There are several approaches corporations use to define their annual EHS audit schedule. Traditional approaches have included a fixed rotational approach and auditing target sites on a fixed timing schedule (i.e. once /3 years or once/5 years). This time-fixed approach requires companies to ‘right-size’ their audit resources based on the physical expanse of their operations. This approach can be demanding on resources and might not create value-added results. With ever-increasing demands on company resources, there is growing interest in a risk-based approach in selecting corporate sites to be audited. A risk based audit approach allows companies to understand the current risks and the effectiveness of the current in-place controls at their sites that are present the most risk. Additionally, a risk-based approach allows management to ‘target’ their resources to specific operations to assess and evaluate risk.
For a corporation with varied facility operations and processes, a fixed audit rotation schedule might not adequately reveal current risks or reveal them in a timely way. A physically large site, with complex processes, employing hundreds of employees and having multiple environmental permits, may present a significantly greater risk level when compared to a physically small site of twenty employees, with simple process and few environmental permits or impacts. The fixed rotation schedule would apply the same amount of resource (i.e. a 2 week audit once every 3 years) to both sites. When a corporation has tens or hundreds of sites around the world, or has operations that vary significantly site to site, auditing based on risk versus a fixed rotation audit schedule can be an effective way to successfully apply the company's EHS auditing resources in identifying and evaluating risk.
Over the last 5 years a corporate assessment team has developed a risked-based audit site-selection process. The process has been found effective in leading to assessment of sites that have presented EHS risk to the corporation. In addition, the risk based audit approach has created additional benefits including; creating an organizational focus on EHS risk versus strictly compliance, prioritizing efforts and resources based on risk, creating effective site self-assessments. This risk based focus approach has continued to improve sustainability and accountability. As sites and corporations continue to drive down injury incidents and rates a risk based approach defines where resources should be applied. It's important to remember that the absence of injury does not mean the absence of risk.