The Importance of Environmental Health and Safety Audits
Overview of EHS Audits
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) auditing is the structured process of collecting independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability of the total EHS management system at an organization. If holes in the EHS management system are found during the audit, plans for corrective action are determined. Auditing also supports monitoring by providing managers with information on how effectively plans and the components of the EHS management system are being implemented.
Organizations mainly perform audits for the four reasons listed below:
- Protect your employees from injuries.
- Protect your employees from accidents.
- Protect your company from government penalties.
- Protect your company from litigation.
The aims of the EHS audit should be to establish if the appropriate management arrangements and workplace precautions are in place and that adequate risk control systems exist.
Importance and Frequency of EHS Audits
EHS auditing is an essential element of an EHS management system but should not substitute for the other essential parts of the system. Organizations need systems to manage health and safety on a day-to-day basis. This cannot be achieved by a periodic EHS audit alone.
It is important to perform EHS audits on a regular basis because all control systems tend to deteriorate over time or become obsolete because of changes made at the organization. An organization must establish a frequency of EHS audits that is right for their business. EHS audits can be performed monthly, quarterly, twice a year, or once a year. Not all processes should be considered on the same timeline, so the frequency of an EHS audit can differ from organization to organization. For example, you may need a compliance audit at manufacturing facilities more frequently than at administrative offices. Auditors will help organizations establish and evaluate the frequency needed for compliance audits based on the risk of chemical, physical, or process hazards present in each facility.
Types of Evidence Used in an Audit
The auditing process involves collecting information about the EHS management system and making judgments about its adequacy and performance. Furthermore, audits may involve sampling, and a key question is always: how much sampling needs to be done to make a reliable assessment? The nature and complexity of an audit will therefore vary according to its objectives and scope, the sophistication and complexity of the organization, and the maturity of the existing health and safety management system.
There are three information sources that auditors usually consider when making an assessment:
- People–Interview individuals to gain information about the operation of the EHS management system and understand management practices and the skills and competence of managers and employees at various levels in the organization.
- Documentation–Examining documents, records, performance standards, procedures, and instructions for completeness and accuracy, along with assessing employee competence and understanding. Observing processes and procedures in real-time is essential in preparing the audit to identify issues requiring corrective action.
- Observation–Visual observation of physical conditions and work activities to examine compliance with legal requirements and verify the implementation of workplace precautions and risk control systems.
The adequacy of a health and safety management system is judged by comparing what is found against a relevant standard or benchmark. Legal standards and applicable industry standards should be used to inform audit judgments. It is important that auditing is not perceived as a fault-finding activity but as a valuable contribution to the EHS management system. Auditing should recognize positive achievements as well as areas for improvement.
How Walden Can Help
Contact us today to learn more about how partnering with Walden can help your organization run more efficiently and safely. Improving your EHS program could improve your operation’s overall efficiency. Additionally, organizations that have reputations as safe places to work often find that they attract top performers as employees.