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ISO 14001: Internal Audits

February 4, 2014 - Kestrel Management

One of the requirements for an environmental management system (EMS) is for the organization to have a robust internal audit program. This aligns well with the concept of continuous improvement following the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of improvement. Once an organization has developed its EMS, the system must be deployed and implemented. The only manner in which to verify that all of the requirements have been trained on, understood by employees, and followed correctly is to develop a robust internal audit program.

Identifying Internal Auditors

The organization needs to identify hourly and management employees who are willing to learn how to become internal auditors. These employees will require special training on the specific standard being audited, techniques and requirements for an internal auditor to follow, and how to write audit reports to identify compliance or non-conformance in a way that identifies areas of concern and allows the organization to determine the correct course of action to mitigate those issues.

With practice, trained employees will become very proficient in helping the organization verify that previously designed environmental programs are trained on correctly, understood by employees, and being followed, as required, in procedures and work instructions. This is very important to ensure the organization that it is, in fact, meeting legal obligations in running the facility under EPA requirements.

Internal Audit Process

The internal audit process requires the following:

  • Organization must develop an audit schedule and scope for the year that includes the clause requirements from standard used.
  • The audit schedule must include all known environmental legal requirements for the facility. This enables the internal audit team to review and assess how the organization is assuring compliance at all times.
  • Audit will verify that paperwork for environmental compliance is being completed, as required by law.
  • Audits must review how the organization remains aware of and implements new EPA legal requirements as they become regulation or law.
  • By using independent internal auditors, the organization will find deficiencies prior to an EPA assessment.
  • By following the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of continuous improvement once an organization has identified a non-conformance, the non-conformance can be rectified or mitigated, as required.
  • Upon completion of improvement, the organization will again send out an audit team to verify and validate that the corrective action solved the non-conformance.
  • Management must sign off on rectification and is aware of any non-conformance. This allows management to determine what other steps are required to assure compliance at all times and to look for methods to improve in other areas not part of initial audit scope.

Audit Reports

Audit reports are used by management to determine the state of environmental compliance for the organization. The audit reports and information learned are then used, in part, for what the standard calls a management review process.

Submitted by: Randy Block

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