When it comes to figuring out how often and how many (audits, not adult beverages), it is helpful to remember that this not a ritual you do to fend off evil spirits, like vampires (and/or auditors).
Unlike rituals - stabbing voodoo dolls, sacrificing virgins (auditors) or bouts of heavy drinking - internal audits give you measurable data about environmental performance.
Ok, ok, I had you until that last part where I started to sound like a textbook. To clear up any confusion, here’s how Huggy Bear would say it: “Word on the street is, audits tell you what’s goin’ down!”
That’s right, internal audits enable the lonely, red-headed step-child environmental manager (no, a longer title does NOT equal more pay) to get in the loop and find out what’s really going on outside their dark little corner of the office, otherwise known as the broom closet.
What may be the most upsetting to some is that without a required number of audits, it is nearly impossible to plan an avoidance strategy, not that folks won’t still try. Here’s a good example: “If there is no requirement about how often you must audit, is auditing the entire system once every three years often enough?”
Geez! Don’t strain yourself! No, this would not be acceptable. You would fail to meet the requirement to base planning on previous results and environmental importance, not to mention it’s just silly! Audits are your window on the world; do you really want to fly blind for 3 years?
Avoidance strategies like this reflect a failure to see value in auditing. If auditing is something that is done only under extreme duress, you are missing the point of having an EMS. These attempts to side-step "extra work" may also reveal a fear of finding out that things really aren’t working and then having to pass that information along to managers. Ignorance is bliss, right?
I know it’s scary to show your soft underbelly to managers, but if environmental performance equals your personal performance as EMR, you have MUCH bigger problems (See “Taming Your Inner Scapegoat - An Owner’s Manual for Environmental Professionals” – coming soon!)
Remember, EMS is top-down: the buck stops with top management and they drive the system (not the EMR), so if something is not working because of inadequate resources, they are required to provide them. Audit data helps to create an accurate picture of performance; one that you show to your managers so you can get the resources you need: i.e., money, people, cash, equipment, $$$$, time, bucks, training, money, money, money). In other words, audit data is a lot like the PIN to your ATM card: you gotta have it before you can get the dough (or d‘oh!)
You know the old phrase "Money talks..."? Well, you want to make sure your audit data isn't the equivalent of the second half of that famous saying.
So hopefully now you understand that audit data are your "friends." But you may still be asking how audit frequency comes into play.
Do you want your audit data to show managers:
a) A one-time snapshot?
b) Trends that have developed over time?
If your answer was “b,” you get 1000 points on the EMS-O-Meter toward expert-EMR status. Congratulations! You know that the messenger relaying tomorrow’s potential problems is better off than the bearer of yesterday’s bad news.
As I have said before, the standard intends for you to do internal audits whenever you need the feedback they provide. So now that you know how to schedule audits, the trick is getting them done… AND getting them done right!! (See “Bad Audits and the Auditors Who Love Them” – coming soon!)