Keeping up to date with all regulatory requirements is a great challenge for all businesses. It is important to keep a keen eye on these updates and implement all necessary changes in your processes. However, it is easier said than done, especially when it comes to the EHS and the Quality departments. Where the regulations are constantly changing and evolving to meet new requirements and guarantee the safety of all stakeholders and a high level of quality services and products.
Therefore, why is it important to regularly monitor regulatory compliance and changes? How to make sure that you comply with these updates?
In every company, every department has its policy and working procedures. However, everything is related to applied requirements enforced by the law, regulations and sometimes standards, especially when the company has some certifications to maintain or to obtain. The challenge is not easier for the EHS and Quality departments, specifically now with all the talks about sustainability reporting and sustainable development actions, in addition to keeping an eye on their regulatory requirements regarding quality procedures and stakeholders' safety.
Why is regulatory monitoring important?
Regulatory monitoring identifies the regulatory requirements and laws that concern and are applied in your industrial activity. However, it is not sufficient just to identify these regulations you have to monitor all the related changes and updates to always comply with the new requirements. Of course, in our case, it is up to the EHS and Quality departments to carefully monitor all the necessary texts and laws, and in some cases the corresponding standards. You will have to monitor not only the national laws but also at a European (if you are in Europe) and international level. The EHS & Quality regulatory monitoring will cover the health and safety at work, the environment and quality (assurance, control, etc.).
A good regulatory monitoring system in a company is when you can anticipate new changes and be ready to comply with the requirements. It is essential because when you are being audited and to prove your compliance, documentation will be required as all the implemented procedures and processes, including your staff’s qualifications and certifications. If you fail to comply, there can be serious consequences for your activities and your personnel.
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How to perform regulatory monitoring?
Who is responsible?
For starters, one should not mix up regulatory compliance with regulatory monitoring. Regulatory compliance is everyone’s responsibility, and all concerned stakeholders must comply with the internal company’s requirements in particular and regulations in general. However, regulatory monitoring is usually limited to a certain number of personnel regarding their activities. In our case, it is the EHS and the Quality professionals in a company who are responsible for regulatory monitoring and updates.
The employees in charge of regulatory monitoring are usually exposed to some certain and constant pressure, both on technical and legal aspects. They must always ensure regulatory compliance by monitoring and reviewing the actual situation in their companies and comparing the theoretical procedures with the applied ones. Above all, the EHS and Quality professionals in charge of regulatory monitoring and compliance must be able to prove the compliance of all the procedures in case of an inspection.
Regulatory monitoring in 5 steps
There are no secret recipes when it comes to regulatory monitoring. However, there are certain steps to follow to perform regulatory monitoring efficiently.
Step 1: Define your search
Understand and define your search criteria and key elements depending on the company’s activities and processes. Therefore, you will eliminate all the unnecessary information and focus your search on the important ones. You can start the regulatory monitoring process by identifying your search topics, such as Quality, Environment, Occupational Safety and Health. And, afterwards, you narrow your search by choosing sub-categories of the chosen topics depending on your company’s activities, operations and processes. This is an essential step that will help you gain time in this process and better focus your search for the necessary information.
Step 2: Sources’ identification.
The identification of reliable sources is also important to get the information you need. There are many ways to have access to regulatory or certification requirements. The resources you seek might be Official Journals publications, newsletter subscriptions to certain official ministerial websites and databases, in addition to other resources such as interviewing and contacting experts in your activity sector. You must distinguish between primary sources (texts of laws, ministerial decrees, etc.) and secondary sources which tend to explain and simplify the primary information but may contain some incomplete or biased information.
Step 3: Data collection.
Once you have identified the information you need and their sources, the collection of this information can start. Collecting this information will help you create a solid foundation for your regulatory database that you can regularly check when necessary. This data collection can be done automatically especially when it is related to an internet search, you will be notified by emails, alerts and notifications about all the updates, newsletters, etc. You can also access and collect information via keyword searches, this way you will be able to have a more exhaustive search and make sure that you do not miss out on important data and information.
Step 4: Store, analyse and communicate.
After the collection of all the data, the next step is to store all the gathered information in a single place. Centralising and classifying the data on a single platform will help you navigate easily between information and facilitate the accessibility to this information. All documents should be dated or updated to the older versions. Keeping track of the updates and the history of each document is a necessity, especially in the case of a compliance audit. Afterwards, it is time to analyse the new requirements and adapt all the necessary information to your activity by creating new forms and procedures, and summarising all the texts and laws to meet your company’s activity and internal requirements. Finally, after all the analysis and sometimes if necessary some practical experiments to test the validity and reliability of new adapted procedures, you must communicate and transmit all this data to all concerned stakeholders. One last element you can also add to this step is the feedback of all stakeholders on the new applications and requirements to see if there are some ways to improve their applications.
Step 5: Comply with the new requirements.
The final step is all about filling in the blanks. Once all the data had been gathered and analysed, documents are updated and the information is transmitted to the stakeholders, it is time to put into action the new requirements to complete the old ones. The procedures implemented already comply with some of the requirements as they were already in place, and you have to include the new ones to fully comply with the updated regulations. Therefore, a “conformity/compliance action plan” is necessary to launch all the necessary changes and implement all the procedures and processes into your business operations.
The implementation of management systems such as ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 for EHS, and ISO 9001 for Quality, has greatly improved the regulatory monitoring process in many companies. These standards require companies to always monitor regulatory changes in terms of occupational health and safety and the environment for EHS on one hand and Quality procedures on the other.
Finally, to have efficient regulatory monitoring over time, as with many procedures, this process must be constantly reviewed and updated if necessary. This step is important in the continuous improvement approach, which is also achieved by monitoring the process and self-assessment.
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Regulatory monitoring with digital technology
Regulatory monitoring is essential to the EHS and Quality departments' tasks. It is a long and rigorous process that needs time and much administrative work. One should be very careful and organised to keep track of all the updates, the corresponding documents and all the previous versions and their storage place. Let’s hope that one will not get lost in their search for data.
A digital tool coupled with a regulatory monitoring system or application will greatly help with the performance of this tedious task.
This collaboration between a search engine and a digital tool will help you to customise your search for all the new regulatory requirements depending on your activity. Therefore you will be able to directly be notified whenever regulatory updates are published. These automatic alerts will allow fast reactions and quick decision-making. All this automatic filtering of keywords and directly targeting the necessary resources will help you save enormous and precious time with your regulatory monitoring process.
The digital tool itself will allow you to centralise all this information in a single platform with easy access to all previous versions of the updated regulation or document. In addition, the transmission of all regulatory updates can be done automatically thanks to alerts and notifications sent to all parties concerned. Their feedback can be pre-configured with digital forms easily filled.
Finally, all the measures, procedures and actions related to your “compliance action plan” can be easily monitored via Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the real-time data can be displayed with dynamic dashboards. All this monitoring of performance can help to ensure the correct implementation of the new procedures to fully comply with the updated regulations and their requirements. For all these reasons, digitising this process can greatly help the EHS and Quality managers to gain efficiency and be able to concentrate on other daily activities.
Regulatory monitoring is an important process for the success of any company regardless of its industrial activity. Keeping up to date and complying with all the Occupational Safety and Health, Environmental and Quality related regulations and requirements are essential to staying in the market and having a good brand image. Moreover, regulatory monitoring will allow you to directly implement the new requirements and in case of a compliance audit, you will be up and ready to show all the related documentation. And to help you with this process, you can rely on a digital tool coupled with a regulatory monitoring search engine. No more surprises always are ready for audits in general and compliance audits in particular.
To go further:
> Always stay a step ahead with the Health Safety and Environment regulatory monitoring application with Echoline and BlueKanGo Platform.