Risk Management Advisories
The movement towards a cleaner environment continues to gain strength in all aspects of our society. Various environmental protection acts and regulations are now in place and stricter enforcement of their provisions and terms is evident.
The purpose of this advisory is to briefly point out the duties and responsibilities of school board trustees and to provide a summary of many of the environmental statutes, regulations and by-laws.
Duties and Responsibilities of School Board Trustees and Directors
With respect to environmental concerns, one may feel that a school board has little exposure. However, some of the largest claims OSBIE has paid out have involved environmental damage.
In 2002, OSBIE released the Underground Storage Tank (UST) risk management program that identified tanks that had reached the end of their life span and either required removal or upgrade to current regulations. As the result of this program, which was supported by regulations under the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), a large number of tanks were removed or upgraded to code, and remaining tanks are subject to TSSA regulations. This has reduced the number of active tanks (exposures) insured by OSBIE by over 70%, with the remaining tanks being better managed and monitored for leakage.
Even with this reduction in loss profile, the risk of a large environmental claim still prevails, and boards should continue to take steps to manage this risk.
Here are some steps that school boards might use to develop management systems to reduce their liability risk. It is important that trustees and board officials support a sound risk management policy in these and other areas. The school board's risk manager is a vital element in the entire process.
An environmental management program should include the following:
- The trustees and directors should develop and approve a written environmental policy stating the commitment of the school board to ensure that its activities do not result in unacceptable effects on the environment.
- It is preferable to have an environmental committee of the board of trustees with a specific mandate (developed by the committee in conjunction with management and approved by the full board) to monitor environmental protection. The policies and procedures (including continuing education and training and an environmental chart which sets out who is responsible for what) developed as part of that mandate should be brought to the attention of all employees.
- An environmental manager should be appointed. The environmental manager is the key person in ensuring that the operations people do what they are supposed to do. It is essential, therefore, that this person report directly to the Director of Education.
- One of the environmental manager's jobs should be to report, at least semi-annually, to all trustees on the principal areas of concern.
- Discussions relating to environmental matters should take place regularly not only in the environmental committee, but also at the board level. Minutes of the meetings should reflect these discussions.
Acting as a trustee or director of education will always involve some risk. If steps such as these are followed, that risk will be lessened. There must be an awareness of environmental activities at the board of trustee level, not just at management level.
Sound risk management is the answer. While insurance may play a part in a risk management program, it may provide only a partial solution. For example, insurance does not pay fines or provide protection against legal proceedings through which a trustee or school board employee is found to be in violation of an environmental statute, regulation or by-law.
A good starting point is to recognize that the objective is to protect the
environment, not some bare legal minimum.
Because of the broad scope and complexity of legislation relating to environmental controls of school board facilities with respect to their construction and operation, the responsibility and management of environmental issues should ideally be in the hands of one person who would be responsible for all environmental affairs of the school board. It is becoming increasingly common for organizations to appoint an Environmental Co-ordinator whose duties are to advise and oversee proper environmental management, and statutory compliance of the facilities owned and operated by the school board.
The following is a sample of the many Acts, Regulations and Codes to which a school board is subject. The purpose here is to highlight many of those pertaining to environmental protection in particular.
Summary of Environmental Statutes, Regulations and By-Laws
- ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACT (EPA) - Website: http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e19
- ONTARIO WATER RESOURCES (OWRA) - Website: http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90o40
- GASOLINE HANDLING ACT - Website: http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90g04
- ENVIRONMENTAL CODE OF PRACTICE FOR ABOVEGROUND AND UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANK SYSTEMS CONTAINING PETROLEUM AND ALLIED PETROLEUM PRODUCTS - Website: http://www.ec.gc.ca/lcpe-cepa/default.asp?lang=En&n=61B26EE8
- PESTICIDES ACT - Website: http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90p11
- ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ACT - Website: http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e18
- ASBESTOS GUIDE - Website: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/asbestos/
- FUEL OIL CODE ADOPTION DOCUMENT - Website: https://www.tssa.org/regulated/fuels/fuelsLegislation.aspx
(REVISED 2015) E&OE
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