When your auditors are on-side and like you, you'll begin to see how the stress of an approaching audit will disappear. (Image credit: Juliana Coutinho)
Environmental auditors have it rougher than you think. Every day they have to deal with lousy data management, facilities in noncompliance with environmental permits, and they aren’t exactly a plant manager’s favorite visitor.
In fact, you probably shudder at just the thought of getting visited by an environmental auditor.
But here’s the thing: that environmental auditor is actually the person you want to be your best friend.
Look at an audit from the auditor's perspective
Being on great terms with environmental auditors from your federal or state environmental agencies should be your goal as an environmental manager.
You want that auditor to leave your facility thoroughly impressed and thinking “wow”.
Not only will it mean that your audit went well, but it means that they are more likely to think that you are not someone that needs to be continuously monitored.
The auditor has more than enough problems and will be forced to double check on cases they feel are suspect.
In ERA’s experience, there’s one way straight into your environmental auditor’s heart.
Environmental auditors spend all day staring at sloppy and mismanaged environmental data - Missing papers, failures to report, incorrect figures... environmental auditors have seen it and heard it all.
And it makes their job harder.
On top of that, it makes you look like you don’t care about your environmental compliance at all.
Even if your compliance history isn’t 100% perfect, auditors will still be on your side if you’ve got amazing documentation detailing your non-compliance. Having a Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEM) system in place can help you know down to the minute how you were out of compliance, but even just having all the proper documentation and notifications in place will earn you a lot of kudos.
Communicating your commitment
It shows that you are putting genuine effort into your compliance management, have responded appropriately, and consider your compliance an essential aspect of your business plan.
It’s no exaggeration to say that flawless record keeping will earn you the praise and respect of your auditors.
Here at ERA we've seen it firsthand.
Now don’t get the wrong idea: getting on your auditor’s good side isn’t about getting special treatment or having certain parts of your facility “overlooked” – far from it.
Building a strong relationship with environmental auditors is actually about full disclosure and total honesty.
Like any good working relationship, honesty is the best policy when it comes to audit management. In fact, you’re far better off admitting the mistakes your environmental auditor doesn’t catch than covering them up.
For example, if you suddenly discover that you have been under-reporting your VOC emissions for the last three years, your best bet is to self-report the difference to the EPA, or other environmental regulatory agency.
Often times, you’ll simply be thanked for your honesty and commitment to accurate reporting.
It proves that you don’t need to get fined to keep you environmentally-minded. It shows that you get it.
Now, on the other hand, if you try to hide your under-reporting and it later gets discovered during an EHS audit... huge fines and distrust.
Making Audit Management Pain Free
So how can you make getting environmental auditors on your side painless?
Isn’t all that record keeping and reporting a lot of work?
At ERA, we are all about environmental data automation, which definitely makes those tasks much easier and faster.
Environmental data collection and record keeping doesn’t have to be a pain, with the right tools.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because better environmental data management will also make your reporting less of a pain and will let you get back to the real work that you signed up for. Like making your plant more efficient, improving processes, and making your facility stand out.
Putting that little bit of extra work into your environmental data management makes the rest of your life easier.
And that definitely includes putting your best foot forward during audits.
About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+, LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog