In a recent blog post on the National Association of EHS Managers (NAEM) site (http://greentie.naem.org/2009/05/26/ehs-auditing-in-trying-times/) Frank Brandauer posed several view points about EHS audits and the future of the function. One viewpoint struck home with me; “With the rise of EHS Management Systems and related System Audits, the actual need for Compliance Audits has been reduced”. It is our experience that Safety/Environmental Management Systems and the subsequent audits/reviews strengthen and sustain compliance. We’ve seen the results in both safety and ergonomics management systems.
Checking on progress toward improvement goals, and compliance to regulations, is a critical activity for any successful business. William Claude Dukenfield* stated it simply, “There comes a time in the affairs of men when we must grab the bull by the tail and face the situation.” Managing EHS is dynamic, changing daily with business issues, orders, technology and staffing changes. To be successful in EHS one must “face the situation” frequently and objectively. (*also known as W.C. Fields)
As industries and agencies move toward more similar or global standards, auditing for compliance to applicable requirements become one integrated step in the overall process/system for managing EHS. The System ensures compliance at each step rather than driving is by a single event (compliance audit). Organizations that align their ergonomics improvement process with the EHS Management System or continuous improvement process are successful. Successful is defined as effective, efficient, sustainable over time, and compliant.
So Frank, in response to the question you posed; “Given the maturity of many audit programs and the current economic and regulatory situation, is it time for a change?”. The answer is yes. Organizations that manage EHS/ergonomics as system proactively ensure compliance, but more importantly they anticipate and manage risk.
Contributed by Walt Rostykus CPE, CIH, CSP