If you wanted a financial audit, there would be no shortage of third parties who could tell you exactly what to look for in a qualified auditor. That kind of information is a little more difficult to find for process safety management (PSM) auditors. The PSM standard simply requires that the audit be conducted by “at least one person knowledgeable in the process.” That’s not a lot to go on.
The Institute of Internal Auditors has created a competency framework for EHS auditors that could be especially useful to employers who are planning their next PSM compliance audit. The framework suggests general competencies, functional competencies, and technical competencies that make for a skillful EHS auditor. Yesterday, we looked at the general and functional competencies they recommend for EHS auditors; today, we’ll look at some of the more EHS-specific competencies, with an eye to how they apply to PSM audits.
The Institute of Internal Auditors divides EHS technical competencies into generally-applicable skills and skills that apply to specific assignments. Their recommended generally-applicable competencies include:
- Internal management controls. This is an organization-specific skill set that an auditor needs in order to make sure that the information needed to detect and prevent compliance issues is up to date and accurate.
- Statistics and probability. Basic statistics and probability knowledge is essential for determining how many samples are needed to provide a representative sample and to understand the various qualitative limits that apply to EHS issues in the workplace.
- Risk assessment. Process safety management is not just about regulatory compliance; it is also about risk management, and risk management begins with risk assessment. Auditors need to have a solid grasp of risk assessment terms and procedures.
- Regulatory knowledge. In any EHS area, and in PSM especially, it is vital for an auditor to have a broad knowledge of the applicable regulations and how they apply to the workplace.
- Sustainability and corporate social responsibility. An EHS auditor must understand how EHS activities fit into broader corporate goals, and PSM is just one of the many regulations that can have an impact on risk and long-term sustainability.
Some types of audits require even more specific skills. An auditor conducting a PSM audit will benefit from careful study and application of:
- Chemical hazards. The effective management of highly hazardous chemicals regulated under the process safety standard demands knowledge of the chemicals in a covered process and their hazards.
- Health and safety knowledge. In order to evaluate the safety of a covered process, some knowledge of the technical principles of the process is required.
- Process operations. An overall understanding of the processes in the workplace, particularly the covered processes, is needed in order to conduct a risk assessment.