Tips for Environmental Checklists

July 28, 2016

I have worked in companies that have a checklist for all occasions. Saying that there was a checklist guide to make sure that all checklists were filled out may be a slight exaggeration although it wasn’t that far off.

Although the variety and quantity of checklists may not be lacking for many companies, I would suggest that many checklists do not fulfill the purpose of a “good” checklist.

An environmental checklist should provide an easy process to check and sign off on a specific aspect. This could be a weekly general check of a work site to ensure environmental controls are being implemented or checking a high risk environmental aspect.

Checklists should not be onerous or difficult to use. They should be able to be filled out in a few minutes. Also any specific findings should be passed on to the relevant person in a timely manner. This second point is missed too often which means the requirement for completing the checklist is also being missed.

Tips for a “Good” Environmental Checklist

These are the points that I think are required for a good environmental checklist:

  1. Specific purpose: Do not create a checklist if it is not needed. Each checklist should be developed to check specific environmental requirements or control. Often there is already a checklist for a similar purpose that has been developed and being using. Where possible, combine environmental, health and safety and operational requirements into one checklist.
  2. Easy to use format and wording: Depending on the requirements for completing the checklist there are different formats and wording that can be used. From a “yes” or “no” form to a purpose made booklet of forms. Watch out for double negatives and phrasing questions that require more than one response when developing your checklist.
  3. If it is too simple: I have seen too often that checklists become a tick and flick process with the person completing the checklist not actually checking the controls. This is a waste of everyone’s time. Also forms that are being signed off when something has not actually been completed then creates a liability issue. Beware of tick and flick.
  4. Seek feedback: If you have created a checklist then make sure it is being completed and is fit for purpose. If not, then seek feedback from the person using the checklist and make the appropriate changes.
  5. Ensure the information in the form is being used: the purpose of the form is to check the implementation and management of controls. If this information is not being used for identifying issues or improvements, then this is a time wasting process.