Audits in SMEs
There is a widespread feeling that SMEs have considerable difficulties in adopting management systems such as the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and EMAS standards, which are considered excessively bureaucratic and a source of time expenditure. The problem does not lie so much in understanding the requirements set by the aforementioned systems, but in being able to dispose of the human and economic resources suitable for applying and maintaining them.
A particular difficulty lies in the trust traditionally placed in the documentation at the center of control, considered the only means of demonstrating the efficiency of a management system with respect to the requirements provided for by standards and regulations.
Maintaining such systems and controlling their application takes time and often does not suit the working practices of small companies.
Small businesses are characterized by immediate communication channels, multi-purpose personnel, on-the-job training and the ability to adapt quickly to change.
The verifier's task consists in identifying the strengths and weaknesses within them, and in carrying out the verification, avoiding to impose unnecessary burdens on smaller organizations.
The following guidelines are intended for small organizations and, in some respects, apply only to micro-enterprises.
The verifier must ascertain the applicability of these guidelines to the organization under verification, in relation to the resources available to it.
The purpose of the documentation in a management system is to ensure that the organization can operate in accordance with the type of management desired. To guarantee the performance of every single operation according to what is prescribed, independently from whoever carries them out, written procedures can therefore be adopted.
Written documentation is also used to demonstrate the correct execution of particular operations or the exact application of procedures, as in the case of data obtained from monitoring as proof of compliance with the laws in force.
During the verifications carried out at SMEs, the auditors must keep the following in mind:
NOT ALL PROCEDURES NEED WRITTEN DOCUMENTATION
In small organizations, procedures are often used verbally and in the workplace. The verifier's task is to document the operation of the procedure.
THE PROCEDURES SHOULD BE PROPORTIONED
When deciding on the adequacy of the procedures it is necessary to keep in mind the size and complexity of the operation, the nature of the environmental impacts associated with the operation itself and the competence of the operators in charge of carrying it out. Simple diagrams, diagrams and matrices can be the most effective solution.