An environment, health and safety (EHS) audit is a crucial element in an organization’s overall effort to ensure the health and safety of its workforce, to reduce its effect on the environment and to meet the many legal regulations set out by EHS agencies as well as other government agencies. Done properly, an EHS audit can confirm which processes and procedures are in place and working well.
Even more importantly, an EHS audit can identify areas of improvement that need to be addressed before any problems arise – problems that can result in hefty monetary fines, crippling reputational damage, or worst of all, worker injuries and fatalities.
Unfortunately, the traditional EHS audit process can be hampered by issues that threaten its efficiency and effectiveness. The expected amount of time to do an audit tends to be underestimated, especially the time required to properly prepare which can lead to incomplete evaluations. Also, audits are frequently based on generic audit checklists that don’t take into account the unique circumstances and history of an individual organization.
Audit protocols, often only consider federal and state/provincial regulations, while leaving out municipal bylaws or required standards. Manual reviews and analyses of permits and documents are also frequently left out.
Enter Artificial Intelligence
Fortunately, the development of a new technology is helping to reduce these limitations. Artificial Intelligence (AI) reduces both time and cost expenditures by a factor of 10 while producing significantly more accurate results. AI’s ability to extract relevant data at faster speeds is revolutionizing the modern EHS audit planning process. AI is taking care of the most tedious aspects of the process and freeing up the valuable time of audit professionals to concentrate on more high-value work.
Using AI, auditors can deconstruct permits, plans and procedures and identify legal and management system requirements in minutes, rather than days or weeks. AI also ensures that all regional regulations that need to be addressed are included. If audit protocols for the jurisdiction don’t exist, regulations and bylaws can be deconstructed and legal requirements identified. All with only one platform.
In short, no stone is left unturned, allowing auditors and EHS leaders to rest easy, knowing they’re getting the full picture.
A Look Under the AI Hood
The AI platform operates on a series of algorithms, the first of which identifies the structure of permits and regulations, examining elements such as cover letters, headers, footers, tables and figures. It instantly selects the relevant text and ignores the rest.
The second algorithm identifies all citations or conditions in the document and how they are related, which is vital for correctly organizing the data. Another algorithm classifies every sentence and extracts each one that indicates a requirement or obligation. It separates alternative requirements or recommendations and sets aside all descriptive and non-relevant information.
Next, another AI algorithm identifies and extracts key information from each requirement, such as frequency of time-related events. Finally, the platform organizes the information in a meaningful way to maintain the context of every requirement.
The final output, which is delivered in minutes, is a simple file that can be used as audit checklist or audit criteria, derived from the regulatory documents in a highly cost-effective and quality-controlled manner. When you consider how long these tedious tasks would typically take a person to carry out, and compare that to AI’s ability to do it using algorithms, it’s easy to see how a ten-fold times saving is possible.
Future AI Benefits
While these benefits introduced by AI are already saving companies huge amounts of time and money, they represent just the beginning of the technology’s impact on the EHS audit practice.
ehsAI is using the technology to track the inevitable revisions and updates to permits, regulations and other documents carried out by governing authorities. AI will be used to compare documents, identify similar text and label the differences, allowing auditors to address any meaningful changes as they are introduced.
AI will also be used to conduct desktop audits, by comparing documents and quickly assess conformance or compliance of your plans and procedures with the legal or management system requirements. The ehsAI platform will indicate if all requirements are met by your plans or procedures and, if they aren’t, it will flag the gaps that need to be addressed.
Early adopters are using this advanced technology and are achieving great results. It’s clear that the earlier your EHS audit team embraces the power of AI, the quicker your audit program will move forward.
Learn more about the ehsAI platform and how it can help improve your EHS audit process.