For years, industries claimed they didn't realize what they were emitting into our air, into our waterways, and into the ground, and what effect it would have on our environment. Since the advent of the environmental disciplines (mid-1960s), our society now realizes what a mistake that approach was. Even today, abandoned industrial sites and misused landfills are still being cleaned up through the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) "Superfund" program. Industry was not the only culprits; however, mom-and-pop shops, farmers, dry cleaning operations, and other types of small businesses, had just as much effect on polluting the environment.
In the early 1970s, the story of Love Canal, a housing development built over a capped industrial dumpsite in suburban Niagara Falls, New York, ran rampant in the media and took the public by surprise. Concern for this type of event happening in "our backyard" led to public demand for our legislative body to develop regulations that would ensure the proper management of industrial wastes.
Management of environmental program elements has increasingly become a major focus for safety professionals over the past few decades. Many companies had separate environmental departments; however, as companies streamline and reengineer their professional support staffs there has been a marked trend towards an increase in consolidation of the safety, health, and environmental functions. The traditional safety professional has found the knowledge of environmental affairs critical to their well being. For companies involved in international business, the ISO 14000 standards represent a revolution in corporate environmental management. The safety professional must become familiar with the ISO approach to the environmental affairs.