7.4 Communication [ISO 14001]

What is 7.4 Communication?

Organizations need to develop and implement a process (i.e., EMS communication strategy) to determine those matters on which it wishes to communicate taking into account its compliance obligations and the quality (reliability and consistency) of the communicated information.

Communications may relate to your organization’s ongoing compliance to various obligations, milestone achievements, or sustainable resourcing.

Contents

7.4.1 General

You should seek evidence to confirm that your organization has identified the necessary internal and external communications that are required for the operation of the EMS.

You should confirm how your organization has determined:

  • What it needs to communicate
  • When it will communicate
  • With whom it will communicate
  • How it will communicate

Communication Telephones

The key to successful implementation is often through the involvement of all people within the organization; let everyone in the company know that you have started to introduce a new EMS by holding basic awareness sessions for all employees.

Make sure you retain records of attendance as this action will contribute towards satisfying the clause.

Communication is the key; communicate goals, plans, progress and milestones. Listen first then ask for feedback. Lack of communication seems to be one of the main root causes for errors in business. Keep people informed of the progress of the project; e.g., what’s been done, what’s to be done next and how the project is progressing against the plan.

Make this process transparent and visible to all concerned; for example, place progress charts on the walls and notice boards. Employees that are not part of the implementation team may not be hearing as much about what is going on with the project and may think the project has faded away. Communicate its progress via newsletters, bulletin boards or meetings. 

The organization needs to ensure that procedures to control internal and external communications and interfaces are in place. Particular care needs to be taken when dealing with communications from external parties, which might well include enforcement authorities, lawyers or solicitors, insurance companies, etc. In many parts of the world there is an increasing trend towards litigation resulting from injuries received in the workplace, so the need to manage the communication process is critical.

Internally, your organization needs to communicate information relevant to the EMS amongst all levels and functions, including information on any change, as appropriate, and have to establish a mechanism to enable all persons performing work under the organization’s control to contribute to continual improvement.

All well as briefing employees during introductory presentations, try using a combination of other methods to promote awareness, such as posters placed on notice boards and leaflets with pay-slips, etc. Use training sessions to inform employees of the plan, how they will be expected to contribute.

All internal and external communication processes need to be established and recorded in a documented information. Communication should always be done within the framework of the EMS.

Birsd Talking Communication

7.4.2 Internal Communication

Clause 7.4.2 requires that the organization communicates information to various levels at specified intervals and frequencies. The frequency and nature of the communication should allow for continual improvement due to the communication process.

Internally, your organization needs to communicate information relevant to the EMS amongst all levels and functions, including information on any change, as appropriate, and have to establish a mechanism to enable all persons performing work under the organization’s control to contribute to continual improvement.

All well as briefing employees during introductory presentations, try using a combination of other methods to promote awareness, such as posters placed on notice boards and leaflets with pay-slips, etc. Use training sessions to inform employees of the plan, how they will be expected to contribute. 

Issues pertaining to the EMS that could be communicated include:

  • Day-to-day operations and general awareness
  • Environmental and health and safety regulatory reporting
  • Information on achieving EMS objectives and targets
  • Incidents, accidents and near misses
  • Environmental aspects and impacts

Effective communication media:

  • Verbal (i.e., meetings, briefing, etc.)
  • Formal memorandums, email
  • Intranet, Company website
  • Newsletters
  • Posters
  • Suggestion box

Auditors will to determine if the policies meet the intent and are understood, by interviewing personnel at all levels. Although the exact content of the policies does not need to be recited by interviewees, the awareness of the policies and how their job affects the company objectives should be determined.

This does not require your employees to memorize the policies but it does mean they should be aware of it, know where it may be found and be able to paraphrase, or give an interpretation as it applies to them.

If the personnel interviewed do not know what their measurable objectives are and/or do not know what the organizational objectives are that they have a direct effect upon, the auditor would be further directed to evaluate top management’s communication of the policies and objectives.

Inferred awareness through knowledge of procedures is not considered sufficient; otherwise, why have the requirement in the first place? A quick and convenient way to promote and communicate the policy might be to create a shortened version of main policy; try condensing it to five key words or even a couple of short sentences. This can be posted on bulletin boards in each department.

You could even add it to the reverse side of staff security passes or ID badges. If an auditor asks an employee whether they are aware of the policy; they can point to the bulletin board, or point to it on their badge. The employee can further elaborate to the auditor, what the policy means to them and how it influences their work.

Your organization should encourage the two-way flow of information between your workforce and management. Input from employees is considered vital in the development of environment policies and procedures.

Communication and consultation should take place both formally and informally. Environmental representatives can be appointed to assist your company with the communication and feedback processes.

Inputs to environmental communication might include the following:

  • Identification of risks
  • EMS objectives and targets
  • Incident investigations
  • Operational changes affecting safety and welfare
  • Introduction of new plant and equipment
  • Contractors and visitors to site
  • Information request from interested parties

Your organization should also communicate environmental requirements to its visitors and contractors that attend your facility. Visitors to each site should receive information relating to the site rules and procedures during signing in. In addition, contractors should be required to go through a contractor’s induction briefing

External Communication Telephone Lines

7.4.3 External Communication

Externally, your organization needs to communicate as required by its compliance obligations. Additionally, organizations may choose to communicate on other issues, as appropriate. The process has to ensure that all received communications are responded to appropriately.

In most instances, external interested parties (such as consumers, stockholders, neighboring communities, etc.) are the main driving forces for organizations to implement an EMS. The appropriate external communications may establish environmental and safety credibility and satisfy stakeholder requests by presenting objective information on the organization’s significant aspects, its EMS, or its performance.

External communication may include:

  • Annual reports or newsletters of performance sent to external stakeholders
  • Open house meetings for interested parties and focus groups
  • Availability of regulatory submissions, or results of audits
  • Policies published in the media and industry association publications and press releases

The various means of such communication are endless. Such communication may benefit your organization in several ways, including improved employee morale and increased market exposure, either of which can lead to increased profits.

You must first determine whether or not your organization will initiate and establish communication regarding the organization’s significant aspects. You may decide not to communicate such information. The organization’s decision must be recorded to meet the requirement in this section.

Your organization should:

  • Consider processes for external communications of its significant environmental issues
  • Record its decision on whether it will or will not proceed with external communications

The various means of such communication are endless. Such communication may benefit your organization in several ways, including improved employee morale and increased market exposure, either of which can lead to increased sales and profits.

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Updated: 27th October 2021
Author: Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard is our Compliance Director, responsible for content & product development.
But most importantly he is ISO's biggest fanboy and a true evangelist of the standards.
Learn more about Richard

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