Managing Environmental Monitoring

Managing Environmental Monitoring

Environmental Monitoring is an integral part of the Environmental Management System (EMS) which stems from various clauses within the ISO14001:2015 Standard but typically falls under the umbrella of Clause 9.1 – monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation.

Clause 9.1 – Monitoring, Measurement, Analysis and Evaluation

This clause is pretty straight forward and simple. The organization needs to:

  1. Determine needs to be monitored and measured
  2. Determine the methods for monitoring and evaluation
  3. Determine the criteria against which monitoring results are compared
  4. When and how often monitoring will occur
  5. When the results will be analysed and evaluated
  6. Maintain calibrated or verified equipment where required
  7. Use this information to evaluate the environmental performance and effectiveness of the EMS
  8. To maintain records of monitoring, measurements, results, and evaluation
  9. To communicate these both internally and externally as required by compliance obligations

But this clause does require that the organization takes into consideration compliance obligations which arise from Clause 4.1, 4.2, and 6.1.3, environmental aspects (6.1.2), environmental objectives (6.2), communication requirements (7.4), operational control requirements (8.1) and emergency preparedness and control requirements (8.2).

Setting Up an Environmental Monitoring Plan(s)

All great management begins with a plan. And in the case of environmental monitoring, the plan needs to be fairly detailed. For your organization, this may mean multiple environmental monitoring plans to deal with the different aspects and types of monitoring that is required. This may include separate plans for water monitoring, air quality monitoring, land and vegetation monitoring, etc.

What should an Environmental Monitoring Plan Contain?

Each environmental monitoring plan should begin with a brief yet detailed description of the type of monitoring and measurement required. This description will include monitoring locations and the types of determinants required from the monitoring.

The plan should also contain a description of the methods, protocols, processes or even procedures required to be followed for monitoring, measurement, and analysis.

The performance criteria against which the monitoring results are evaluated should be included, for some organizations, there may be multiple criteria which are applied to the same monitoring sites and/or analysis results. All of these should be included in the plan.

The frequency of monitoring should be included. Frequency can be as simple as a sample is taken weekly or can be more in-depth and involve different determinant or criteria at different frequencies.

The result analysis and evaluation should explain which criteria the results are analysed against, how often, by who, and how any abnormalities or exceedances are managed. Abnormalities and exceedances may activate a pre-prepared action plan which may include additional monitoring, reporting, or investigations.

The monitoring plan should also include all reporting requirements, whether this is too specific persons in the organization, review meetings, or reports that need to be submitted to external parties.

If any equipment requires calibration and/or verification, this should also be included in the monitoring plan. Should laboratories require certain certifications, this can also be included here.

And finally, all monitoring plans should include a section dedicated to records that are generated by the monitoring, where and how they are filed, and how these records can be accessed.

Executing the Environmental Monitoring Plan(s)

Having a well-devised environmental monitoring plan is just the beginning, and executing the plan will ensure that you are not only meeting the requirements of the ISO14001:2015 Standard but also of the compliance obligations which your organization has.

The simplest manner in which to execute a monitoring plan is to assign actions and/or tasks to the persons responsible either using an action tracker, action tracking software or even blocking out time in their calendars.

Most calendar and email software will contain an option to add a task and even assign it to a team member and set it as a recurring task.

If your organization has an action tracker or software which allows action and task tracking, it may help to set up annual action plans such as “Water Monitoring Plan – Year” in which all the individual tasks are assigned to responsible persons with due dates. This is especially handy if you can link the completed task to results, reports, calibration certificates, etc.

Visually being able to see monitoring plans also assists in the day-to-day environmental management, aligning other monitoring plans and tasks which need to be executed.

The key to successful environmental monitoring plan(s) is planning, execution, checking results, analysis and adhering to action plans and tasks, as well as acting on deviations which may arise. Just as with the Environmental Management System, Monitoring also follows the PDCA cycle.

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