinery safety. If you operate in this region, you will need to comply with new technical as well as more stringent EHS requirements – for more of your workers. The Code also increases required protection of health and safety by including, among others, regular medical provisions for every worker in the country. The Code has already been adopted but the date of coming into force is yet to be notified.

The Netherlands: Streamlining sustainability efforts for success through regulatory changes

Amid the increasing environmental policies and initiatives in its fellow EU Member States’ national recovery plans, the Netherlands is focusing on integration as the key to accomplishing a climate-neutral goal. With the aim to “modernize, harmonize, and simplify” its existing environmentally focused regulations, the Netherlands introduced its Environmental Planning Act.

The forward-looking act, announced 4 years ago and expected to enter into force on 1 July 2022, will lead to one of the most comprehensive legislative changes the country has ever experienced. Streamlining 26 acts into one, the act will help to solidify the Netherlands’ efforts to protect the living environment in a wider sense, including legislation on water, air, soil, nature, infrastructure, and spatial planning. While the changes will better equip the country’s legal framework for reaching fast-changing and stricter climate goals, it will affect businesses’ compliance management processes, tools, and reporting. If operating in this area, look out for new and adjusted terminology such as “environmentally harmful activity” (milieubelastende activiteit), and “inseparability” (e.g., building and environmental applications can be applied for separately).

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The Russian Federation: Slicing still to come from the Regulatory Guillotine(TM)

Officially trademarked and highly touted to impact organizations, the Regulatory GuillotineTM is taking a slice-and-dice approach to regulations. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev originally proposed the “guillotine” in January 2019 to remove outdated business supervisions requirements. More specifically, to repeal those not reviewed and updated by 1 January 2021. To strengthen the region’s economic position, this reform’s goal is to streamline regulatory compliance, creating a new system of clear and precise requirements for organizations, thereby removing excessive administrative burden.

By the beginning of 2021, around 20,000 normative legal acts were repealed, including outdated legal acts which were adopted in the days of the Soviet Union. Representing the cornerstone of the “guillotine” reform is the federal law “On State and Municipal Control in the Russian Federation” (in force as of 1 July 2021). Through it, Russia turns from its “inspect and punish” system towards a more risk-oriented one. As such, the law directly prohibits evaluating regulatory supervisory bodies by the number of inspections performed, violations recorded, and fines imposed. Instead, the focus is on informing businesses about requirements. With no set “end-date” for the reform, the regulatory changes could continue through the entire year of 2021.

The ripple effect of regulatory changes around the world

Re-shaping obligations for real-world needs, these reforms are poised to strengthen protection for our environment, health, and safety. Even if your company isn’t currently operating in one of these regions, their regulatory changes indicate a common direction for global EHS compliance. And, eventually, a direct impact to your business. If you have facilities within these regions, ensure that you’re up to date with each shift in requirements. If not, keep watch on your value chain for the ripple effect of these regulations – and how these strategies will influence changes in EHS compliance in your neighborhood.

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