Identifying Regulated Activities & Materials
An environmental audit is a periodic, systematic, documented process to identify whatever the client wants to identify. That’s where the planning comes in. The audit can be aimed at determining the regulations that might apply to any activity. It can focus on one process or to all the processes in a facility. One of the major purposes for an audit is to identify regulated activity. Since the processes in a plant use raw materials, the audit may also identify regulated materials. Audits can assess the risks from regulated and unregulated materials and practices. Safety data sheets provide the best source of information on hazardous chemicals and hazardous components in every item purchased by the plant; therefore, a wealth of information is readily available to the auditor. Many regulations may apply to any one activity, so the audit will also identify all regulations that are related to the processes and the materials used in those processes.
Managing Beyond Compliance
It has been our experience that an environmental audit need not only focus on state and federal regulations. The organization may have internal requirements or customer requirements that it has agreed to apply to its activities. The audit can identify legal and other requirements that are very important to the organization but that go beyond the regulatory requirements. Many companies adopt industry standards, such as the Responsible Care® program or the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Conformity to such standards may be a requirement for doing business in various types of industry. Whether these requirements are contractual, internal policy, or regulatory, they create the standards adopted by the organization. Ultimately, the audit will assess the organization’s conformity to these standards, thus, helping to establish facility specific green initiatives and the implementation of sustainability practices.
Plan, Do, Check, Act
Armed with the audit findings, the organization can identify performance gaps and implement process changes to improve performance goals. At the client’s request, SESCO’s audit reports will recommend corrective action or methods of conformity for every audit finding of non-conformity. An audit should provide an organization with a path to improvement. Better performance may be as simple as switching from a regulated raw material to one that is a more sustainable option, like replacing an organic cleaning solution with one that is water-based. Processes themselves may be changed from one that is highly regulated to one that is less or even non-regulated, like changing from a spray-painting system to a powder coating system.
Make it Pay for Itself
The audit can be used to identify waste reduction opportunities. Waste is expensive. Eliminating waste improves profitability. A strong environmental audit program can identify process and efficiency improvement opportunities. Waste elimination, operating efficiency, and process improvements equate to cost control, avoidance of regulatory fines, and lower corrective action costs. These opportunities ultimately present potential cost savings for the organization. By focusing the audit on finding these opportunities, an organization can expect savings that will pay for the audit program many times over, by promoting excellent environmental management protocols, overall waste reduction, and enforcing sustainability efforts.
Contact any of SESCO’s Compliance Division auditors for a consultation – SESCO’s staff includes Certified Professional Environmental Auditors (CPEA). We will happily visit your facility and discuss how a strong audit program can contribute mightily to your organizations continued success. SESCO group – Peace of Mind, Restored.