Easier EH&S Auditing
- By Valerie Weadock
- Oct 01, 2003
IF you type the phrase "EHS audit" into any of the Internet's more popular
search engines, it just might take you longer to read through and decipher the
search results than to actually perform a simple audit. Instead of finding
information on the auditing procedure, you'll be linked to the Web sites of
hundreds of companies willing to help you with your every EH&S auditing
From training to software to actually doing the audit for you, EH&S
auditing products and services appear to be big business. And why not? While
there's not a specific law that requires companies to perform EH&S audits,
they make good business sense. Ensuring a facility is in compliance with company
policies and governmental regulations protects the company from expensive
lawsuits, protects employees working at that facility, and can potentially
reduce waste disposal costs. In addition to financial motivators, EH&S
audits demonstrate a commitment to the environment, which not only helps the
planet, but can be great for PR, too.
But professional EH&S auditors and auditing staff will be the first to
admit it's a difficult task to comply fully at all times. Laws, operations, and
employees constantly change. The audits themselves are time-consuming and
require detailed assessment, recording, action, and follow-up measures, not to
mention a paper trail that can be miles long. Fortunately, technology better
than an Internet search has come to the rescue with software products to aid at
every step of the process.
Several software products, including Dakota
Auditor by Dakota Software, are unique in helping a user determine which
regulations apply to a particular facility. Dakota Auditor's Decision Tree
LogicSM guides the user to answer a series of screening questions
from which the system generates relevant checklists and regulatory references
that apply to the facility under review. Each checklist question instantaneously
links to the specific regulations. Updated regularly to reflect regulatory
changes, this feature assures the user that no relevant regulations escape
his/her attention and saves large amounts of time.
Designed to be a research and teaching tool, Dakota Auditor records findings
with instant "red flags" for non-compliance items. It enables the user to
maintain a regulatory profile that is automatically updated after each audit so
improvement can be measured over time. The program systematically points out
deficiencies across many facilities, which is specifically helpful for baseline
ISO 14000 audits. Designed to be intuitive, Dakota Auditor is simple and easy to
master. The company plans to release a Web-based version by the end of this
year. The program is currently only available in English.
Easier Assessment, Paper Reduction
Traditional EH&S auditing is
conducted by an auditor who manually gathers audit information on paper and then
combines that information into a meaningful report. The paper-based process can
be time-consuming, fraught with errors, and require a constant duplication of
Software programs such as Q5 Systems Limited's Q5 AIMS can help to eliminate
the paper burden. Q5 AIMS works with all types of field-enabled hardware, such
as Palm OS and Microsoft Windows Pocket PC, virtually eliminating the need for
handwritten notes and input errors. Able to integrate any type of questionnaire,
checklist, or form, the program replaces binders, notebooks, and clipboards. Q5
also allows you to visually document your audit, inspection, or observation
findings with a digital camera and link or embed the photos within your
Featuring a Web-based application, the Q5 system can be accessed from
anywhere in the world and can be integrated with a company's own secure servers.
An included calculator allows users to score audit questions, yielding a report
card that can be used to set goals and measure progress over time. Somewhat
complex, Q5 can take hours to weeks to implement, depending on the platform.
Tracking Corrective Actions
An audit isn't over once a facility has
been assessed and problem areas identified--it is pointless without corrective
actions and follow-up. Syntex Management Systems' IMPACT Safety® Performance
Management System and other, similar software products can help you track
corrective actions from the original identification of a problem through
complete remediation. The program can initiate and attach multiple corrective
actions to any audit item result, assigning those actions priority levels,
target dates, status, and responsible parties. It also can automate
notifications, reminders, approvals, closure, and verifications tailored to an
IMPACT Safety is designed to be configurable and does not require code
changes for most desired customizations, reducing maintenance costs. It can be
integrated with an existing IT system but must be configured for specific
regulatory compliance. While the program does not currently include wireless
capabilities, a Web-based version is available.
A Business Essential
In a 2000 report commissioned by The Auditing
Roundtable entitled "State of the Profession: A Survey," professor Richard
Ratliff notes EH&S auditing "reduces legal liability and improves both
operating and financial performance." In a survey conducted prior to that
report, the majority of U.S. businesses that responded, including some with more
than $1 billion in revenue, had or planned to implement audit programs.
It seems EH&S auditing programs are or soon may be essential to business.
With these and numerous other money-saving software solutions available, you
don't have to be a billion-dollar company to have one.
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
Valerie Weadock is a former associate editor of Occuaptional Health & Safety