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What competences should an ISO 14001 internal auditor have?

The internal audit is one of the key functions for maintaining excellence within an EMS, so what attributes does the internal auditor need to have?

If you have an EMS (Environmental Management System) that is ISO 14001 certified, then you will understand the importance of the internal audit function in both getting the EMS ready for audit, and maintaining the standards of performance after the audit itself. As one of the key functions within the EMS, the internal audit can identify gaps in performance or process as well as non-compliance to legislation and the standard itself. Given this, the effectiveness of the internal audit itself can often depend on the expertise, knowledge, and eye for detail of the person appointed to conduct the audit itself. Placing this importance on one person’s expertise is quite a serious decision, so what attributes should the ISO 14001 system internal auditor possess?

Internal auditor: Skills, competencies, qualifications?

There are many skills, competencies, and qualifications that can help a person become an internal auditor, and it is a commonly held belief in the business community that a combination of all three can help an auditor become effective. Let’s look at some of the desirable attributes separately:

  • Formal training: Whether provided externally or internally, formal auditor training can assist in giving your auditor a foundation for becoming an effective internal auditor. There are many training options available, but it pays to research your training provider to ensure the standard of training provided is of an acceptable standard in your industry. You can undertake a free ISO 14001 Internal Auditor training course, which will give you an excellent foundation to build your skills.
  • Education: Though not considered mandatory for a position like this, people with qualifications in some disciplines may prove more effective auditors than others – think accountants, financial planners, or warehouse managers, for example – the disciplines and education gained to attain these jobs may be more conducive to auditing skills than others.
  • Competencies: Employees with certain skills again may be more effective auditors than others. People who perform stock counts or design complex products may have a superior eye for detail than individuals who work in more creative fields, for example. It may pay to consider this particular personality trait when considering a candidate for internal audit training.
  • Personality: As indicated above, certain people may have better personalities than others for this task. As well as attention to detail, it pays to have an internal auditor who is curious and questions things. The auditor also needs to be personable and an effective communicator, too, as this function will undoubtedly require a great deal of contact with other employees and EMS stakeholders.
  • Related Knowledge: Obviously, having knowledge of the ISO 14001 standard is vital to the internal audit function in terms of ensuring your EMS meets all your legislative and standard compliances. Also, the internal auditor will be very much more effective at this element if he/she had knowledge of the internal process, and all related inputs and outputs. Our article ISO 14001 Competence, Training and Awareness: Why are they important for your EMS? can assist you with achieving this.
  • Experience: It stands to reason that experience with the internal audit function, company processes in general, and similar elements in previous roles can help the auditor be efficient. An experienced employee will tend to have an edge over a new employee when analyzing the critical issues for examination at internal audit.

So, now that we recognize the attributes desirable for our internal auditor candidate, is there anything else we need to consider?

Internal audit success: The practicalities

The practicalities are that if your auditor has a combination of the above attributes, then there is no reason why your internal audit process cannot benefit. A combination of knowledge of the ISO 14001:2015 internal process knowledge and attention to detail remain the primary attributes to ensure your internal audit process is effective. However, it may be an idea to get together with top management and decide on an internal audit checklist in order that some collective control is retained over the internal audit process. You can get assistance on this topic by reading the article How to make an ISO 14001 internal audit checklist, but whether you use a checklist or not, having the correct auditor with the correct skills is vital. Select and train the internal auditor correctly, select the correct topics to audit, and your certification and surveillance audits should be easier as a result.

Why not try our free  ISO 14001:2015 Internal Auditor Course to improve your knowledge of the ISO 14001 internal audit?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.