There are a surprising number of companies operating without any real idea of their worker health & safety and/or environmental regulatory obligations. This is particularly true in developing countries, where there are undoubtedly many reasons for this lack of understanding of the HSE requirements:
- blissful ignorance, i.e., lack of awareness of the requirements
- little or no concern about worker health and safety and/or environmental issues
- little or no concern about the consequences of not being compliant with the regulations, i.e., lack of enforcement by the regulators
- lack of people and/or resources to compile such a register
- concerns about the cost to develop or acquire such a register
Equally surprising is that, by far the majority of companies that do have some sort of HSE legal register have one that is incomplete and/or out-dated.
A legal register is a compilation of the laws and regulations that apply to HSE issues at your business. It is simply a tool to help you and your company manage a business issue – namely compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
What is important is that the register is:
- complete, i.e., includes all of the laws, regulations, ministerial orders, etc. that apply to your company’s operations
- as simple as possible, i.e., remove the complex legal jargon so that the requirements are clear to all
- updated regularly, e.g., real-time, monthly or quarterly update
- supported by people knowledgeable in the requirements and how they affect your company’s operations, e.g.., HSE manager, but can also be consultant, in-house legal, or others
There are numerous very good reasons for having a HSE Legal Register:
- This is a direct requirement of virtually all corporate health and safety or environmental management systems, e.g., ISO14001, ISO45001, in-house HSE management system, etc.
- If your company has operational activities with material HSE operational risks, then the register provides the basis for corporate liability protection, as it is needed for performing a compliance audit.
- If something goes wrong and your company has been operating outside of the legal HSE requirements, this can directly affect you. It is strongly suggested that you find a way to protect yourself from the consequences. After all, this is one of the few jobs where the consequence of failing can mean that you spend time in prison!
- And, last but certainly not least, compliance with HSE laws and regulations will help protect your workers and impacts on the environment.
There is no legal obligation anywhere in the world that requires you to have an HSE Legal Register but it is advisable to have one.