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What are some guidelines on documenting procedures for the EMS?

Author: John Mills
by John Mills
Posted: Mar 05, 2021

The environmental management system in ISO 14001 contains very few pieces of information that need to be documented, and none of these are required documentation procedures. There are some documents that need to be written, such as policies, plans, and records, but no written procedures are explicitly mandated by the standard. So, how do you determine which of the ISO 14001 standards should be documented in your environmental management system?

What does ISO 14001 say about documenting procedures?

The ISO 14001 standard specifies the need for documentation, including records set by the organization, to ensure effective planning, operation and control of processes related to its significant environmental aspects." What does this mean?

For example, procedures (along with your ISO 14001 environmental guidelines and required forms) often create key documents for EMS that help the system run with greater compatibility, consistency, and prediction. Your processes describe how you can manage and control your business and meet ISO 14001 requirements in the midst of fluctuating conditions such as employee changes, supplier replacements, updated customer requirements / expectations, etc.

The process provides a general description of how the company meets the process requirement but does not include company-specific details for implementation. These specific guidelines that an employee needs to perform company functions are job instructions

What are some guidelines on documenting procedures for the EMS?

A very good rule of thumb is to document the process when errors are likely to occur when there are no documents. This is especially true for procedures used to plan a response during an emergency. The ISO 14001 procedures can be crucial in ensuring that everyone knows who can respond, what training is needed and what should be maintained for answers, and what others should do when an emergency arises, even if this is just the way of the Emergency responders.

Another time to consider documenting the process is when you make sure the review criteria and the assessed output are consistent throughout the organization. For example, you don't need to process how you identify and classify your environmental aspects, but if you want to make sure that all process owners look at the same things to evaluate what an aspect is, then a Write the process. It is important to recognize these specific requirements.

Some processes of an EMS that are very commonly documented include:

  • How you identify and classify your environmental aspects
  • How you identify and keep applicable legal requirements up to date
  • How you determine competence, awareness, and training
  • How the documents and records of the EMS are controlled
  • Emergency plans and how they will be executed should an identified emergency occur
  • How nonconformity, corrective action, and preventive action are carried out
  • How an internal audit is conducted
  • How a management review is performed
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Author: John Mills

John Mills

Member since: Aug 30, 2013
Published articles: 42

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