EHS Management

Are Your Compliance Programs Working? Audit Your Programs to Find out

Audit Management Solutions are Designed to Standardize, Centralize and Streamline Your Audit Program to Mitigate Key EHSQ Risks Across Your Organization.

 Auditing is a fundamental component of ISO 14001, 9001, and 45001. Federal and State regulatory agencies also strongly encourage companies to audit their compliance programs under the Plan-Do-Check-Act model of continuous improvement. Internal auditing is one of the best ways to ensure your facilities are complying with current regulations, identify and correct compliance gaps, share your findings with other facilities that may also be out of compliance, and highlight best practices that can be replicated across your organization. Leading companies also audit their suppliers and vendors to ensure that risks are mitigated across their value chain.

 There’s no Substitute for Internal Auditing

Internal audits are essential to continuous improvement efforts, as well as for ongoing risk identification and minimization. Peter Drucker famously said, “what gets measured gets managed,” and it is through auditing that companies can measure the success of their EHSQ programs, as well as track and measure operational excellence, safety culture, and sustainability performance. Plus, internal audits are generally viewed favorably by regulatory agencies because it demonstrates your company’s commitment to regulatory compliance, transparency, and continuous improvement.

Where to Start

If you’re not already auditing your compliance programs, it’s time to start. Establish a program charter with a clear mission, vision, and value statements to ensure that everyone understands what the program is and isn’t. Audits should not be treated as punitive events by operations and management – they are learning opportunities and a chance to avoid serious incidents, regulatory fines and penalties.

If your audit program has become stale, review your charter and update it based on evolving standards. You should also ask for feedback from guest auditors and auditees to see what’s working and what’s not.

Benefits of Auditing

Auditing is beneficial when conducted properly and the results of the audit are acted upon by management. Audits can:

  • Identify non-compliance issues before regulators do
  • Improve workplace health and safety
  • Help to minimize or mitigate EHSQ risks
  • Serve as an educational tool, especially for new personnel, through increased awareness and understanding of environmental and safety regulations
  • Identify and share best practices, like ways to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of compliance programs

As noted above, regulatory agencies encourage companies to conduct self-audits and correct identified actions. Demonstrating a consistent pattern of compliance and governance goes a long way with regulators and can result in better relationships.

Leverage Technology to Streamline Your Audit Process
Auditing has largely been a paper and pen exercise for companies and a mixture of homegrown solutions, such as access databases and SharePoint to store the data. These solutions are generally not well supported by internal IT departments (if at all), and they lack several features available in off-the-shelf solutions, like mobility, GIS, analytical tools and reporting functionality.

In a recent research report, EHS Embraces the Technology Revolution, 49% of EHS professionals stated they are currently using technology to manage compliance and 29% are planning to introduce technology within the next 2 years to manage their compliance programs. If you’re planning to introduce technology in your compliance program, it’s important to look for solutions that can scale with your company’s EHSQ programs and processes, such as waste management, quality management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health. There can be tremendous time savings for auditors when they can leverage a single, unified platform for auditing that is also being used by EHSQ professionals to manage other areas of the business.

Audit Management solutions also make it easy to assess compliance with permits, regulations, international standards, and internal processes and procedures. Audit teams should also look for a solution that has partnerships with regulatory content providers. This can make it easier to standardize and streamline the audit process by leveraging out of the box questionnaires based on applicable regulations. Technology is only one part of the audit equation, but it can significantly enhance your overall auditing process and help auditors create a robust, actionable audit report.

Concluding Remarks

Auditing is a fundamental part of any EHSQ compliance program and is one of the best defenses against non-compliance events that can result in regulatory notices of violation and significant fines and penalties. There simply is no substitute for programmatic audits of your facilities to determine their compliance with various EHSQ regulations. With the permeation of technology, audit teams are now able to leverage mobile solutions to capture audit details while in the field, take photos, collect GPS data, and centralize all this information in a single solution. They can then leverage this data to better track and trend compliance across their organization, make informed recommendations to management, and more easily share best practices and findings to drive continuous improvement and value across the company.

For more information on how to deliver value across your organization and keep up to date with the latest regulatory changes, check out this webinar: Driving Business Value with that thing Called Compliance.

Ian CohenIan Cohen, MS, is the Product Marketing Manager responsible for Cority’s environmental and safety solutions. Before taking this role, Cohen was Cority’s Environmental Product Manager, where he was responsible for developing Cority’s environmental compliance and data management solutions.

Before joining Cority, Cohen was an environmental specialist at Florida Power & Light Company, a NextEra Energy, Inc., company, where he led the development, implementation, and management of various environmental management systems and programs. He is well versed in the development of enterprise environmental management information systems and is a subject matter expert in corporate sustainability, including program development, annual reporting, and stakeholder communications. He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master of Science in Environmental Science, both from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.