Home » ISO 14001:2004 EMS » ISO 14001-Clause 4.4.5

ISO 14001-Clause 4.4.5

ISO 14001-Clause 4.4.5 Control of documents

ISO 14001 Requirements

Documents required by the environmental management system and by this International Standard shall be controlled. Records are a special type of document and shall be controlled in accordance with the requirements given in 4.5.4.
The organization shall establish, implement and maintain a procedure(s) to

  1. approve documents for adequacy prior to issue,
  2. review and update as necessary and re-approve documents,
  3. ensure that changes and the current revision status of documents are identified,
  4. ensure that relevant versions of applicable documents are available at points of use,
  5. ensure that documents remain legible and readily identifiable,
  6. ensure that documents of external origin determined by the organization to be necessary for the planning and operation of the environmental management system are identified and their distribution controlled, and
  7. Prevent the unintended use of obsolete documents and apply suitable identification to them if they are retained for any purpose.


Your Organization use various documents like drawings,procedure, work instructions and the likes. To ensure that your personnel are consistently doing the job right, the organization must provide them with the right tools. In this case, the tools needed are the correct and up-to-date procedures, drawings and other documents. Without a mechanism to control EMS documents, the organization has no way of knowing  or verifying that people are working with the right tools. To ensure that everyone is working with the proper EMS documents, your organization should have a procedure that describes how documents are controlled. Implementation of this procedure should ensure that  EMS documents can be located, they are periodically reviewed, current versions are available where needed, and obsolete documents are removed. Your document control procedure should designate responsibility and authority for preparing documents, making changes to them and keeping them up-to-date. In other words, you need to make it clear who can actually change documents and what the change process is. The Clause ISO 14001-Clause 4.4.5  calls for the organization to establish and maintain procedures for controlling all documents required by ISO 14001 to ensure that:

  • They are legible and readily identified.
  • They are periodically reviewed and approved for adequacy.
  • The relevant versions are available at point of use.
  • Obsolete documents are removed or if retained, suitably identified.
  • Any documents of external origin are suitably identified.

Thus the EMS documentation should be controlled or managed.EMS document control requirements are almost a mirror image of the ISO 9000 requirements.  The control of documentation can be exercised at the different levels of documentation.For example, stamps can be used to signify ‘controlled’ or ‘uncontrolled’; coloured paper can be used, with or without a special logo, to make it obvious if an ‘illegal’ photocopy is being used. Whatever method is used, it should always focus on the principle that the desired and planned information is available to those personnel that require it. There should never be any danger that out-of-date information, or the wrong data, is read or used by those individuals. If information is not important, or it does not matter whether it is up to date or not, then there is no need to control it. Marking it ‘uncontrolled – not subject to update’  is a good mechanism to ensure that the casual reader can use that particular document for background information but is also prompted to seek assurance as to its current validity  for example, if a particular decision needs to be made based upon the information in the document. Controlling documentation does give personnel confidence in their activities. They are sure that the decision they have made is the correct one. Indecision based upon mistrust of information received is responsible for many environmental incidents. Signatures of the management representative or the Managing Director on each page are also examples of control being exercised in documentation distribution. Consideration should also be given as to the cost-effectiveness of controlling documents. Does the time and effort spent controlling documents far outweigh any possible problems should there be a loss of document control? While preparing procedure for documentation control don’t make your procedure more complicated than it needs to be. While larger organizations often have complex processes for document control, smaller organizations can use simpler systems. Limiting distribution makes the job easier. Does everyone have access to one or a few copies? Determine how many copies you really need and where they should be located for ease of access. If the people that need access to documents are connected to a local area network, consider using a paperless system. This can facilitate control and revision of documents considerably. Prepare a document control index that shows all of your EMS documents and the history of their revision. Put this index in your manual. Also, if multiple copies of documents are available at the facility, prepare a distribution list, showing who has each copy and where the copies are located. As your procedures or other documents are revised, highlight the changes by underlining, boldface, etc. This will make it easier for the reader to find the changes.

Audit Checklist:

  1. Has your organisation established, implemented and maintained a procedure(s) for controlling all documents required by this ISO 14001?
  2. Does the procedure address who approves the documents for adequacy before they are issued?
  3. Does the procedure address how they are periodically reviewed, updated and re-approved as necessary?
  4. Does the procedure address how changes and the current revision status are identified?
  5. Does the procedure address how current versions of relevant documents are made available at points of use?
  6. Does the procedure address how the legibility and identification of the documents is ensured?
  7. Does the procedure address how external documents, as determined by the organisation for effective planning and operation of the environmental management system are identified and controlled?
  8. Does the procedure address how to prevent obsolete documents against unintended use, and apply suitable identification to them if they are retained for any purpose?

Mandatory Procedure:

pdf Example of Procedure for Control of Documents

Mandatory Records:

Not applicable

Implementation document ( Not mandatory but helps in fulfillment of requirement):

pdf Example of format for Documentation Distribution record
pdf Example of format for Revision status record
pdf Example of format for List of Standards

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