Environmental audits can help identify strengths and weaknesses in your facility’s environmental management policies, procedures and systems. They are most often used to verify that processes and procedures are being followed or to benchmark progress since the last audit. And with the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fine increases, an internal audit can also identify areas that need work before the EPA inspector shows up.
There are certain documents you’ll want to pull out for and review during your environmental audits. These documents will help you understand what regulations your facility is subject to and what materials you have onsite, among other things.
Here are the six documents you should have ready before you begin an environmental audit and how they’ll help the process:
1. Maps & Floor Plans
Existing maps and floor plans offer a quick view of the facility and can be used to define the scope of an audit. If they haven’t been updated for a while, and processes have changed, they can also be a clue that plans and procedures might need a thorough review.
It’s common for facilities to have permits for everything from air emissions to wastewater treatment. Having a current copy of each permit allows auditors to verify that the facility is in compliance with the terms in each permit.
3. Inspection reports
Many environmental regulations require daily, weekly, monthly or “regular” inspections. The forms or checklists used during these inspections help prove that each inspection has been completed. Hazardous waste manifests, sampling data and other similar reports are additional tools that can help auditors determine diligence with recordkeeping requirements.
4. Chemical Lists
Maintaining a list of the raw materials and chemicals used onsite, as well as their locations and volumes, helps determine whether or not certain environmental regulations are applicable to the facility. It’s also a step for compliance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.
5. Plans & Procedures
Pull out environmental plans and procedures, best management practices and other documents to show how your facility is working to control and prevent spills and releases. For facilities subject to the EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) requirements, this could include the written prevention and emergency response programs. For others, it could be Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), contingency plans, emergency action plans or other similar documents.
6. Training Records
Employee training records, tests and certificates can be used to show that staff members have the knowledge and/or skills to perform assigned duties. They can also be used as proof of ongoing efforts to maintain and grow environmental programs at the facility.
Audits take time, but they’re valuable tools to determine compliance and benchmark environmental efforts that are being made. Having your paperwork in order before an audit begins helps the process run more smoothly and efficiently.