The need for Environmental Control Officers (ECO) being present for projects are an ever more common requirement of approved Environmental Authorisations (EA’s) and Permits in South Africa, specifically for construction activities. The requirement of the presence of an ECO captured in an EA is usually not clear as to what the ECO’s responsibilities and duties are, hence a quick summary to provide you with a better understanding of what is required for your project.

Environmental control officers are appointed to assume the responsibility of an external party that forms part of the project team. The ECO will generally attend site visits and site meetings on a scheduled basis per the requirement of the EA. This is usually undertaken monthly however greatly dependant on the size, extent and duration of the project. The site visit combines an environmentally based audit component to ensure that construction activities for instance, will be undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the approved Environmental Management Programme (EMP), the EA itself and any other applicable legal requirements.

The ECO may also be required to ensure that the staff undertaking the project related to the authorisation are trained and made aware of the critical environmental conditions outlined in the EMP / EA and mitigation or preventative measures. Therefore, the ECO must have a rigid understanding of the possible environmental aspects and impacts related to the project and be able to transfer this knowledge to the project team, in a way that can pre-emptively prevent environmental incidents from occurring.

The duties of an ECO will differ as per the requirements and scope of the project that is planned, however normally include (but not limited to) the following:
  • Conducting a pre-construction site assessment, documenting the site conditions. Often conducted along with other environmental specialists to record pre-construction conditions.
  • Undertaking regular site visits and inspections.
  • Monitoring of activities (construction) to ensure compliance to the EMP and EA.
  • Assist in the development and maintenance of method statements for activities of high environmental impacts.
  • Ensuring legal compliance of the activities is maintained or achieved.
  • Provide or ensure awareness training is conducted.
  • Consult with the Client, stakeholders and report to the Competent Authority throughout the project where required.
  • ECO Compliance Reports.
  • Provide overall environmental support for the project team; and
  • Produce a post-construction audit on completion of the construction phase and identify environmental snags to be closed out by the contractor.
Environmental Control Officer audit reports contain the findings of the ECO Audits related to the compliance and progress of the authorised project with photographic references. These audit reports are required to be submitted to the competent authority to report on the environmental compliance of the activities.

Once the project has been completed, the ECO produces a post-construction audit to evaluate the closeout of the construction phase and to identify any snags that remain for the contractor to rectify. The ECO may also be required to evaluate the implementation of rehabilitation throughout and even post the construction phase to ensure the methods implemented are adequate and self-sustaining.

Environmental Assurance has been providing ECO services to various mining houses, developers and other industrial clients since 2004. ENVASS is associated with the South African Auditor & Training Certification Authority (SAATCA) and strongly relates and adheres to the mandate set out by the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP). As an industry leader ENVASS prides itself in providing cost effective services to the South African industry.

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