If you have an ISO 14001-certified EMS (Environmental Management System), you realise the importance of the internal audit function in both preparing the EMS for audit and sustaining performance requirements after the audit. Many people, like those who do not comprehend the value of the internal audit process required by ISO 9001 and other management standards, do not understand the value of the internal audit process in ISO 14001.
Key Stages in the Internal EMS Audit
This ISO 14001 internal audit procedure, works equally well when applied to the ISO 14001 environmental management system (EMS), however the emphasis is significantly different. Here's how the approach differs for internal audits of environmental management systems.
- The Audit Schedule: The first step, like with any good internal audit process for any management system, is to create an overall timetable of when you intend to audit each process that will be evaluated for system conformance. The cycle for this is frequently a year, but it may be whatever you choose, and the frequency of audits on any given process is tied to criteria such as the process's environmental value and historical audit conformity. If you have a process that has crucial environmental characteristics, you should examine it more frequently than one that has only a little impact on the environment. Employees and managers should have access to the audit schedule since you don’t want to have a surprise audit.
- Make the Process Audit Plan: After confirming the audit with the process owner, the auditor can begin making preparations for the audit itself. A review of the process is essential for this, particularly understanding the environmental variables linked with the process. This is the primary distinction between an internal audit for a QMS and an internal audit for an EMS. While a QMS audit will look at a process and how well it is performing against the plans for the company's product or service, an EMS audit will look at how well the process is working against the plans for the environmental issues involved with the process. A solid audit plan will ensure that you seek all of the necessary data to support these process plans.
- Start Performing the Audit: The first thing to note about completing the audit is that you are not utilising it to determine the legal compliance of the process. While a compliance ISO 14001 audit is a good concept and often a legal requirement, it is not the purpose of the internal audit program. This technique is also included in ISO 14001 section 4.5.2. The internal audit involves comparing the process to the environmental plans that the corporation provided for the process. When applicable, are the environmental elements monitored? Are any relevant environmental operating controls in place and being maintained? Are nonconformities, corrective actions, and preventive actions against the process being addressed? In brief, you are determining whether the process satisfies the anticipated requirements.
- Audit Reporting: An EMS process audit, like all audits, is practically worthless if it is not correctly reported. If the personnel involved in the process are performing well, they must be informed. If there are issues, staff must be aware of them so that they can be addressed and resolved. Opportunities for improvement uncovered during the audit must be given to process employees, who must examine their worth in making their process better. These are the key ways that a firm can acquire value from the internal audit process, and if they are not effectively reported, this value can be lost.
- Monitor the Audit Issues and Improvements: Following up, like corrective and preventative action, is one of the least well-executed aspects of the internal audit process. If there is no closed loop to follow up on the audit's actions and opportunities, the value of identifying them in the first place is gone. Making certain that a previously recognised problem is genuinely repaired can help avoid reporting the same problem repeatedly. Use follow-up to improve your internal audits.