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Improve your EMS

EMS – Environmental management systems and AuditMentor’s Top 10 Tips – The Second Set of Tips in the Series
John Marsden provides hints and tips for improving your management system. He is a leading certification auditor who works for a number of international certification bodies. His audit experience dates back to 1990 and has carried out hundreds of audits to ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001. Industries include oil and gas, power generation, consultancies, architect offices, holiday resorts, chemical plants, engineering and many other business activities across twenty five countries of the world.
Revising your Management System to Meet the New Standard

1. Start first by looking at the Big Picture. with regard management systems, many companies now have two or three and they should now be integrated. Quite often however, they are stand alone. So now is a great time to think about integration around a common framework which is now set out by ISO Guide 83 (High Level Structure to Management Systems). Start thinking how you can achieve this. Involve other departments such as Quality and H&S in joint meetings to explore how this can be done. The suite of ISO standards that are most relevant to companies are ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and the developing ISO 45001 are following the same structure, which facilitates integration.

2. Streamline your EMS. All too often whilst I am conducting certification audits, I see systems that are onerous and top-heavy. Like an overgrown flower bed, they are full of clutter which has no purpose. The really useful processes and procedures are hidden under a rapid growing plethora of nettle-like add-ons and requirements, mostly which have little use to the business it is serving. I see this across many different organisation types. The quest for oversized spreadsheets full of useless data simply saps the energy of an organisation. They were probably created by people with other agendas who sought haven in complexity and jargon.

3. Work from the Top Down. Unless you have the full and wholehearted backing of the senior management of your organisation, it will be difficult to push past obstacles that litter the route towards the perfect management system. The new standards (through the implementation of Guide 83) will bring a much needed focus on getting top management behind the system. In order to do that, your revised management system has to generate value and relevance to the business. The business management system operating in our lean times has to be sharp, relevant, support their business objectives and be something that management sees as indispensible.

4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Business Park. The business management system is the equivalent to the score that an orchestra uses in order to generate the amazing sound generated when 40 – 50 people are playing in synchrony. In the case of the business management system, the output is a slick and harmonious process which transforms inputs into outputs with the greatest efficiency possible. The ISO 9001 parallel is clear but by doing this with the least impact on Health, Safety and Environmental damage, then utopia is achieved. Sit back and listen to the great feedback from shareholders, customers and the public when this is achieved. Think about this when working to improve your management system. Now is a great time to think in these terms for the good of your business.

5. What have the Romans ever done for us? Like it or not, the Romans provide an example of organisational excellence that is unparalleled in history. Their skill at organisation and setting responsibilities and accountabilities provided a mechanism for establishing a vast empire. I see this when auditing companies who conduct project work in difficult terrain, with complex logistical problems. Usually their EMS is delivering on all fronts (they have to). If people who work within your organisation have not accepted responsibilities assigned to them then problems will arise. Better to apportion this in a democratic and auditable process rather than a visit to the Colosseum.

6. Apollo 13 and the Communication Story. The critical situation left little room for small talk and the eventual development of the re-breather helped save the astronauts lives. Getting the key messages across can mean the difference between success and failure. As an auditor, I often see minutes of meetings chaired by skilled managers who are able to focus on key issues and excellent exchange of valuable information. I also see minutes (management reviews spring to mind) where the ISO manager provides a glossy and detailed overview of the system. That’s fine, but valuable time is then lost which could have been focused on issues, actions and timescales. Senior managers want the info, but they want to get things sorted out quickly and efficiently.

7. A Helping Hand with the Legislation. HSE managers are usually faced with the ongoing task of keeping their registers current and relevant. Often during an audit I find that this task is addressed by reference to a third party supplier of legal information. The problem here is that this is mostly generic and is not tailored to your organisation. Many times, a finding is raised because the organisation has not transposed those laws that definitely apply from the large generic list sent to them by their provider. Compliance obligations is a new ISO term which extends the scope of this element. It includes anything that top management decide to follow (trade body initiatives, government schemes, law etc etc). This draws the management system ever closer to the heart of the business and top management’s decision making processes.

8. The Times They Are a’ Changin. Dylan was right. ISO has recognised that many organisations keep documents, records and procedures on web servers hosted remotely. The way in which information is retained within an EMS and is made available to users is changing. As a result of this, ISO standards have recycled the words ‘procedure’ and ‘record’ and now refer to them as ‘documented information’. Whilst this may seem like wordplay, this enables emails, web databases and stuff from any source or format to become an integral part of the management system.

9. The Ascent of Man and Competence. In the old days, everyone went on a training course, after which they were considered to be ready for the job. Development of processes that measured the progress of competency of an individual was limited, probably because it was not as easy as sitting someone down with a test and a pass mark. The ISO standards do not refer to training very much, and when they do, it is part of a process which defines competence. So, in future, your management system should include documented information on how competency is assessed and progressed for all relevant roles within the organisation.

10. Risks and Rewards. The new standards include a section that requires businesses to identify the issues that could affect the management system and it’s ability to deliver its intended outcomes. This point is still being debated, but to me, the issue is clear. Identify the areas such as any issues that relate to people, time, resources, complexity of activities, pressure from interested parties, geographical diversity, language, attitudes, history and other factors from the industry you are in. That will enable your top management to identify what issues could cause disruption to the system, and for them to address the issues through actions. Simple innit!

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