The Critical Value of On-Site EHS Audits

Dec 12, 2023 1:00 PM ET
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On-Site EHS Audit

With a growing emphasis from governments and regulatory agencies on environmental, health, and safety (EHS) compliance, third-party audits are increasingly indispensable. In-house teams often struggle to stay updated on the ever-changing laws and regulations that govern their sectors. Virtual audits, while helpful, may not always offer the depth and comprehensive review that an on-site audit can provide.

A third-party auditor specializes in regulatory knowledge, offering an objective lens and delivering a detailed assessment of an organization's EHS programs. Let’s explore the critical role of third-party, on-site, EHS audits in ensuring compliance and mitigating risks, and why it's an investment worth making.

The Limitations of Virtual Audits 

Virtual audits typically involve a review of documents, video footage, and virtual walkthroughs. While these elements can give you a snapshot of your operational compliance, they lack the depth and detail that an on-site audit can provide.

The very nature of a virtual assessment can miss subtle yet essential environmental or safety nuances that would be otherwise apparent in an in-person evaluation. A 360-degree camera can show you what a space looks like, but it can't capture the smell of gas or the temperature of a room.

While virtual audits are undoubtedly valuable and have their place, they should not entirely replace the depth of insight and thoroughness an on-site, third-party audit can offer. A blended approach that uses virtual tools for initial screenings and follow-ups, combined with regular on-site audits, is often the most effective strategy for comprehensive, long-term EHS management.

The Importance of Physical Presence in EHS Audits 

When it comes to detailed assessments, there's no substitute for being physically present at the site.

Sensory auditing

On-site audits allow for a meticulous level of inspection that's often impossible in virtual audits. An auditor can get up close to machinery, examine the placement of safety signage, and even check the condition of safety equipment like fire extinguishers.

An on-site auditor engages all their senses during an inspection. They can smell if chemicals are being stored improperly, hear if machinery is operating at a pitch that suggests maintenance is needed, or feel the temperature of a storage area.

Getting the full story

Enhanced interaction with employees is another significant advantage. Literal boots on the ground allows auditors to directly engage with your team, ask questions, and observe behaviors, giving them a more nuanced understanding of your company's safety culture and well as environmental activities. This engagement offers real-time insights that can't be fully captured through documents or virtual tours. Auditors can observe whether environmental programs and safety protocols are consistently followed or if shortcuts are being taken when supervisors aren't looking.

Document verification

Physical audits also enable an increased opportunity to verify documentation. Being physically present on-site gives auditors direct access to essential documents and records. They can quickly cross-reference what they're seeing with what's supposed to be happening according to your policies.

They can also ensure that the data in your logs or digital systems accurately reflects real-world conditions. Immediate verification removes the lag time associated with sending documents electronically and waiting for confirmation, thus speeding up the audit process and ensuring its integrity.

The Financial Aspect: Cost vs. Value 

When you consider the financial aspect of EHS audits, it's important to weigh immediate costs against the value you're getting in return. One key benefit of on-site audits is immediate risk mitigation.

When auditors are physically present at your facility, they can identify safety hazards or non-compliance issues on the spot, as well as environmental compliance actions such as the management of waste. This immediate identification allows you to make quick corrections, potentially preventing accidents or incidents that could result in costly fines or legal issues. A safer work environment also contributes to employee satisfaction and retention, reducing costs associated with turnover and new employee training.

Navigating through economic uncertainties can be a challenge. Budget considerations become more crucial than ever, especially during a downturn. However, it's important to understand that cutting corners on EHS audits can be a false economy.

While you might save in the short term, the potential risks and resultant costs of neglecting an in-depth, on-site audit could be significantly more. The cost of a single incident or noncompliance could far outweigh what you might have saved by opting for a less comprehensive virtual audit. A thorough, on-site EHS audit remains a sound business decision.

Additional Benefits of On-Site Third-Party Audits 

Industry expertise

One of the key advantages of on-site third-party audits is the invaluable industry expertise that auditors bring. With a wealth of experience across various companies in your sector, these seasoned professionals offer specialized insights into best practices and innovative solutions that are tailored to your industry.

Employee training and engagement

Having auditors on-site offers unique opportunities for direct, face-to-face training.

  • Enables real-time engagement between your staff and the auditor.
  • Amplifies the effectiveness of your EHS programs.
  • Enhances employee morale and job satisfaction as they become more involved in safety and environmental compliance efforts.

Credibility and trust

An impartial third-party audit can build credibility and trust among various stakeholders.

  • Provides unbiased validation of your commitment to safety and compliance.
  • Serves as a market differentiator.
  • Positively impacts investor and customer decisions.

While virtual audits may offer some advantages, they simply cannot replace the depth and breadth of insights gained from an on-site, third-party EHS audit.

Learn more about Antea Group’s EHS Health and Safety services.

About Antea Group

Antea®Group is an environment, health, safety, and sustainability consulting firm. By combining strategic thinking with technical expertise, we do more than effectively solve client challenges; we deliver sustainable results for a better future. We work in partnership with and advise many of the world’s most sustainable companies to address ESG-business challenges in a way that fits their pace and unique objectives. Our consultants equip organizations to better understand threats, capture opportunities and find their position of strength. Lastly, we maintain a global perspective on ESG issues through not only our work with multinational clients, but also through our sister organizations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and as a founding member of the Inogen Alliance. Learn more at