Do you have what it takes to become a competent ISO 14001 auditor?

During an audit lunch break an interesting conversation developed between myself and a management consultant who was acting as the management representative for a small company. He used to deliver in-company ISO 14001 auditor courses. Out of 10 delegates, in his opinion, only about 2 would be suitable to take on the role of ISO 14001 auditor. That meant that 80% would be unsuitable.

The reasons were as follows ;-

3 delegates didn’t want to become internal auditors, so there is absolutely no point in even trying to train them!

4 delegates didn’t have the enquiring mind required of an auditor, or able to join the dots to create a picture of how effectively the management system is functioning.

4 delegates were capable of assessing evidence, following audit trails and working out what deficiencies were present within a system, but only two of the four were individuals he would select as auditors.

The other two did not have the special abilities required – being approachable, fair, able to listen and yet (when required) be firm and in control of a situation. Also, they were opinionated and used their position as auditors to ride roughshod over people when the opportunity arose. Just what you don’t want to experience during an audit!

Auditing is meant to reveal just how well an ISO 14001 management system is performing. This can mean that uncomfortable truths have to be carefully unearthed and presented as audit findings. The auditor should develop these skills because few of us have them as a ready-made skillset. Reviews of performance by the auditor – what went well and what needs to be improved, is a continual process and should be encouraged after every audit.

Internal auditor training provides the initial understanding of how to conduct an audit, but experience coupled with review and improvement is the best way to become a proficient and competent ISO 14001 auditor.