How to Structure ISO 14001:2015 Documentation

The development of the ISO 14001:2015 documentation and record control system for Environmental Management System (EMS) is a very important part of the implementation, as it will define the method of creation, publishing, withdrawal, and using documents and recording. It is up to the organization to create the most appropriate documentation, as it will affect the way you maintain and improve your EMS.

Which document is more important?

Before starting to develop ISO 14001:2015 documentation, it is important to get a clear picture of the purpose of each type of document and its position in the documentation hierarchy. There are several types of documents used to establish an EMS: manual, procedures, policy, objectives, work instructions or SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), and records and forms. Each type of document and record has its place and role in the EMS. The documentation for an Environmental Management System should be structured as follows:

Structure of ISO 14001 Documentation

1) EMS Manual: It is usually the first document that the certification body wants to see to get familiar with the system. In cases where it is a small company or a company with simple risks, all procedures can be included in an EMS Manual.

2) EMS Policy: A policy represents a declarative statement by an organization – something like a constitution of the system – and all other documents arise from it. The policy is written by the top management and its purpose is to define the general direction and aim of the EMS. The Environmental Policy also provides a framework for establishing EMS Objectives.

3) Procedures: EMS procedures can have different formats and structures. They can be narrative, i.e., described through text; they can be more structured by using tables; they can be more illustrative, i.e., flow charts; or they can be any combination of the above.

4) Work instructions, guidelines, and SOPs: Work instructions can be part of a procedure, or they can be referenced in a procedure. Generally, work instructions have a similar structure to the procedures and cover the same elements; however, the work instructions include details of activities that need to be realized, focusing on the sequencing of the steps, tools, and methods to be used and required accuracy.

5) Records and forms: Finally, there must be some evidence that activities and processes are performed in the way prescribed in the procedures and work instructions. This is the main purpose of the records and forms. Most of them are filled in by employees, but some of them are filled in by the top management. The best way to make them practical is to avoid requiring employees to write essays. Having records with checkboxes instead of empty rows for employees to write sentences will ensure that the forms or records are filled in quickly and easily.

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