The Global Impact of ISO 14001

Noria Corporation
Tags: maintenance and reliability
Hugh Lundin,
Noria, UK

Although Machinery Lubrication is a global magazine, and much of lubricant technology is indeed global, there are still specific issues relating to a country’s legislation. I hope to convey some of the European-specific issues, not just machinery lubrication needs, but also some of the environmental constraints under which maintenance is now required to operate.

The first of a regular series, this column will focus on the global impact of ISO 14001, and what you, as a maintenance professional, can do to expand your compliance audit. In upcoming issues, I will discuss the relevance of the Climate Change Levy and the new storage regulations applied within Europe.

Indeed, the new storage regulations as applied could be fundamentally entwined within the scope of ISO 14001, as it shows the awareness of the need to minimise leakage risk and premature waste of lubricants that pose a disposal concern.

What is ISO 14001? Industries face a range of environmental risks these days. For example, readers will be familiar with phasing out ozone-depleting gases under the Montreal Protocol and similar initiatives. Over the past few years, tough targets set by evolving environmental legislation, to be met on a global scale, have placed greater emphasis on effectively managing these risks. For these reasons, International Environmental Standard ISO 14001 was created.

If there were no standards, we would soon notice. Standards make an enormous contribution to many aspects of our lives - although often that contribution may be invisible. It is in an absence of standards that their importance is brought to light. For example, as purchasers or users of products, we soon notice when they are of poor quality, are unreliable or even dangerous; but when products meet our expectations, we tend to take them for granted.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is the world’s largest developer of standards, which although principally of a technical nature, also have an important economic and social impact.

ISO 14001 is a generic environmental management system developed through an international consensus process and is the only standard intended for certification. It is not intended as a performance or product standard. ISO 14001 represents a shift toward proactive management and employee involvement in defining roles from the bottom up as they relate to the environmental policy of an organisation - those which require top management backing, resources and visibility.

Comparable to the ISO 9001 quality system standard of a decade ago, ISO 14001 is a comprehensive framework that contains core elements for managing a company’s processes and activities. It identifies significant environmental aspects the organisation can control and those over which it can be expected to have an influence. This standard essentially requires a company to state what it does in environmental management, and to do what it states.

The article in this issue on biodegradable lubricants is indeed an interesting topic in respect to broadening the ISO 14001 scope. Whilst the issue of ISO 14001 as discussed is a framework for implementing and auditing compliance, many companies I have seen do not necessarily incorporate their maintenance philosophy within this framework. For example, whilst the issue of recycling packaging is equally important in today’s conservation society, so too, is the issue of lubrication.

A company that decides to incorporate maintenance within this strategy has a number of options concerning lubrication. These options include setting new goals for extending lubricant life, or the recycling and disposal of these lubricants under controlled and environmental best practices. Many businesses have arranged for the disposal of their lubricants, but how many actually audit that disposal trail?

One of my current projects is researching environmentally friendly alternative lubricants as possible replacements to a client’s existing mineral-based products. Much progress has been made with biodegradable lubricants, particularly greases. However, the environmental aspect should go beyond merely seeking safer lubricants. It should, in fact, address the issue of power consumption reduction, part of the goal of the Climate Change Levy.

Consider this: the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 families are among ISO’s most widely known and successful standards, ISO 9000 has become an international reference for quality requirements in the business supply chain, and ISO 14000 is set to achieve at least as much, if not more, in helping organisations meet their environmental challenges. Will you take on the maintenance challenge within ISO 14001?