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I may be offered to be a member of a joint workers-management committee on environmental issues in my workplace. I work at a combination R&D, testing and assembly facility for medical scanners, owned by a large corporation.

Now, I'm not going to be responsible for actually doing work to resolve/avoid environmental hazards, but rather perform oversight of these issues and how (and if) they are handled. I'll need to be able to know what to ask and what to notice - in presence and no less importantly, in absence.

My question is: What broad-stroke environmental/health concerns and issues I should make myself aware of? What kind of "homework" should I, not being any sort of medical professional, take upon myself before serving on such a committee?

Note: Yes, some of it should definitely involve the issue of radiation safety and leak hazards, with radio-pharmaceuticals being used on premises. But that's just one point; and even when I know this is an issue, I don't really know where to begin educating myself about it (from the environmental/safety perspective, not nuclear physics of course).

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    @JoeStrazzere it is probably one of those HR (Hardly Relevant) tick box exercises where there must be one representative from each department whatever the focus of the meeting and purpose/function of the department...
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 16 '20 at 17:39
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    @SolarMike: Seems to be something like that. But of course I will demand the committee have the power to compel any officer of the company located at our facility to appear before the committee and to report to it on matters it inquires about; and if they refuse, I won't join.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 16 '20 at 17:49
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    This is an extremely broad question that will necessarily be at least somewhat company-specific. You should do more research and then ask a specific question. You may also want to talk to people who are already on the committee about this. Mar 16 '20 at 18:56
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A good starting point would be to familiarize yourself with any existing company procedures - health and safety, disposal of toxic materials and the like. Any organization big enough to want a committee should already have a whole pile of policies to read through.

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  • Actually, the amount of procedures we have is insanely huge. I could spend a full half-year just reading those. Also, there is a separate organizational unit concerned solely with compliance with these procedures, and another unit/division (at the global level) concerned with inspecting compliance with these procedures.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 18 '20 at 22:14
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    @einpoklum Perhaps in the first meeting, you should recommend reducing the procedures down to something more manageable.
    – Simon B
    Mar 18 '20 at 22:18
  • +1 on that funny comment.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 18 '20 at 23:12
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Given that you know nothing about what to do or what to expect, I'm going to take a very wild guess and say they're not really expecting you to solve world hunger problems. The most likely thing that's going to happen is you'll just be a oversight and bring up anything important to the people up top. Basically you're being used as a "filter" and they'll see if there's anything needing to be resolved.

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In a company like yours, an environmental committee will probably focus on materials, potentially toxic, used in manufacturing. I suggest you find some Material Safety Data Sheets ( yes, they are a thing) online and figure out how to read them. Then you'll know what to do with your own company's MSDSs.

You may also look at green manufacturing: stuff like reducing waste and water usage in your processes. That's pretty technical and factory -specific stuff.

Possibly you'll consider green office issues: effective recycling, power use reduction (hint: turn off desktop computers at closing time), cleanliness, and so forth.

You should ask a current member of the committee what you should study up on. And, at the risk of cynicism, look up the word "greenwashing."

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  • I don't mean to sound rude but this sounds like basic level information I would expect someone would know going into an environment committee. Why would the company put someone who doesn't know what they're doing unless it's some sort of front for something else.
    – Dan
    Mar 19 '20 at 18:41

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