Enhancements to EMS Auditor Competence

Recently, ISO Committee on conformity assessment (ISO/CASCO) published ISO/IEC TS 17021-2:2012, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems – Part 2 : Competence requirements for auditing and certification of environmental management systems.

This technical specification outlines competence requirements for auditors and other personnel of bodies which audit and certify ISO 14001:2004. The document was developed through the joint effort of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management, and ISO/CASCO.

For several years. there as been a significant body of evidenc to suggest that one perceived major threat to the credibility of management systems certification was the lack of agreed competence requirements for management systems auditors. Some of these issues have been managed through ISO/IEC 17021:2006, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems and the updated version, ISO/IEC 17021:2011. Both of these International Standards establish generic competence requirements for personnel involved with the audit or the recommendation for certification of any management system.

The next stage of this process is the publication and use of ISO/IEC TS 17021-2 to resolve the issue of competence. It was designed to complement ISO/IEC 17021:2011, by focusing on the environmental competence needed to audit and certify an EMS.

Competencies related to “ knowledge and skills ” including experiences gained from work and education with an emphasizes on the ability to achieve results.

Based on this new International Standard, an EMS audit team must have the following 10 knowledge competencies :

  • Environmental terminology
  • Environmental metrics
  • Environmental monitoring and measuring techniques
  • Techniques for identifying and evaluating environmental aspects and impacts and their environmental significance
  • Environmental aspects of design
  • Environmental performance evaluation
  • Legal and other requirements
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Operational control
  • Site-related factors

Audit teams also need to have a sound understanding of aspects, monitoring and measurement, and operational control in the following environment-related areas :

  • Emissions to air
  • Releases to land
  • Releases to water
  • Releases of raw materials, energy and natural resources
  • Energy emitted
  • Waste
  • Physical attributes

Additional EMS knowledge and skills will be required by the certification body poersonnel involved in application (contract) review and certification decision-making covering:

  • Environmental terminology
  • Environmental aspects and impacts, and processes for determining significance
  • Environmental performance evaluation
  • Applicable legal and other requirements

What this International Standard sets out to achieve is laudable but the implementation will need to be consistent and clearly defined to ensure that it is too complex for environmental auditors and specialists to demonstrate their competence as, at first reading, it is a “tall order”.

The original article by Randy N. Dougherty (Director, Accreditation at ANSI ASQ National Accreditation Board) can be found at http://bit.ly/RfwpiA

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