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A Practical
Checklist for
ISO 14000

by Russell V. Thornton

The ISO 14001 standard, which specifies requirements for a comprehensive environmental management system, was formally published by the International Organization for Standardization on Sept. 1, 1996. The standard enables organizations to formulate policies and objectives within a structured framework while taking into account legislative requirements, plant-specific environmental concerns and public issues.

ISO 14001 specifies the following EMS components:

 Environmental policy definition

 Environmental planning

 EMS implementation and operational control

 Assessing conformity to the standard's requirements and undertaking corrective action in the case of nonconformity

 EMS management review

The environmental policy must be appropriate to the nature and scale of the organization's activities, products and services. It must include a commitment to continual improvement, pollution prevention and compliance with relevant environmental legislation and regulations.

Planning focuses on actions and activities that initiate, maintain and promote the environmental policy. An organization identifies significant environmental impacts associated with its operation as well as pertinent laws and regulations.

A typical implementation plan utilizes existing systems whenever possible. The following checklist outlines the process:

 Review the current ISO 14001 standard to determine requirements. Familiarity with the standard will help an organization maintain its primary focus of registration: environmental aspects and impacts, objectives and targets, operational control, policy, monitoring and measurement, and continual improvement. It helps to thoroughly understand the definitions given in the standard and to remember that appropriate conformance to the standard must be demonstrated to others.

 Identify an ISO 14000 process owner on-site. Select a management representative, as required by the standard. This individual may also serve as the EMS' champion and key process builder.

 Identify all sites, processes and functions with special requirements or impacts relevant to ISO 14000. As part of the registration strategy, and in order to distinguish environmental aspects and impacts, all of the organization's products, services or activities must be identified. These might include operational or manufacturing activities, engineering and design, product-related environmental aspects and shared areas. Reclamation or remediation sites also may count as part of the site or organization.

 Define and document a matrix of applicable policies and/or procedures. Every organization has some existing safety, health, environmental, human resources and quality procedures, policies and practices. Some examples include wastewater treatment procedures, air emissions monitoring, mandatory training, corrective-action systems, noise monitoring and leak detection. Decide which of these procedures requires inclusion in the EMS.

 Develop internal training materials and instructional methods. Identify individuals at every relevant function and level whose activities could potentially impact the environment and then provide them with additional environmental training.

 Train existing internal auditors and relevant personnel in ISO 14000. The organization can use its current quality or environmental auditors, but they will require training in the standard itself as well as auditing within an EMS.

 Develop communication methods to promote ISO 14000 within and outside the facility. The organization must communicate its environmental policy to all employees. It also should develop a plan for responding to external interests such as community associations, customer complaints and so forth.

 Implement all new or changed procedures, and document evidence of implementation during an internal audit. It does no good to collect documented procedures if they sit on a shelf. The organization must demonstrate that the EMS is implemented and effective.

 Rectify all nonconformities with the ISO 14001 standard. Use the data obtained through internal EMS audits of key areas to gauge the system's effectiveness and determine if any changes are necessary. The registrar will require the organization to complete one cycle of an internal audit and management review before the registration process can begin. The registrar may ask to review this documentation and the corrective and preventive action taken.

 Plan the registration audit by writing a scope statement and strategy for certification. A scope statement lists all sites, areas, activities, products or services subject to the certification audit and that also will appear on the ISO 14001 certificate issued to the organization.

An organization must decide if more than one site will be registered under a multisite certification or if each individual unit or site will seek certification separately. It must also decide if there will be limitations, such as the exclusion of certain products, services or geographical areas. Consider the following questions when developing the scope statement:

  • Has the organization developed a controllable procedure to identify the environmental aspects of its activities, products or services?
  • Have the concepts of control and influence consistently and effectively been applied to the procedure?
  • Has the organization effectively applied the procedure, and has it identified all the obvious environmental aspects?
  • Have all the obvious environmental impacts -- both actual and potential -- related to the organization's environmental aspects been identified?
  • Are the criteria for evaluation significance relevant, appropriate and consistently applied? That is, have all significant environmental impacts been classified as such?
  • When setting environmental objectives and targets, are the environmental aspects identified that are relevant to the environmental impacts?
  • Has the information been updated?

    Organizations should create a checklist applicable to the ISO 14000 standard as they plan for registration. They must identify environmental aspects and impacts in a way that is clear to the registrar. Because the registrar itself will use a checklist, prudent organizations are well-advised to do the same.

    About the author

    Russell V. Thornton is manager of environmental certification for Det Norske Veritas, one of five U.S. registrars accredited to certify organizations to ISO 14001.


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