ISO 14001 Monitoring & measurement equipment control

ISO 14001 requirements for monitoring and measuring equipment are very short, but this important element is often underrated. Clause 4.5.1 of ISO 14001 discusses how an organization needs to establish, implement, and maintain procedures to monitor and measure the key characteristics that can have a significant environmental impact. The final part of this requirement identifies that calibrated or verified monitoring and measurement equipment is to be used for these measurements. With so few requirements, it helps to have some practical ideas on how to meet them, and this is what I’ll try to provide in this article.

What needs to be monitored & measured?

To start with, what do you need to monitor and measure per the ISO 14001 requirements for your environmental management system (EMS)? Everything is linked back to the identification and classification of environmental aspects in clause 4.3.1 of ISO 14001, which are the ways that the processes of your organization interact with the environment. After going through all of your processes and seeing what interactions exist with the environment, you need to identify which have significant impacts. In short, this is up to your judgment.

For instance, if you have a fume hood for chemical usage that vents outside of your building, you will have identified that you have an environmental aspect of air emissions, but this does not mean it is significant. If you use your fume hood very rarely, and only for cleaning with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol, then the amount of this very benign chemical that is being released is small. This would not be significant. If, on the other hand, you use your fume hood daily to vent the exhaust from a process that creates cyanide gas, then this air emission is something you would deem significant and need to control.

For a better understanding of environmental aspects and evaluating significance, please see 4 steps in identification and evaluation of environmental aspects.

How do you need to control your monitoring & measurement equipment?

When you think about the need for controls in processes with significant aspects, it is easy to see why you would want to make sure that your measurements are correct. If you have a significant chemical process, as described above, your control may be to have a filter to capture the cyanide, and measure the level of cyanide in the resultant air after filtration, to ensure the filter is working. If this is what you are doing to prevent the significant aspect from becoming an environmentally toxic leak, then you will want to make sure your measurement device is working properly. In other words, that it is calibrated and verified.

What is calibration? Calibration is a process where you compare measurements between those taken by a device under review and a known good measurement. The known good measurement is the standard. When you calibrate a unit you make the comparison with the known good measurement, and if the device matches the correct measurement, then the device is considered in calibration. This device can then be used and safeguarded for damage, adjustment, or tampering so that it remains correct, and you can then use the device until the next required calibration due date. If you have a calibration system for other equipment in your organization, the equipment for ISO 14001 monitoring and measurement can be controlled in the same way; a new system is not required.

Some devices will change so often that calibration is not possible. These devices need to be verified before use. In the case of the chemical measurement, you might have a meter that is tested with a gas that contains a known concentration of cyanide before use. If the meter reads the correct measurement, then you can use it, but if not it needs to be adjusted or corrected prior to use. In this case, the container of known concentration should be calibrated at regular intervals to ensure that it remains correct.

What needs to be documented?

While you do not need documents for every process and procedure you have, it is important to make sure that any monitoring and measurement requirements are documented, including the information needed to perform the measurement such as the expected values and the equipment to use. In this way, you can make sure that these important measurements are carried out consistently between employees, ensuring that your significant environmental aspects do not become environmental incidents.

As always, records of the calibration or verification are needed to demonstrate that you have done this important activity, and they can be invaluable tools for investigation should a problem happen. It is good to remind ourselves that you do not need to monitor and measure everything, only those things that are significant. By approaching this requirement thoughtfully and considerately, you can ensure that you do not go overboard with your monitoring and measurement – which could cost significant time and resources to maintain. Use your resources wisely.

Use this free ISO 14001 Gap Analysis Tool to check whether you are compliant with ISO 14001 requirements for monitoring and measurement.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.