Paul MacLean on Health, Safety and Environmental Management Systems Auditing

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Paul McLean

Developing an outstanding internal audit program is critical to operational excellence. Nimonik partner Paul MacLean, recently re-published an edited version of the classic Health, Safety, and Environment Management Systems Auditing. Below, the expert on EHS auditing shares some insights from his book and how internal auditors can be more efficient and drive profits for their organizations.

Following are edited excerpts from a discussion between Jessica Minhas of Nimonik and Paul MacLean. To learn more about Internal Audit Best Practices, Register Here for a Free Webinar on March 14.

Tell us about yourself and your experience with HSE Management Systems

My day job is to run EEM Sustainable Management, an environmental and social management consulting firm, of which I am founder and President. In 31 years as a practising consultant in EHS Management field, I have directed and participated in more than 100 audits, reviews, gap analyses and benchmark reviews of the HSE management systems at various manufacturing and industrial sites.

I have directed the implementation of ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 9001 or corporate management systems at more than 15 industrial facilities in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Iceland, and West Africa. I was among the first cohort of Certified Environmental Auditors in Canada in the 1990s, and I am an EMS Lead Auditor, as well as a TSM Verification Service Provider (Mining Association of Canada).

How did you begin writing Health, Safety, and Environment Management Systems Auditing?

One of my co-authors, Gene Shematek, a health and industrial hygiene specialist, thought there was a need in Canada for a textbook on the practice of HSE auditing. She recruited Peter Lineen for his strong background in safety, and me for my environmental practice. We found a willing publisher and have been at it for 16 years. The first edition was published in 2001, and we have annually updated and improved it since. The second edition was published in 2016, in softcover format.

What research was involved in writing this book?

The authors have primarily drawn on their professional experience.  As such, it is not academic literature. While we read extensively in our fields of practice, there is no bibliography in HSE Management Systems Auditing.  The book is the result of years of reflective practice in the field.  Gene, Peter and I are very different people with contrasting experiences and approach to auditing yet we have found common ground in composing and revising each other’s work.

That said, we research two aspects annually;

  • HSE legal framework in Canada
  • Emergence or revision of relevant audit and management systems standards, professional auditing associations, and auditor designations.

Admittedly, with three disciplines, and 13 jurisdictions to cover, the coverage of laws and regulations is superficial but should guide the reader for some of the more populous jurisdictions.  The book covers the latest revisions to ISO standards – a topic of particular interest to those following the revision to the ISO 14001 series – as well as any changes in the professional auditing associations and designations for both safety and environmental auditors.

What can a reader expect to learn from this book?

That depends on the reader.

An experienced HSE management systems auditor will find the confirmation of what he/she already does and hopefully be interested in what we have emphasized; the best practices and examples, the weaknesses, where we think the auditing practice suffers, and the lessons learned.

A newcomer to the field would find the descriptions of both core and advanced techniques helpful.

The book contains many tips on interview techniques, which would be of interest to a range of readers.

As far as I know, there are no other textbooks of its kind in Canada. It has been required reading for some college-level classes in environmental programs in British Columbia, but most readers are practitioners in the field who are looking for support, confirmation, and ideas on what they are tasked to do as auditors.

Is there a specific audience who would benefit the most from this book?

Auditors from the private or public sectors working within audit client organizations or consultants, auditees, HSE audit program managers, and students would all benefit from the book.

What do most organisations and auditors lack in terms of HSE Management Systems?

I think most observers of HSE management systems would agree that the integration of HSE with core business is always a major challenge. Businesses pursue financial or operational goals, of which HSE management is often a less significant component. HSE Management is often seen as an effective way of managing risk but less often as an area of business value. Efficient HSE management systems should demonstrate the value it delivers to an organization, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Those measures are vital to making the business case for HSE management systems.

Paul can be contacted at

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