Why Do I Need to Follow Up Audit Actions?

Our previous audits explain what environmental audits are (read here) and describe the benefits of carrying them out (read here).  But once your audit has been completed, what are you meant to do then?  Read on to find out.

Audit outcomes

A beneficial environmental audit should provide you with examples of good practice (where you met the criteria of the audit scope) and areas where you can improve.  Depending on the type of audit and its objectives, those improvements may vary in their format.  Non-conformities will be where you have not met the requirements in an area of your audit scope and could be split into major and minor non-conformities.  Major non-conformities are likely to be breaches in legislation or process and could potentially lead to audit failure, whereas minor non-conformities could be paperwork not filled out correctly as an example.  Additionally, you may have recommendations, which are areas where you haven’t necessarily failed but could be improved e.g. extending objectives to further improve environmental performance.

Managing actions

You should take your audit actions and assess their priority.  Any actions that require immediate attention should be dealt with as soon as possible e.g. if pollution is occurring or likely to occur.  Other actions can be prioritised accordingly according to their urgency and resources required to rectify (e.g. if substantial funds are required, you may need to go through an approval process).  You should develop an action plan that details how you will address the issue, who is ultimately responsible and a timeline for completing the action.  To assist in your next audit, keeping a live action plan that is updated as you complete your actions will be useful and revisiting your action plan on a regular basis will help you stay focussed and ensure you progress.

Ongoing improvements

Once you have addressed the issues it is important for you to assess to ensure that the actions you have put in place have been successful.  If there are any areas of recurrence or where actions have not fully addressed the issue, you should reassess and put further actions in place.  If you have completed your actions and they have been successful, you can look into other areas of improvement.  Once you have met compliance requirements, you can look at improving environmental performance and progressing towards your environmental objectives.

Following an environmental audit, you should review your report and assess the recommendations.  You should prioritise those actions that require immediate action and progress through your recommendations.  It is important to consistently work through your actions and refer back to them regularly, updating as required.  At your next audit, this will be assessed and evidence of progress against your action plan will be essential for a good audit score.