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New Bedford EMS: Audit Leads to Continual Improvement

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The audit function of an environmental management system (EMS) is critical in providing regular assessment of system activities and monitoring performance, though it can also be a source of dread. Opening your operation to an internal or external evaluation may seem threatening, but it is through the process of self-evaluation and audits that process improvement can be realized. Using the EMS framework of continual improvement, the city of New Bedford's Department of Public Infrastructure (DPI) is realizing operational improvements through the systematic process of conformance and compliance audits.

The word audit often strikes fear and dread in most people and organizations. Audits are viewed as an uncomfortable exercise and thus avoided or at best entered into reluctantly. The city of New Bedford's DPI came to realize that an audit is a tool for promoting process, operational and environmental performance improvement and should be viewed in that light. The audit cycle of New Bedford's recently implemented EMS proved to be a learning experience, yielding additional benefits above those initially recognized through the EMS implementation. The audit process at the DPI stretched the boundary of the EMS to provide benefits beyond the designated fence line of the system and has provided the impetus for both organizational and operation improvement. Most importantly, the audit cycle has institutionalized EMS processes and policies within the management and work crews of the DPI providing a sustainable program for continual improvement.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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