Over the past 25 years, oil companies have been implementing environmental, health and safety (EHS) auditing and review programs which have resulted in positive benefits, but have required continual revisions to adapt to changing needs. Industry's EHS parameters and major incidents have been trending positively since these programs were initiated. These programs have resulted in an increased level of safety and environmental performance for most companies. However, the programs have undergone continual changes to meet the needs of the corporation, operating groups and stakeholders.

Audit programs have continued to change and evolve as regulations, demands of the public, technology and management philosophies have changed. Often, programs have been modified after major events, such as the Bhopal incident, or to conform to changes in governmental policies. Although the strategic goals have remained constant throughout time, the programs have continued to evolve to reflect both internal and external forces.

The key goals for the EHS auditing programs have been to:

  1. Manage risks effectively,

  2. Improve compliance,

  3. Increase awareness and understanding of EHS hazards,

  4. Improve public image,

  5. Provide assurance to executive management and

  6. Assist the facility manager to operate efficiently and safely.

This paper will explore the evolution of these different programs over the past twenty-five years and what we can expect in the new millennium. Management system audits have evolved from an informal internal review process to one, which in some countries, is now stipulated by international bodies. Compliance audits were once the domain of outside auditing firms, but are now successfully managed by facility personnel. Numerous non-government organizations (NGOs) are pressing for more accountability to the public. Several forms of audits have disappeared while other methods have come into widespread use. International organizations are now requiring accredited environmental auditors. These and other changes are explored in this paper.

The paper will review case histories of several companies’ EHS audit programs as they strive to determine the best type of program to enact for their circumstance. Examining past programs and their measure of success, which they enjoyed, can help plan future programs with a high probability of success. Audit programs appear to pass through five distinct phases. The phases are not always linear as companies try to constantly improve their programs. Recommendations for successful programs are presented.

Audits and related reviews for this new century are discussed in this paper. Corporations and their partners will find it necessary to continue to improve and update their programs to meet the demands from governments, partners, corporate management and outside stakeholders.

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