MANAGING YOUR EH&S RISKS THROUGH AUDITING IS LIKE GOING FOR YOUR ANNUAL PHYSICAL – First in a series of 5 Reply

What do you think when you hear the word “Audit”? How about “Annual Physical”?

Run, Hide, Panic, Ouch, …No Problem!

On the way to my annual physical, I was thinking about the similarities to having an audit. It is normal to feel a certain amount of stress when preparing for, or participating in, any type of audit, even one of your personal health. Yet, we still have to have our “check-ups”.  Why? One reason is so that we can identify and address smaller issues before they become bigger concerns.

By definition, an audit is “a systematic and independent examination.” The types of audits and reasons to conduct one are varied, but the value of having one can make a significant difference toward risk management and continual improvement of your Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S) programs and systems.

What if we look at undergoing an audit much like we would an annual physical examination? Like your annual physical, EH&S audits should be scheduled periodically and some level of review should be conducted at least annually.

For Annual Physical, Doctor may: For EH&S Audit, Auditor may:
Check vitals to confirm within normal ranges:   weight, blood pressure, bloodwork Check key performance indicators, review metrics, compliance and conformance status
Confirm any medications continue to be at effective doses Review systems, procedures, training for effectiveness
Review any issues or concerns Identify areas of actual or potential non-compliance and/or system concerns
Confirm ongoing healthy diet and exercise activities occurring Corrective and Preventive actions
Discuss Preventive Measures to Avoid Future Problems Identify and benchmark against latest best practices

The audit should be more than the review of a checklist for compliance…it should diagnose the overall health of your EH&S program by checking:

  • Are basic metrics telling the true story of the health of your EH&S programs and systems, like tracking chemical usage and storage, energy usage, water usage, air emissions, incidents …is it accurate, effective and helping you maintain compliance and demonstrate improvements? Should you consider a more efficient way to track and communicate information to your team?
  • Are corrective action plans still timely and effective? Should you change your approach? Maybe the issue you were trying to fix is all set and now you need to refocus. How do you ensure that your team has found the root cause of the issue and has not just applied a band-aid that is only a temporarily fix? Does your 25-year old wastewater treatment system really have the capacity to handle the new process being relocated from New Jersey?
  • Are there any issues that you have been ignoring that you need to prioritize? Are you sure you don’t need that air permit in order for your company to grow?
  • Are there potential non-compliance issues brewing throughout your EH&S system, but you are so wrapped up in it you can’t see them? Has training become ineffective and reports been going in just a little bit late?
  • Are there new methods, technologies, or Best Management Practices that if you take the time to implement now would reduce risks in the future? Are you a “team of one” or has your team become isolated and doesn’t have the opportunity to share Best Management Practices?

Just as having routine “check-ups” take courage because you may hear things which result in changes to your life routines, it also takes leadership to examine your EH&S programs and systems. In the end, however, seeking feedback and looking for opportunities to improve will be beneficial for your company, your career, and your peace of mind.

Annual physicals help you reduce health risks and put you on a path for a better quality of life. An EH&S audit program directly supports risk management by providing an organization with data to prevent financial loss and reduce an organization’s EH&S risks.

Ideally, just as we hope our physical goes smoothly, there are times when we have to visit the doctor before we face a larger health issue. Similarly, an organization should also be prepared for an audit at any time; often through a combination of internal and external efforts to ensure processes continue to run smoothly. These efforts can come from many individuals and places, and it can be difficult to ensure accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of ongoing efforts. Consider a system like the EHS-Dashboard™ to store actionable information and organize findings. Completing proactive EH&S audits can ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of operations, the reliability and integrity of operational information, and compliance with laws and regulations. These factors can have a direct relationship to an organization’s financial performance and ability to meet its overall strategic goals.

Annual physicals often lead to referrals to specialists to focused areas of concern. Over the next few month’s CAPACCIO will provide eBlasts on different types of audits relating to focused issues to include ISO 14001:2015, process safety, wastewater treatment evaluations, and air permit assessments.

This won’t hurt a bit….

For more information, contact Lucy Servidio, CHMM, TURP, at 508-970-0033 ext. 114 or lservidio@capaccio.com or Colleen Walsh, CHMM, at 508-970-0033 ext. 129 or cwalsh@capaccio.com.

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