Auditing 6.4 Work Environment

Mike S.

Happy to be Alive
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FWIW, I think Noboxwine has an important point. From a strict ISO9001 compliance standpoint your auditor may simply look for an environment that meets the minimum requirements for making good product. However, common sense, personal experience, and the stories of others tells us (or should tell us) that our customers will likely take a dim view of any company that is dirty, messy, and disorganized. While that company might make great products, often customers will consider it a risk to do business there and if possible will use a competitor who does not have that problem.

An analogy: If you were applying for a job with a company you really wanted to work for, would you visit them to pick-up your application, drop off your resume', or go to your interview in dirty, old, casual clothes and 2 days growth of beard and expect the employer to overlook your hygiene and trust that you will do good work despite your appearance? Perceptions mean a lot -- often as much or more than "concrete" parameters. Just ask any advertising person, and ask yourself - you make decisions based on perceptions every day.

I don't know where most auditors will draw the line here, but to me it just makes sense to keep a relatively clean and organized workplace for reasons beyond ISO compliance. And, for the record, I hate cleaning and am anything but a neat freak, but I consider it a necessary task.


Chris May said:

Having just refreshed myself on 6.4 (didn't take long...almost missed it), it is interesting to note that it is under the Human Resources banner, so are they (ISO) implying Health & Safety, Ergonomics etc in order to promote "Happy Bunnies" at the workplace ??

One could ponder on the fact that the "work environment" could cover everything such as the approach road, car park, reception, decor (sick building syndrome?), supplied workwear, restroom, locker facilities..........aaaggghhh!!!

Chris, this was the point made to me by an assessor. That "work environment" was the work environment that the people work in (duh!) and that it needed to be in a condition where they can do their jobs to the best ability. Morale, pride, physical comfort, etc.

Some of the aspects that were given as examples were: an absence of REDACTED (or other) harrassment, proper temperature control, noise level containment, ergonomics, and even the general corporate culture that is provided.

For facility management, look to 6.3. This is where you want to ensure the workspace for product conformity is addressed. The clean rooms, etc. This is where you make sure that the facility has the proper components for the employee to make good product.

6.4 wants to address the people needs. IMO and the man who taught me the interpretations. Housekeeping can have impact on employee morale and health, hence "environment". A dust-free or temperature controlled room for product (as opposed to being provided for employee comfort) is more accurately addressed under 6.3.

But this is splitting hairs. As long as we address all of the issues, does it really matter what "subclause" it is?

Chris May


You are correct...thanks for pointing that out.

I have just found my copy of 9004:2000 and it amplifies on 6.4 as follows.

"Management should ensure that the work environment has a positive influence on motivation, satisfaction and performance of people in order to enhance the performance of the organisation. Creation of a suitable work environment, as a combination of human and physical factors, should include consideration of

- creative work methods and opportunities for greater involvement to realise the potential of people in the organiation.

- safety rules and guidance, including the use of protective equipment

- ergonomics

- workplace location

- social interaction

- facilities for people in the organisation

- heat, humidity, light, airflow and

- hygiene, cleanliness, noise, vibration and pollution.

So it would appear to be a people thang!



Have a good weekend and see y'all next week.


I have 2 comments:

1. I work with a Government agency which also has a regulatory function - inspection of certain types of goods coming into the country (Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies). Some of these inspections are visual and almost all occur at sites which are not under the control of the organisation.

We face a problem with insufficient lighting at some of the sites - how would this be addressed under 6.4, as the outcome of our inspection is the release of conforming goods and holding of nonconforming goods? Certainly the work environment affects the outcome of inspections. My take on it is to provide mobile lights which can be taken from site to site - will a Regsitrar agree that our organisation has "managed the work environment needed to achieve conformity to product requirements" ? (Any Registrar auditors out there care to take this one up?)

2. The note to ISO 9000 clause 3.3.4 (definition of work environment) says conditions include psychological factors. Not "may" or "can" include - "include" full stop. I'm curious as to what training auditors need to be competent to determine if the psychological factors in the work environment are under control?




I would look at such things as retention rates, employee suggestion box participation, attendance at company functions, attendance rates (including "illness"), disciplinary action rates, the number of closed doors vs. open doors to offices, bulletin board features, .......and of course during interviews with the employees simply ask them! Do they feel valued? Do they feel like there is a future for them with the company? Do they feel that their opinions are solicited and listened to? .....

Just like 8.2.1, it is all about perception. The employees perception. The company can be doing all kinds of things but if the employees don't perceive it as valuable, then you haven't met the psycological needs.


Thanks Lucinda, I agree that's part of it.

What I was wondering is the extent to which auditors need to be trained - is an exposure to Maslow's hierarchy enough or do you need to identify the specific stress factors associated with the particular industry (air traffic controllers come to mind)? For registration purposes maybe neither is required - I'd go with both the first and the second one for real quality improvement

Some jobs are inherently pyschologically disturbing - I heard of a Police Homicide division being certified to one of the ISO 9000 series (not sure which version but they had some fun defining their "customer") - how do auditors assess if management has "controlled the work environment" when officers are exposed to life-threatening situations on a daily basis? I'm not aware of any easy answers.

Any thoughts on the lighting situation at sites outside of our control?



"At random...Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Skill is knowing how to do it. Virtue is doing it... That which is used develops. That which is not used wastes away... Common sense is wisdom with it's sleeves rolled up." - ‘Today’s Supervisor’ June 1986
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Sure, use flashlights as you suggested. We also perform our work in sites that aren't under our direct control (client vessels,etc.) but it is our responsibility to inspect the conditions and take whatever actions are appropriate and feasible.

As for training, using the objective evidence as I described above requires no special training. Listening to the workers cite their opinions during audit and documenting them requires no special training.

MO is that it isn't the auditors that would require special training - it is the managers who need to provide the proper work environment who should be trained on recognizing and alleviating stress factors, etc.


Quite Involved in Discussions
Use the guidance in 9004, if you want to expand work environment beyond the product. If I remember correctly this was one of the areas that in one of the drafts that wanted all around work environment(safety, ergonomics, social, motivation, etc). Of course it was voted down, many areas not ready for safety,etc.



I'm getting the impression that we're looking at aspects of company culture - is that what you're saying?

How would auditors cite a nonconformity against the standard if product generally conformed to requirements, although motivation or employee satisfaction were low?

My take on that is the current version of the standard is focussed on "product conformity" - under 6.4 a company may have poor social conditions but as long as product conforms there is no ISO 9001 nonconformity. It may be cited as as opportunity for improvement outside the scope of the standard - what do you think?

The 9004 model is better for real improvement, I'm looking at being certified by a Registrar - when we had our Internal Auditor training from SGS (UK) earlier this year the facilitator indicated that 6.4 may be an area that may not be audited positively (do you understand what I mean ? I may be misquoting, but there was "positive" somewhere in what he said :p )



What does the standard say?

My take on that is the current version of the standard is focussed on "product conformity" - under 6.4 a company may have poor social conditions but as long as product conforms there is no ISO 9001 nonconformity.
Thanks qualitymanager, I think this is the key. We are not auditing to "best practices", or even "good practices". We are auditing to "needed to achieve conformity to product requirements." The 9004 stuff is okay, but it is NOT auditable!

Unless the auditor can show where my work environment has resulted in my inability to achieve conformity to product requirements, there can be NO nonconformance cited.
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