The UK environment agency has warned business that it will not regard Year 2000 related failures as mitigating circumstances when considering whether or not to prosecute in the event of an environmental incident.
The warning came after the agency today released the results of a survey into Year 2000 readiness in UK companies.
The survey revealed that while there is a high level of awareness of the bug issue, in many cases work to address the issue is not comprehensive enough or is running late.
Agency staff, who questioned more than 4000 companies to gauge what they are doing to overcome potential bug problems, found that more than half still have significant amounts of work to do and many will need to speed up their pace of progress to ensure systems are compliant in time.
Overall, less than half those surveyed were classed as well prepared. Two of the key industry sectors, the utilities and the chemical industry are the best prepared according to the results. But even in the chemical industry, one of the high risk sectors, the preparation of 30 per cent of those surveyed was classed as medium.
None of the other sectors had a majority of sites classed as good.
Further results of the survey showed that 76 per cent of companies questioned had carried out checks of environmentally critical systems, although less, 71 per cent, had included embedded processors in this audit.
Nearly 60 per cent had carried out a risk assessment of affected systems and just over half had started to make their environmentally critical systems compliant.
Over 20 per cent who quoted dates said they will not have made all critical systems compliant by September 1999 and while 60 per cent have made contingency plans for the bug, the agency said some of these plans appear to be incomplete.
Dr Paul Leinster, the agency's director of environmental protection commented: "In many cases, environmental management and protection systems in industries are controlled by computers, or involve equipment with embedded processors."
"This survey was by no means exhaustive but nevertheless it highlights the fact that many companies still have a great deal of work to do," he added. "We believe there is still time for industry to address this issue adequately if they act now."
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