How to avoid a poor environmental inspection
When auditing, I see a lot of difference in how environmental inspections and assessments are conducted and how effective they are. Many are “tick ‘n’ flick” exercises, which is generally ineffective, while others are conducted well.
This post offers some ways to help you conduct more effective environmental inspection.
Tip #1: Training
The person doing the inspection needs to be knowledgeable in the environmental legal requirements (criteria) they are inspecting against, and must be given sufficient time to conduct the inspection. While it might seem like a good idea to ask someone from another department to conduct an inspection to get a different perspective, this person still needs to be aware of what they are looking for and have the competence to make good judgements.
Tip #2: Checklists
The use of checklists is, perhaps, the main factor affecting how well environmental inspections are done. If a checklist is not used then you are relying on the inspector’s memory, and if a checklist is not detailed enough it may affect the quality of the inspection. These are both poor practice.
Reduce the size of your checklist. Try not to cover everything in every inspection. The smaller the number of items on the checklist, the more likely the inspection will be effective.
Make sure your checklist items spell out exactly what needs to be checked. For example, “Check bunding” is too general, “Check bunding for each chemical area” is an improvement, but “For each chemical area, check bund capacity and integrity are not affected (e.g. rainwater or debris in bund, damage to bund wall etc)” is even better. These questions give some guidance on what exactly is required to be checked.
Tip #3: Recording data
Ask the inspector to record data rather than just tick a box. This will improve the quality of the inspections. Also ask open questions such as “What issues with bund capacity or integrity (if any) were identified?” rather than “Any bund issues identified?”.
Tip #4: Signing off
Make sure your inspections are dated and signed off by the inspector. It might also be helpful to preface the signature line with text such as “I confirm this legal compliance inspection was completed to the best of my ability”.
Tip #5: Addressing noncompliances
After the inspection is completed, don’t just fix the noncompliances. Try to establish why they occurred and address the cause (using the organisation’s “Nonconformity and Corrective Action” procedure).
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