This Christmas, The National Chemical Emergency Centre’s (NCEC) 24 hour emergency response team will be supporting manufacturers and distributors across the chemical supply chain to ensure their products are handled safely and securely in every region they operate. This year, in place of distributing Christmas cards, NCEC has worked in conjunction with one of our more specialist partners to bring you a festive case study. Merry Christmas.
Christmas is definitely the busiest time of year for our team, particularly in the distribution arm of the business. We’re a relatively small operation; we have a core team of around 50 magical elves and reindeer, alongside a seasonal workforce made up of penguins, enchanted snowmen and gap year students.
Our staff handle dangerous goods on a daily basis, so there’s always hazards on the workshop floor – and when the majority of your workers are only four foot tall you face some bespoke training challenges. Delivering to every country on earth also means we work in a pretty dynamic regulatory environment.
Added to that, the toy provision landscape has changed dramatically over the past millennia. We had a good run of about 200 years where our primary export was toy soldiers and yoyos, but those days are gone. The toys themselves aren’t dangerous of course, but when you’re trying to source enough aluminium fillings to make a billion etch-a-sketches, it’s a product stewardship nightmare.
“NCEC’s 24/7 emergency response teams provide round the clock multilingual emergency response advice to 50% of the world’s top 100 chemical companies, and 100% of the world’s magical reindeer powered delivery companies” – Jon Gibbard, NCEC Practice Director
More recently we’ve seen a massive transition in the market – skipping ropes are out, laptops are in. Which means we’re handling equipment containing lithium batteries by the sleigh full. As a result, we’ve made a lot of changes to our health and safety procedures. For instance, all of our loaders and packers are provided online training for limited quantities and dangerous goods awareness. We also include emergency response numbers on the outer packaging of our Lithium batteries, making sure all our North Pole stakeholders are fully prepared in case of emergency. The precaution is paying quantifiable dividends to our organisation - I can hardly even remember the last time we had an Elf accidently explode.
We also have an internal regulatory team whose job it is to ensure we’re compliant in all of the regions we deliver. Well it’s not a team per-say, we have one Elf whose job it is to look at regulations. His name is Keith.
Now don’t get me wrong, Keith’s great. But when you’re operating in nearly 200 different countries around the world, each with different legislations relating to the manufacture, distribution, use, treatment and disposal of chemicals, it’s a bit overwhelming. For instance, operating in China is becoming increasingly tricky. We now need to provide local Chinese emergency contact numbers on all of our hazardous goods and ensure that emergency response helplines are manned at all times. We don’t really have the internal capacity to provide that. It’s difficult to attract expert staff in the North Pole, one of the many, many logistical issues of running a global manufacturing and distribution business in an uninhabitable tundra.
“Christmas Eve is quite a busy night for the emergency response team, we experience a real spike in chimney based incidents” – NCEC emergency responder
Fortunately our multilingual emergency response provider ensures that we are supported around the world. We don’t have many road or roof top incidents, but I do my best to mitigate the risk when it does happen. The sleigh is decked to the halls with orange placards, and the reindeers are all ADR driver qualified. We also outsource our SDS authoring and labelling work, and our DGSA-Elf is supported by a regulatory consultancy team throughout the year to ensure that all toys are signed off before going on the sleigh. Together we make sure that the team is fully compliant come Christmas Eve.
We’re expecting a pretty quiet January. Then there’s not much happening in February. March is pretty uneventful too, I think it's Donner’s birthday in April…or is that Blitzen? If I’m being honest January through to November is what I would classify as a slow season in terms of commercial activity.
However it will give us an opportunity to keep up to date on our regulatory responsibilities. REACH-2018 is coming up so we’re planning to register the substances we deliver in Europe. Then there’s changes to poison centre legislation, Keith’s attending a webinar on that in January.
But right now it’s back to the workshop to ensure we all have a hazard free Christmas and an internationally compliant New Year!
NCEC and Ricardo Energy & Environment are proud to support the work of the Earth Trust, a local charity that supports environmental and sustainable development in Oxfordshire. This year we have made a donation to this charity in lieu of sending our customers Christmas cards.