An EHS management system can provide many benefits to an organization. Worker safety, meeting regulatory requirements, minimizing operational risks, and meeting the demands of your customer are just a few advantages of an efficient EHS system. For the success and safety of your business or operation, it’s important to have a smooth implementation of an EHS Management System.
What is EHS?
Before we talk about best practices, let’s go over the definition of EHS and the role an efficient EHS management system has on safeguarding your operation. EHS stands for Environment, Health, and Safety. EHS is a term used to refer to laws, regulations, programs, and workplace efforts to protect the health of workers, the public, and the environment from hazards associated with the workplace.
(E) Environment – This term represents the world we live in and concerns the prevention of things like air pollution, environmental releases, and chemical spills.
(H) Health – Health refers to things that can make workers sick, like biological pathogens, airborne particulates, radiation, and exposure to noise or harmful smells.
(S) Safety – Here we’re talking about the things that can cause injury at the workplace such as falls, machinery accidents, and other equipment mishaps or malfunctions.
Why is EHS so important?
To put it simply, EHS programs and protocols help prevent injuries, illnesses, and harmful effects on the environment. Worldwide EHS programs have made worksites much safer for workers, but events such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill are reminders of the significant importance of EHS management. Because such hazards are real, these programs are increasingly necessary and provide real benefits to operations around the globe.
EHS programs also show that companies care about the physical and mental well-being of employees. By implementing an active EHS culture, your company can have a positive effect on employee morale, retention, and productivity. Studies conducted by the American Psychological Association indicate that millennials rank safety as an issue of workplace stress higher than any other issue.
Other EHS management systems benefits include:
- Improved reporting consistency
- On-the-go data-logging
- Streamlined data collection
- Better regulatory compliance
What’s an EHS manager?
Overall, the EHS manager is there to identify, reduce, and control risks and hazards at a jobsite. Some of the responsibilities may include:
- Risk management analysis
- Performing incident investigations
- Job hazard identification
- Organizing safety committees
- Ensuring regulatory compliance
- Tracking environmental, health, and safety training
- Improving operational performance
These duties are normally carried out by one person, but it’s not uncommon to divide tasks between a team of people.
There are applications that can be used as part of a company’s EHS management program. Here are examples of how software can make this process more effective:
- Storage of safety data sheets
- Manage confined space entry permits
- Organize incident investigations
- Track spill responses
- Manage emissions tracking
- Organize EHS training
EHS Best Practices
Along with regulations and compliance standards, it’s important to go above and beyond to keep your employees safe. Incorporating insights and procedures toward environment, health, and safety management are keys to the success of your business. From training to compliance, these following practices can help maximize the stability and safety of your operation.
Training is a fundamental element in general safety compliance programs. This may include initial, refresher, or annual training. Training content generally must be workplace and equipment specific. Training subjects may include:
- Hazard recognition
- Equipment usage
- Equipment care
- Emergency procedures
While training records aren’t always required by the regulations, it’s a best practice to keep documentation of training. This will make it easy to track who’s been trained, when training occurred, and provide proof of compliance with regulatory standards.
Whether required or not, having a written plan can help your company and employees. Before writing any plan, find out what your company is required to do under applicable regulations, and see if a written plan or written requirements are specified in the regulations.
If the regulations don’t have any written requirements, decide whether your company could still benefit from a written plan. Reasons to develop a written plan may include:
- Work involving safety concerns is carried out safely
- Requirements designed to ensure safety measures are communicated and understood by workers
- Company-specific procedures are in place to safeguard the health and safety of all employees.
If a worker has been exposed to harmful chemicals on the job, it’s critical to know compliance requirements and have a plan set to help manage the situation. One requirement is an inventory of the chemicals your facility uses. Developing a list can be a formidable task, but it is a requirement. Be sure to have a solid procedure in place to keep your chemical list updated.
Labeling is another important step. All containers of hazardous chemicals in your facility should be properly labeled with information on the chemical’s identity and potential hazards.
One common misstep is not having safety data sheets for each chemical. There are many different systems available to help with this process, so whatever method you choose, make sure your workers have access when they need it.
Training is a very important component when dealing with chemicals. Train all workers and provide the valuable information needed when chemicals with new hazards are introduced. In fact, compliance officers can issue citations if employees can’t answer questions about your operation’s HazCom program.
Even for short durations, losing employees to injury or illness can be a major disruption to your operation. It may also hurt morale, productivity, turnover, and company reputation. So it’s good practice to maintain and analyze injury and illness records. Incident management helps your operation uncover workplace safety and health issues and track your progress in resolving them.
Under compliance regulations, covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses. This is important for employers and workers in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding industry hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards. When incidents do occur, EHS managers may want to evaluate injuries and illnesses to look for patterns and implement ways to minimize risk.
An audit process to identify existing or potential hazards should be included in any effective safety and health program. A safety audit is a good way to see if your operation is following proper health and safety guidelines.
Audits are not inspections. Inspections are necessary to look at the facility, the process, and the jobs in order to control any hazards that may exist. An audit is simply to check how an employer’s inspection process is working.
Audits help ensure compliance with safety regulations because the process requires a close examination of the workplace and processes.
Records – This may include written plans, injury reports, confined space permits, or other documentation. If there is a safety inspection, the compliance officer will likely review these records, so you’ll want to make sure that they’re current and in order.
Training – It’s important that training and documentation is up to date and reflects your current operations.
Employees – A good practice is to talk to employees about their training to ensure knowledge and understanding of work safety.
EHS management will continue to evolve as the world changes, technology advances, and new issues arise. But the importance of the health and safety of workers, communities, and the environment will never change. We hope this article helped define EHS, why it’s so important, and some best practices to implement at your operation.