Applied Environment and Safety is proud to support the UQ Future Scientist Scholarship program.

This new scholarship is designed to provide opportunities to future scientists to study at The University of Queensland who may not otherwise get this chance.

This lovely message of appreciation was recorded by a second year UQ science student assisting with raising funds for this program:

Thank you for supporting UQ!

You can also donate with every dollar donated matched by the Faculty: UQ Future Scientist Scholarship

Learn more about Applied Environment & Safety’s values and ethics here

Applied & Safety provided environmental and landowner support for tower refurbishment works within the southern suburbs of Brisbane.

The towers were located adjacent to houses, swimming pools and rainwater tanks. As well as running parallel to Bulimba Creek for sections of the line.

The project ran for approximately six months with the towers were blasted and painted to extend their life. This process provides a significant saving in materials compared to replacing the towers and less disturbance for the surrounding property owners.

Monitoring and Control

Monitoring and control measures were implemented to capture the abrasive blasting material and zinc based paint. This included the use of geofabric to capture blast materials and paint drips during tower operations. Monitoring of wind conditions and fallout was undertaken throughout the operations and additional controls were implemented as required.

Rehabilitation

Now approximately six months after the completion of the project, the tower sites were revisited to determine the success of vegetation regeneration under the towers. Native grasses and shrubs as well as gardens and lawns regenerated well following removal of the geofabric.

This is due to the geofabric allowing some light and water to penetrate. Also, disturbance of the vegetation prior to laying the geofabric was minimal. It was limited to brush cutting grasses and small shrubs to approximately 10cm above ground level. This ensured the rapid regeneration of the vegetation following completion of the works.

This demonstrates that geofabric can be successfully used to capture materials from blasting and painting with minimal impact on vegetation.

Our client and landowners can be assured that the tower operations can be completed with minimal environmental impact.

The same techniques have been implemented by Applied & Safety for a tower refurbishment project in Wollongong, NSW. For this project, the tower easement runs through National Parks, WaterNSW catchment and farm paddocks.

Further Information

If you would like further information on rehabilitation, please do not hesitate to contact us: info@appliedecosolutions.com.au

As I have recently completed the ISO 14001:2015 transition course, I thought I would share my understanding of the changes to this Standard.

This is good timing as certified companies have one more year, until March 2018, to get their systems recertified prior to the end of the transition period.

Updates to the Standard

Standardising the Standard:

Previously there was very little similarity in the content and format between the ISO standards. The standards have now been standardised. This includes 10 clauses with the same order and elements as the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Standard and the ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Standard to be released later this year.

More Emphasis on Leadership and Commitment:

It is widely recognised that a successful management system requires commitment and support from top management. More emphasis on leadership by top management is required in the new Standard. This includes integration of environmental management into the organisation’s core strategies, processes and priorities.

Risk Approach to Management:

The new Standard requires the identification, determination and inclusion of aspects that can have a significant environmental impact as part of a risk based management approach. Although similar to previous requirements, the organisation now must also specify the criteria used to determine risk.

Improved Context of the Organisation:

Consideration of the external and internal issues that can affect the intended outcomes of the system need to be included. The needs and expectations of interested parties should also be considered in regards to environmental management.

Life Cycle Perspective:

Thinking of each stage of a product or service as part of a life cycle perspective has been introduced. This includes considering the organisation’s control or influence during procurement through to end-of-life treatments.

More Information

If you would like a summary of the changes to the Standard, and guide to implementing these requirements into your business, please contact us: info@appliedecosolutions.com.au

Most of the environmental management operations in Australia over the last decade have been based on greenfield developments. This has been across a wide variety of areas; from new mines to construction of major infrastructure to housing developments. Environmental management has been focused on project planning and managing impacts of projects during construction.

Of course, there has also been some operational and brownfields environmental management jobs involved with ongoing operations and infrastructure upgrades.

New Era of Environmental Management?

My suggestion is that there may be a new era of environmental management with the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Through the need to find further operational cost savings, including costs associated with planning and obtaining approvals for new developments, maintenance of infrastructure provides a great opportunity for companies to get the most out of their existing infrastructure.

For example, this year I have been working on projects across Queensland which involve refurbishment of existing steel transmission towers. This method is used to prolong the operational life of the towers rather than decommissioning and building new towers. Through this maintenance project, it is anticipated that the towers will be in service for another 10 to 20 years. As well as extending the life of the existing infrastructure, there has been less disturbance within the easements including no removal of vegetation.

Could this be the new era of environmental management work?

It would be great to hear your comments on this idea.

As per my recent blog, Applied Eco Solutions has been participating in CCIQ’s ecoBiz program for the last 18 months.

Following tracking energy use and implementing reduction measures, we recently gained ecoBiz 1 Star Partnership. This was based on a 10% reduction in energy use per production unit.

During last month’s CCIQ ecoBiz Leader Forum, I received an award from Stephen Tait, CCIQ’s CEO and Dr Steven Miles, Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef, in recognition for becoming an ecoBiz Star Partner for every efficiency.

We will continue to support the ecoBiz program and look for opportunities to improve our energy efficiency.

Top Ten Energy Efficiency Tips

My top 10 tips that any business can implement to save energy and money are:

  • Switch off applications at the wall when not in use
  • Adjust your air-conditioning settings – 24° in summer and 18° in winter
  • Buy in bulk online and get delivered to your company rather than driving to pick up supplies
  • Clean your light bulbs and computer screens
  • Fill up your dishwasher before running
  • Use automatic switch-off timers on larger equipment such as printers
  • Change your lights to high energy efficiency bulbs
  • When buying new appliances, research and determine the long term running costs of items
  • Consider the natural light and air flow when looking for work spaces
  • Encourage your employees to determine and implement their own energy saving measures

I have worked in companies that have a checklist for all occasions. Saying that there was a checklist guide to make sure that all checklists were filled out may be a slight exaggeration although it wasn’t that far off.

Although the variety and quantity of checklists may not be lacking for many companies, I would suggest that many checklists do not fulfill the purpose of a “good” checklist.

An environmental checklist should provide an easy process to check and sign off on a specific aspect. This could be a weekly general check of a work site to ensure environmental controls are being implemented or checking a high risk environmental aspect.

Checklists should not be onerous or difficult to use. They should be able to be filled out in a few minutes. Also any specific findings should be passed on to the relevant person in a timely manner. This second point is missed too often which means the requirement for completing the checklist is also being missed.

Tips for a “Good” Environmental Checklist

These are the points that I think are required for a good environmental checklist:

  1. Specific purpose: Do not create a checklist if it is not needed. Each checklist should be developed to check specific environmental requirements or control. Often there is already a checklist for a similar purpose that has been developed and being using. Where possible, combine environmental, health and safety and operational requirements into one checklist.
  2. Easy to use format and wording: Depending on the requirements for completing the checklist there are different formats and wording that can be used. From a “yes” or “no” form to a purpose made booklet of forms. Watch out for double negatives and phrasing questions that require more than one response when developing your checklist.
  3. If it is too simple: I have seen too often that checklists become a tick and flick process with the person completing the checklist not actually checking the controls. This is a waste of everyone’s time. Also forms that are being signed off when something has not actually been completed then creates a liability issue. Beware of tick and flick.
  4. Seek feedback: If you have created a checklist then make sure it is being completed and is fit for purpose. If not, then seek feedback from the person using the checklist and make the appropriate changes.
  5. Ensure the information in the form is being used: the purpose of the form is to check the implementation and management of controls. If this information is not being used for identifying issues or improvements, then this is a time wasting process.

The obligations of Queensland’s Biosecurity Act 2014 commenced on 1st July 2016. This new Act and Biosecurity Regulation 2016 provides a modern, risk-based approach to biosecurity in Queensland.

Overview video here:

https://youtu.be/OeTNZlXWtrc

So what has changed?

The main change under this legislation is the introduction of a general biosecurity obligation. This means all Queenslanders must play their part in managing weeds, pest animals and diseases on their property and prevent them from spreading.

So whether it’s in your own business, backyard or on the farm, you are responsible for managing biosecurity risks. Before you move plants, soil, cattle and equipment, you need to check the maps for the new biosecurity zones. Specific movement restrictions apply to individual biosecurity zones to ensure you don’t spread plant and animal pests and diseases such as banana diseases, cattle ticks and fire ants.

Biosecurity Zones

A biosecurity zone has movement restrictions placed on it to limit the spread of pests and diseases within the state. There are several zones for different pests and diseases across Queensland. You need to know the boundaries of these zones to know whether you are affected by the zone restrictions.

The maps of the zones are available here:

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industry/agriculture/land-management/restrictions-moving/maps-biosecurity-zones

Risk Based Approach

The Act uses a risk based approach to biosecurity threats which allows more responsive approaches to manage each specific circumstance. A biosecurity risk exists when you deal with any pest, disease, weed or contaminant. This includes moving an animal, plant, turf, soil, machinery and/or equipment that could carry a pest, disease, weed or contaminant.

The Act will also accommodate industry initiatives, such as allowing for compliance agreements to be used to demonstrate best practice risk management for the industry’s unique circumstances.

I am not a botanist, however even I think these plant’s adaptations are interesting. Myrmecophyte, literally meaning “ant plant”, is a plant that lives in a mutualistic association with a colony of ants.

The plants provide ants with food and/or shelter through structural adaptations. These specialised structures include internal cavities for habitation by ants; food bodies which produce specific nutrients for ants; or sugar producing glands which provide food for ants. In exchange for food and shelter, the ants assist the plants with pollination, seed dispersal, gathering of essential nutrients, and/or defense.

Myrmecodia beccarii

Myrmecodia beccarii is an ant plant that is endemic to Australia. It only occurs in the mangroves and lowland forests around Cairns and northern Cape York. In our current project, these plants are located on the edge of our work sites for the maintenance of the high voltage towers.

The adaptations of these plants are enlarged stems forming tuber-like structures which are covered in ridges and spines. When the plant grows, tissue within the tuber dies back forming hollow chambers. These chambers allow ants, mostly Iridomyrmex cordatus, to enter the plant.

A mutual relationship exists between the plant and ants. The plant provides protective shelter for the ants and in turn the ants provide additional nutrients to the plant with its food leftovers.

Additional control measures have been implemented to protect these plants during the maintenance operations such as erecting containment curtains around the plants. As the operations are coming to completion, and the control measures are being removed, I am happy to reported that there has been no disturbance of these plants or ants.

Applied Eco Solutions is officially an ecoBizness! We are a proud participant in the CCIQ ecoBiz program.

“CCIQ ecoBiz is a fully-subsidised program that helps businesses save thousands of dollars across their power, water and waste bills. Through ecoBiz, businesses put sustainable ideas into practice.”

Through this program, I have participated in many webinars and have learnt about energy saving methods, waste management, undertaking site assessments and engaging staff in the sustainability process. I have also been on a tour of the Brisbane Convention Centre and learnt about the money saving measures that they have implemented.

This program provides businesses with assistance on reducing their energy, water and waste use – saving your business money – through benchmarking and other tools. And the best bit is that it is FREE!

I would encourage all Queensland businesses to use this service and get free advice from experts and tools for implementing cost savings.

You can find further information here: www.cciqecobiz.com.au

I attended the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program environmental training yesterday. This training provided an overview of the impacts, identification and management of fire ants which I have summarised below.

Fire ants with a scientific name of Solenopsis invicta which means “sun-loving” and “undefeated or unconquered” provides great insight into these aggressive pests which have spread across south east Queensland. These ants were first detected in the Brisbane area in 2001 and pose a serious social, economic and environmental threat.

Fire ants are a notifiable pest under the Plant Protection Act 1989 (Qld), so everyone has the responsibility to report suspected sightings of fire ants to Biosecurity Queensland to prevent being fined.

Impacts

People: These ants have a very painful sting that causes a burning sensation. The sting can cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Environment: Fire ants are very aggressive and omnivorous feeders which can prey on small native fauna species including insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals.

Economic: Fire ants can significantly impact on the agricultural, tourism and recreational industries.

Identification

The distinguishing points to identify fire ants from native ants are:

  • They are quite small and typically range in size (2-6mm) within one nest.
  • Their heads and bodies are beer bottle brown and their abdomens are darker.
  • They are very aggressive, particularly if the nest is disturbed.
  • Their nest is made of soft loose soil with no entrance or exit on mound.

Management

All businesses have a responsibility to actively manage the risks of fire ants including taking all reasonable steps to prevent fire ants from spreading. This includes the movement of soil from or within fire ant restricted areas.

Further Information

Training

Identification

Photo Source: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland Government website

Learn more about Applied Environments & Safety here.

Applied Eco Solutions has been providing site based environmental support during maintenance of transmission towers.

Maintenance of the steel towers requires abrasive blasting to remove rust then repainting. This refurbishment will extend the life of the towers by 20 years or more.

Abrasive Blasting – Notifiable Activity

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld), abrasive blasting is a notifiable activity. Notifiable activities are those operations that cause or are likely to cause contamination.

Land owners are required under this Act to inform the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection of any known notifiable activity on their property.

Environmental Management

The focus of this project is preventing the release of materials to the environment and surrounding properties. This includes the development of Site Based Management Plans, environmental monitoring and implementation of environmental controls.

Given that this project is located in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, there has been a strong focus on minimising any impact on the surrounding residents, businesses and other infrastructure sources.

This has been a very interesting project which has included communication with many stakeholders. This has included understanding the expectations of the client, building a strong operational relationship with the subcontractor and liaising with residents and other community members.

I am going to suggest that preparing and delivering a site based environmental induction takes specific skills and knowledge. It may seem like a fairly simple process however many people get it wrong or miss the point.

Most environmental inductions are too long, not interactive and generally not understood by the audience. This means poor outcomes in regards to communicating with your staff and contractors about the environmental issues and controls of your project or business.

Five Tips

These are my five tips for creating a site based environmental induction that will engage and educate your audience:

  1. Keep it short and simple. It is 6:30am on a brisk winter morning and you are delivering an environmental induction to the newbies onsite. They are tired, anxious and just wanting to the get through their first day of work. Keep your induction simple, an appropriate length and targeted to your audience including their specific role and responsibilities.
  2. Use appropriate language. Avoid acronyms, technical terms and references that your audience will not know or understand. It may seem appropriate to quote all relevant legislation and hierarchy of documents for the business or project however this will bore your average operator. Rather than quoting legislative requirements, use more interactive communication such as saying “did you know that we all have a responsibility in regards to protecting the environment?” and then discuss the relevant requirements.
  3. Use pictures and other prompters. We all know when we have attended an amazing presentation from a gifted speaker that uses no slides or other props to deliver a strong message. Try to use this method to deliver your induction and engage with your participants rather than just reading presentation slides.
  4. Make it interactive: By asking questions and getting feedback this will provide confirmation that your audience understands the content.
  5. Keep it up to date: There is nothing worse than a presentation that has been obviously cut together from a previous project or has outdated or irrelevant information. Typically this will be picked up by your listeners and you will lose all creditability.