What is Environmental Health and Safety? A Comprehensive Guide
EHS: definition and challenges What is an EHS manager? The use of technology to optimise the EHS The importance of EHS management
What is Environmental Health and Safety and, more importantly, how do you integrate it into your company strategy?
In order to get a full comprehension of what EHS is (spoiler alert: it means Environment, Health & Safety), we are offering you the whole package, from a comprehensive definition to the challenges and missions of EHS managers, and including helpful software solutions.
Here you will find a whole guide to help you implement EHS policies in your company and benefit from them.
EHS: definition and challenges
What is Environmental, Health and Safety?
The Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) policy is a regulatory framework that includes the identification and compliance of a company's production standards, with a particular focus on the working place conditions in terms of security and environmental safeguard.
It can also be named:
- HSSE: Health, safety, security, environment
- QSE: Quality, safety, environment
- QHSE: Quality, Health, security, environment
It may look tiresome, but it is actual support in terms of brand image, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.
EHS fields of action
The main fields of interest are the prevention of various occupational risks and compliance with environmental, health and safety standards.
|Environmental||Limitation of the environmental impacts of products and services, and compliance with the regulatory framework in this domain.|
|Observation of the compliance with the current standards|
|Safety||Prevention of occupational diseases and accidents at work|
In agreement with the company's global strategies, EHS management provides support for:
- human resources management (HR)
- safety management
- environmental management
It, therefore, refers to cross-functional knowledge in all the company’s departments.
When we talk about EHS integration into the company's policy, we refer to it as an integrated management system, or IMS, based on ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards.
Challenges of EHS management
There are two ways to face risks:
- by acting on their probability of occurrence (preventive measures)
- by acting on their magnitude (implementation of protection systems)
EHS management serves multiple purposes:
- the improvement of product quality
- the production level and the company’s performance management
- the physical and psychological integrity of employees
- the compliance with the standards set by the government and/or other entitled organisations
- the compliance in the event of an inspection (labour inspection, occupational medicine…)
- the attention towards any kind of disability, regarding evacuation procedures for example
- the corporate social responsibility (respect for the environment, etc.)
- the awareness-building among internal and external (suppliers, partner, customers...) stakeholders
- the cost reduction (work accidents, legal penalties, etc.)
- the improvement of safety and health (well-being, quality of life at work)
- the success of internal audits
- the award of certifications or labels to highlight to the company’s image
- the change in the staff’s attitudes towards quality, safety, and the environment
Health and safety on the workplace: focus on occupational risks
Health and safety are two important aspects of Health and Safety at Work etc. act (1974).
Occupational risks may vary according to the business nature and sectors: nuclear, metallurgy/steel, electronics, aeronautics, chemistry and petrochemistry, agri-food, cosmetics, quarries and mines, health, construction, etc.
Some risks are directly correlated to the job nature itself, but sometimes it is also a matter of stress, fatigue, etc. Here we find the difference between direct and indirect risks. The Health and Safety Commission (HSC), the authority in charge of work injuries prevention, lists them on its website.
Four main classes of occupational risks
- accidents at work occurring during the exercise of a profession;
- occupational diseases, resulting from exposure to a physical, biological or chemical risk;
- accidents during business trips;
- psychological risks related to working conditions, such as stress, burn-out, bore out, etc.
© Thompsons solicitors
Consequences of psychological work-related diseases can be more serious than it seems:
Burnout — a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress — is not simply a result of working long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out, at work or at home, or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self.
Occupational Health and Security operators
- the employer who is required to do everything in his power to ensure the best working conditions;
- the employee who has to alert the employer or the competent authority about any detected risk;
- the EHS manager.
What is an EHS manager?
Job description & educational background
The EHS manager focuses on:
- the safety of the staff
- the awareness of prevention
- the compliance with standards and security
Other activities may include:
- quality management
- environmental management
- safety management
Regarding the educational background, there are several options:
- Occupational, Health & Safety degree
- Construction management degree
- Engineering degree
What is the role of an EHS manager in a company?
The EHS manager is a mediator, a controller and a spokesperson at the same time. He coordinates projects and supports the company's employees while guaranteeing their safety, to meet both customer and regulatory requirements.
They may refer to the general principles of prevention and protection as defined by the HSC :
- risks avoidance
- risks assessment
- prevention of risks
- the observation that the job adapts to people and not the contrary
- technological developments follow up
- prioritisation of less harmful products and better protective equipment,
- planning of prevention,
- prioritisation of collective protection measures while guaranteeing individual protection,
- supply of appropriate instructions to employees
The EHS Manager also contributes to two key factors for competitiveness: the development of the company's brand image and the acquisition of new markets.
The missions of the QHSE manager
1) Definition and negotiation of the EHS policy:
- the definition of the policy with the management, taking into consideration the company's objectives (production, sustainable development, etc.) and constraints (regulations, customer requests, budget issues…)
- the monitoring of competitors, technological development and environmental information
- the definition of procedures and instructions
- the integration of the repositories into an IMS
2) Implementation and management of EHS policies:
- the definition of methods and tools to improve products quality, processes, safety, risk prevention, and environmental protection
- the training of managers and technicians to increase staff awareness
- the organisation of meetings to collect and discuss issues
- the development of internal and external audits (suppliers, etc.)
- the reporting that follows site visits and audits
- the communication and promotion of the EHS policy
3) Analysis and monitoring:
- the monitoring of, according to the applicable specifications and standards, traceability, and conformity:
- of raw materials,
- of installations,
- of processes,
- the draw up of the action plan
- the assessment of control and prevention procedures
- the risks and opportunities analysis
- the monitoring of statistics versus objectives, etc.
Internal recruitment or subcontracting?
A company may recruit an EHS manager to anticipate health and safety risks and to accomplish occupational health policies.
If it is not sufficiently profitable to hire a dedicated person, you can always use subcontracting and consultancy firms and design offices that can also provide EHS audit and prevention services.
The use of technology to optimise the EHS
On the market, you can find plenty of solutions to analyse, monitor and manage all the EHS related issues such as working conditions and quality of products and services.
Using a SaaS mode one, you will be able to better manage the risks thanks to cutting-edge functionalities always updated to new regulatory frameworks.
Which are the benefits of integrating technologies into EHS daily activities? There are several, among which:
- possibility of online and remote management
- real-time monitoring of analysis, recommendations, and statistics
- time-saving and traceability in process
- management of the company's strategic documentation
- automation of reporting activities
- automated updates to comply with any new rules
- assessment of the company's level of compliance, etc.
Focus on three SaaS solutions
Environment, health, and safety need to be seen as a set and not as a group of independent entities. Of course, you can find solutions both with a global perspective and focused on a particular aspect (i.e. software specialised in safety).
Finally, you can also find software programs that allow reports dematerialisation during your audits or controls on site. We have selected three examples for you.
Kizeo Forms, your report dematerialisation tool!
Kizeo Forms allows you to digitise and improve your field service management. No more paper, no more data loss and more money saved!
This app will adapt to your business allowing you to:
- perform on-field interventions follow-up granting the teams full mobility, even offline
- standardise reports through the definition of mandatory fields in the back office
- synchronise information in real-time to smooth the internal communication flow
- auto-send reports to stakeholders (customers, partners, etc.)
- use essential tools such as electronic signature and site geolocation
- customise the tool to generate reports that are coherent with the brand image, in particular with the already existing documentation
MyEasyISO: your ally in the ISO standards compliance
MyEasyISO is a valuable software that will help you increase efficiency and quality:
Among its characteristics we can find:
- management of internal audit
- environmental issues management
- risk management
- monitoring to ensure a healthy workplace
- planning and actions to manage emergencies
Quarks Safety: a guarantee in chemical risk management
Quarks Safety is a SaaS solution with a strong focus in EHS of the chemical industry:
This software will offer you:
- product record creation
- automatic Safety Data Sheets
- hazard & precautionary statements
- hazard & risk analysis
- customisable workflow management
The importance of EHS management
Yes, environmental, health, and safety management may look like a legal and regulatory labyrinth.
But, on the other hand, you can see this obligation as an opportunity to grow in terms of performances, qualities, and satisfaction of both customers and partners.
More than a management tool, an EHS solution represents a real and transparent HR communication tool. It is no more a matter of being compliant but also of following this new trend that puts the quality of services and the welfare of workers first.