Environmental compliance should be a priority for every company, but an EHS management system helps …
Companies that have not upgraded their EHS management system to ISO 14001:2015 could find that they not only no longer have a valid certification but also that they’re overlooking key environmental compliance issues.
More than 20 years ago, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) introduced a set of standards specifically written to promote effective environmental management systems in companies and organizations. Originally created in 1996, ISO 14001 was one of the first standards to set out requirements for companies wanting to address key environmental concerns.
These concerns included the usual environmental suspects, including air pollution, water and sewage issues, soil contamination, climate change mitigation and adaptation and resource use and efficiency. Also key to the ISO approach was the need for companies to show continuous improvement in their systems and approach to identified environmental issues.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at specific functions within Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Management Systems that help streamline compliance with ISO 14001:2015. In addition, we will consider how a uniform structure based on an established Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) quality management process means that companies can use a set of common tools to address the requirements of multiple standards.
What is ISO 14001?
ISO 14001 was first revised by the non-governmental standards agency in 2004, and the consensus was that the benefits that it brought to company working practices were relevant to the climate (no pun intended) at the time. The standard was then revised again in 2015 but, after 2018, only those companies certified to the 2015 version will be valid.
ISO 14001:2015 has the same high-level structure adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for all standards and revisions moving forward. The overall goal is to help companies adopt integrated management systems, making standards compatible so companies can more easily obtain multiple certifications.
According to the ISO, there are currently more than 362,000 companies with ISO 14001 certification. The organization’s latest report from 2018 noted the number of certificates grew by five percent over the previous year, creating a growing need for companies to proactively integrate the requirements of ISO 14001:2015 into daily activities.
Leverage Quality Management Processes
Environmental management and overall stewardship of the planet has been a hot topic in the private sector for many years. Public awareness of the role that companies can play has grown, so it makes sense that organizations should be aware of how quality management and environmental processes can be integrated for maximum impact.
Step 1: Plan
Within the new high-level structure of ISO 14001:2015, sections 4 through 6 represent the planning phase of the PDCA cycle. To meet the requirements of these sections in ISO 14001, organizations can utilize functions such as:
- Document control: These tools help create formalized processes for managing the review and distribution of key protocols, plans and procedures.
- Regulatory compliance tracking: Compliance tracking tools help you identify regulatory and standard requirements that don’t currently have controls (or don’t have adequate controls).
- Environmental aspects, objectives and targets: During the planning phase, companies need to outline how they will monitor environmental outputs and resource use.
- Management of change: Whenever you make changes to people, processes or equipment, planning needs to verify that changes don’t introduce unacceptable risk.
- Risk management: One of the biggest changes to new ISO standards is an increased focus on risk-based thinking. Risk management tools help you comply with these requirements, going beyond risk-based thinking to provide a closed-loop process for understanding and mitigating risk.
Step 2: Do
Sections 7 and 8 of the revised ISO standard focus on support and operations. Tools that will help companies meet the requirements of these sections include:
- Employee training tracking software to ensure compliance with training courses and measure competency
- Incident management system to report, investigate and follow-up on workplace incidents and injuries
- Equipment and asset maintenance tools to proactively monitor calibration and repairs to equipment, helping prevent incidents and costly mistakes
- Supplier management tracking to ensure compliance of suppliers and subcontractors with key EHS policies and requirements
- Emergency response planning tools to minimize environmental damage arising from emergency situations
Step 3: Check
Monitoring your results so you can make adjustments is central to the ISO approach to environmental management, and this is highlighted in many other continuous improvement methodologies. Monitoring is further explored in section 9 of ISO 14001, which focuses on performance evaluation.
EHS management system tools that are critical to leverage in this respect include:
- Audits: Audit management system tools can help you create (and stick to) your audit plan, linking audit items directly to the corrective action system to generate a more complete compliance history.
- Reporting: Centralized reporting capabilities in your EHS management system can help streamline management reviews. Reporting and analytics tools make it easy to draw insight from EHS data in a timely manner.
Step 4: Act
The final step in the PDCA process is using results from the monitoring process to make course corrections as needed. Corrective action tools within the EHS management system help you do this, allowing you to:
- Automatically route corrective action requests through review, root cause analysis, action taken and verification.
- Create customized workflows and review processes for different types of corrective action.
- Escalate overdue requests to supervisors so that problems don’t get overlooked.
Continuous improvement matters
It goes without saying that environmental concerns are always in the news. Over the last decade, companies have come under pressure to take a more proactive stance in terms of how their products or services effect the environment, and ISO 14001:2015 doubles down on concerns that were aired way back in the 1990s.
On the flip side, accredited certification is not a requirement. Some companies don’t necessarily pursue official certification, instead using ISO standards to create their own mix-and-match management systems.
The caveat is that third-party certification from a body such as the ISO is a way of showing customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that a company has identified environmental stewardship as an ongoing focus. Either way, automated EHS management tools can provide a framework for improving efficiency, standardization and visibility—all hallmarks of operational excellence.
ETQ’s Reliance 2019 SaaS software is a quality management system that provides companies with not only industry-leading ease-of-use and powerful flexibility, but also the critical processes that drive excellence and deliver value.
To find out how ETQ can move your company along its quality journey, please contact us. Alternatively, request a demo!