Project Management Tips: Regulatory Oversight 101

Projects of every size and in any industry may sometimes require regulatory oversight or approval. Working with a regulatory body has the potential to affect every facet of your project, from where documents are archived to how long a particular activity must take. Regulatory oversight may seem daunting at first, but some basic research and preparation will go a long way toward making your project successful. What information do you need? The following breakdown is by no means all-inclusive, but it will give you a good starting point.

WHO: Contractors with particular licenses or certifications; regulatory inspectors, reviewers, and other contacts; internal team members with specific responsibilities (life safety, insurance, licenses, etc.); vendors able to provide agency-approved goods (equipment, tools, chemicals) and services (storage, cleaning, documentation).

WHAT: Scope of oversight; text of codes and regulations; documentation that must be posted, submitted, filed, stored, signed or discarded; requirements for insurance, licenses, certifications, insurance and training.

When: Deadlines for requests for information; expiration of permits, certificates or licenses; actions that must be completed in sequence or require mid-project review and approval; limits on the types of activities that can be completed concurrently.

Where: Locations for meetings, tests, procedures, reviews, inspections, and the submittal of documents or data; storage requirements for documentation, equipment, test results, chemicals and other materials.

How: Approved procedures; deviation reports; requests for information; submittal of data; signatures required on internal and external forms; recordkeeping and reporting requirements; security of data, computers, software platforms and documents; restrictions on quantities of chemicals and other materials.

Now that you have an idea of the information you’re looking for, it’s time to begin your research.

Visit the regulatory body’s Web site. Review online copies of the regulations or codes, and sign up to be notified when changes are made. Consider ordering a hard copy of the current regulations, so your team can reference a single common information source. Depending on the agency, you may also be able to find a list of recent actions. The results of past inspections, pending permit requests and recently completed projects are all good learning tools.

Network within the client’s industry. Others have likely dealt with the same regulatory requirements, and can help you understand them and their potential impact. If you’re able to find local contacts experienced in dealing with regulators, all the better – regulatory agencies often have regional offices, with inspectors or reviewers responsible for your particular area. Familiarizing yourself with the working style and expectations of the local regulators will put you a step ahead.

Ask the client. If you’re comfortable approaching your client, you can learn a great deal by examining past projects completed under the same regulations. Review the documentation, deliverables, and results; become familiar with the potential impact to your project’s schedule as a result of necessary inspections, leadtime for onsite regulatory visits, availability of specialty contractors, and activities or processes that require a set period of time to complete; make note of any can’t-miss deadlines; identify internal resources; and plan for outside experts you may need to involve.

Look for industry and professional associations. Locate groups that are comprised of companies frequently under the same regulatory oversight as your new project. These organizations often maintain information on the status of regulations and recent developments, and can provide you with additional resources. Their project management members have a deep knowledgebase of past projects – be sure to ask about projects that failed, or were significantly hampered by incorrect actions or poor decisions. Understanding how to avoid these situations will teach you a great deal about managing your project correctly from start to finish.

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