Revised EHS auditing standards have global relevance

Many organizations undertaking EHS audits seek out Certified Professional Environmental Auditors (CPEAs) – EHS auditors who are certified against the Board of Environmental, Health & Safety Auditor Certifications (BEAC) EHS standards – because this certification provides evidence of an auditor’s professional competency. Adherence to, or at least consideration of, the BEAC Standards in the conduct of an audit is expected to result in a higher degree of consistency and objectivity. Many organizations have modelled or remodelled their auditing programs to conform to the BEAC Standards, and subsequently they periodically evaluate the performance of their programs against these standards. Although the BEAC Standards have principally been embraced in the United States, their global relevance
is evident.

BEAC is the principal organization involved in the certification of EHS auditors in the United States (www.beac.org). BEAC certification specialties include Environmental Compliance, Health & Safety, Management Systems, and Responsible Care®. An individual auditor meeting the qualification criteria and successfully passing a certification exam is certified for the respective specialty as a BEAC CPEA.

The BEAC CPEA certification exam is currently comprised of three modules, including one which tests the auditor’s knowledge of the BEAC EHS Standards. According to BEAC, as of 1 September 2009, over 1,300 individuals are either CPEAs or CPEA applicants.

Based on a number of auditing standards issued by other professional organizations around the world – namely, the Institute of Internal Auditors’ internal auditing standards and the Auditing Roundtable’s environmental auditing standards – BEAC developed the Standards for the Professional Practice of Environmental, Health and Safety Auditing (BEAC Standards). The original version of the BEAC Standards was published in 1999, while an analogous international
environmental auditing standard is ISO 19011: 2002 (Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing).

In 2008 BEAC revised the Performance and Program Standards for the Professional Practice of Environmental, Health and Safety Auditing (2008). One reason for revising the Standards was the evolution, sophistication and expansion of EHS audit practices and auditing programs over the preceding decade. A second reason was attributed to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 on US Corporate Governance, resulting in enhanced reliance on the completeness and
professional competence of the EHS audit by members of both senior corporate management and boards of directors.

The intent of the BEAC Standards is to assure that EHS auditors are adopting consistent best practices when auditing a company’s EHS compliance. Companies that are audited using the BEAC Standards are expected to achieve a higher degree of confidence that auditors are operating according to a set of professional standards and that audit findings are consistent, objective, accurate and complete. The Standards emphasise that EHS auditors should be independent and free from conflict of interest. To be able to perform an audit, the Standards mandate that auditors exercise due professional care and have adequate qualifications, technical knowledge, training, and professional experience.
The Standards also set out how audit work should be planned and performed and how companies should set up and maintain an audit program.

In practice, organizations can use the BEAC Standards to assess their internal EHS audit programs and processes, including through the conduct of both internal assessments as well as those done by third parties/consultants. The Standards also provide a comprehensive overview of the aspects, elements and checks-and-balances expected of mature EHS audit processes and programs.

Although the geographic scope of the BEAC Standards and the corresponding BEAC CPEA auditor certification has primarily been EHS auditing in the US, both are universally applicable to EHS auditing activities worldwide. However, one of the cited technical obstacles to the endorsement of these Standards and the associated CPEA certification outside of the US is the fact that one of the topics included in the CPEA certification exam focuses on the auditor’s
knowledge of US legislation. For EHS auditors practicing outside of the US, and who typically are not familiar with US EHS legislation, this regulatory knowledge gap represents a significant obstacle to passing the CPEA exam. In fact, BEAC has already been assessing how to more effectively enable non-US auditors to more realistically achieve the CPEA certification.

Furthermore, multinational companies have already used these Standards to gauge the efficacy and consistency of their worldwide auditing program at facilities in multiple countries, among different business units, and throughout the corporate structure (e.g. senior management, regional auditors, and plant employees). In August 2009, the Auditing
Roundtable, BEAC, the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Institute of Internal Auditors of Costa Rica conducted a Spanish -language training course in San José, Costa Rica entitled Environment, Health and Safety Audit Principles and Hazard Identification. This successful training course can be seen as the next step towards global acceptance of both the BEAC Standards and the CPEA auditor certification.

Enhesa has brought together a global team of qualified and experienced EHS professionals. The question of how best to carry out an EHS audit is one that Enhesa assists its clients with every day. If you would like more information about how Enhesa can help you audit your company’s facilities, or evaluate your audit programs, please contact us at info@enhesa.com.
Paul Soler-Sala, CPEA
Enhesa Senior Consultant

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