How to Use This Guidebook



This Guidebook was developed as part of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Safety Guidebook Series, a multi-volume set of basic safety and health guidebooks to assist VHA facilities in establishing and developing their occupational safety and health and environmental compliance programs. This Guidebook contains criteria statements applicable to VA Medical Centers and used in the Environmental Safety Automated Facility Evaluation (E-SAFE), a computerized tool for assessing conformance with the requirements of the Executive Order 13148, Greening the Government through Leadership in Environmental Management.

Each Section of the guidebook provides a general discussion of the Section topic and information on requirements contained in the criteria statements (available in Section 7). At the end of each Section, enclosures are listed identifying the documents contained in the hardcopy of the Guidebook or on the accompanying CD-ROM. Resources, including reference publications and web sites, are also provided as additional background material.

The Green Environmental Management Systems (GEMS) Guidebook is divided into seven sections, as described below:

 Section 1 - Introduction to GEMS

This section discusses key elements of an environmental management system and presents the principles on which it is based (Code of Environmental Management Principles [CEMP] and International Organization of Standards [ISO] 14001). Executive Order 13148 is included as an enclosure. The pending VA Directive, Department of Veterans Affairs Environmental Policy, and the pending VHA Directive, Veterans Health Administration Environmental Policy, will be provided for inclusion in this Guidebook upon publication.

 Section 2 - Concepts of the GEMS Program

This section introduces the principles of environmental management systems as the foundation to developing a medical center program.

 Section 3 - Nine Steps to Establish a Successful GEMS

A systematic approach to establishing a GEMS program is presented in a simple nine-step process. Most of the steps will be familiar to medical center management because of their involvement in committee work, audits and continuous improvement activities.

 Section 4 - Operating Unit Environmental Aspect Templates

As a part of the GEMS program, facilities must identify significant environmental aspects and rank the level of impact each has on the environment. This section contains sample forms showing how to list each aspect and identify the environmental impact. A sample facility form is included showing how the aspects were ranked at one VA Medical Center. Also included is a blank form for facility use.

 Section 5 - Sample GEMS Documents

This section lists and describes categories of documents and provides samples to illustrate the concepts, as well as to serve as guidelines for evaluating existing documents or creating new ones (see diagram on page 5-3). The Section is divided as follows:

Tab A  VA Environmental Policy Directive - (pending)

   VHA Environmental Policy Directive - (pending)

Tab B  VA Medical Center Memorandum (GEMS Policy)

Tab B1 GEMS Implementation Procedures, Tools and Checklists (Sample Memoranda)

Tab B2  Operational Procedures for Significant Aspects (Plans/Guidance)

Tab B3  Objectives, Targets and Plans for Meeting Objectives and Targets


 Section 6 - Technical Resources

The Green Environmental Management Systems Professional Advisory Group (PAG) assembled an extensive list of resources, including web sites, etc. (Note: Web site information was current at the time of publication.)

 Section 7 - E-SAFE

This Section contains the Environmental Safety Automated Facility Evaluation (E-SAFE) criteria statements as a program evaluation guide.


Several acronyms are used throughout the guidebook and, to avoid redundancy in defining these acronyms each time they are used, an acronym list is situated in the front of the guidebook. A Glossary of defined terms is located in the back of the guidebook.

 Master Index

A Master Index is in the back of each guidebook as a cross-reference for all topics in the guidebook series collectively.

 Topic Index

A Topic Index for ease of cross-reference in locating policies, samples and material is also provided.

The entire Guidebook, including enclosures, is located on the accompanying CD-ROM and at the CEOSH web site: