Alice Harman P.E.

Alice Harman July 28, 2020

Keep your company on the path to successful compliance.

In our Don’t Fear the Audit post, we highlighted the importance of conducting an audit to keep your workers safe, protect the public from environmental incidents and shield your company from fines, penalties or injuries. In this article, we share how we are helping clients respond nimbly to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and stay on the path to successful compliance with virtual audits.

Take stock of your compliance assurance status.

We trust that you have reviewed your management system, permits, checklists, facility inspection reports and focused on areas of concern at your sites. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, have you been able to get out to your facilities to check on records or the physical condition of the site? Have you been able to pull sample records and documents to verify they are filled in completely and accurately? Do you have the resources and subject matter experts (SMEs) available to assist and provide external insight?

The Huco audit team can help you plan and conduct virtual audits of your EHS management system and assure continual compliance. Below we outline the two key elements of our approach – the virtual site inspection and the desktop document review – and share best practices for equipping your organization to manage evolving compliance challenges with robust tools, nimble systems and expert insight.

Put virtual boots on the ground for a physical site inspection.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions and social distancing protocols have decreased the on-site time for many EHS staff and Regional Management. Our team assessed opportunities for companies to leverage technology in response to this challenge, and after an in-depth market review, we identified a range of robust options for giving EHS an eye in the field from afar. Most notable among these options are hardware such as drones, RealWear™ headsets and Apple and Android tablets and smart phones that are easily paired with software solutions like Zoom, Teams, SmartTECHS.io, XpertEye, Vital Enterprises and Upskill to place you virtually side-by-side with your team on-site.

These tools provide mobile capabilities (either with or without internet access) including hands-free, voice-activated commands that are easy to use and safe for industrial environments, and many vendors offer integrated software and hardware solutions that will improve lead time on supply chain approvals. We recommend leveraging these out-of-the-box configurations to keep the learning curve short – the more comfortable and confident your team is working with the equipment, the better positioned you are to launch a thorough remote compliance assurance process that fits seamlessly into your operations.

Once your virtual audit toolkit is assembled, the next step is to tie in one of our SMEs to participate in the facility walk through. Whether joining the inspection live or by reviewing videos and photos taken by on-site personnel, the SME ensures the audit’s success by pointing out what looks good, identifying areas for additional follow-up and ensuring the security of the facility’s data at every stage of the process.

Dive into the details with a desktop document review.

While the site inspection provides an essential snapshot of a facility’s compliance status on the ground, operational records often paint a more detailed picture of compliance activities over time.

Many companies have implemented EHS management systems to schedule and track regulatory compliance tasks such as inspections, maintenance, throughput documentation, reporting, etc. Throughout the month and year, staff may review task descriptions and verify that tasks were completed as required to ensure compliance based on personal knowledge or documentation on file at the facility.

Take a moment to think about how many pieces of paper are documented or the number of electronic checklists that are completed by staff each year. How do you ensure these records are in order? When a new permit was issued or a plan was revised, were the associated checklists updated? Are the documents scanned, uploaded and organized within your EHS management system, or are they filed in a cabinet?

Let’s use a small petroleum tank farm as an example. With 5 tanks and a loading rack with controls, this facility would be expected to generate, at a minimum, the following records annually:

  • Monthly air emission tank inspections (60);
  • Monthly and annual SPCC inspections (13);
  • Monthly rack inspections (12);
  • Daily control equipment monitoring (365);
  • Monthly and quarterly control equipment calibration, plus annual test (17);
  • Emergency engine maintenance records (2);
  • Water sampling and drainage logs (16);
  • Waste inspection and manifest (12);
  • Fire equipment (14);
  • Safety equipment (14);
  • Training (25); and
  • Company and permit-specific documentation or reporting requirements (25+).
  • Total records generated each year: 575+

Reviewing these documents might appear to be an overwhelming task, but our staff has years of experience in environmental audits and are able to aide in simplifying the process – and if you’ve been keeping your files in a cabinet, we can work with you to use the desktop review preparation process as an opportunity to unlock efficiencies and streamline compliance management through EHS digitization.

Huco’s team of SMEs are seasoned reviewers of permits and regulatory requirements who know which sample sets to pull and which records must be completed. During the desktop review, we will identify any gaps in checklists or reports that could lead to environmental non-compliance or safety concerns. Our goal is to provide the information and clarity to assure consistent compliance year after year, and that aim informs every aspect of our virtual audit approach – empowering your facility’s best performance.

Ready to take the next step for nimble, insightful compliance assurance?

We believe in the power of external review to reveal risks and illuminate opportunities, and we are committed to applying our market expertise to help organizations in any industry take the next step for resilient compliance assurance. Whatever the next step may be –  evaluating  hardware and software vendors, planning an annual audit or launching a new compliance assurance program – our team knows the landscape and is prepared to guide, support and keep your organization on the path to successful compliance. Contact us at info@hucoinc.com or +1 (844) 438-4826 to learn more. 

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