What is Environment, Health and Safety and Why is it Important?

“The worst day I ever saw.” This is how people described the industrial disaster (infamously known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire) of 1911, where 146 people, mostly young women, got killed in the fire. This was the first industrial accident that came up on my laptop screen when I was researching Environment, Health and Safety. You won’t believe history is full of horrific industrial disasters that eventually gave birth to Environmental Protection Agency and later OSHA (The Occupational Safety & Health Administration) that we see today. 

To supplement my knowledge on this topic before writing on it, I decided to attend several EHS conferences, like the 35th Environmental, Health, and Safety Conference by the American Foundry Society, to understand what EHS stands for after 53 years of its introduction. 

In this blog, you will learn:

  • What is Environment Health and Safety (EHS)?
  • What is EHS compliance?
  • What is the importance of Health, Safety, and the Environment
  • What does EHS Management include?
  • What is the role of an EHS professional in any organization? 
  • How does EHS software fit in the picture? 

So let’s get started!

What is Environment Health and Safety (EHS)?

EHS stands for Environment, Health, and Safety. The main objective of EHS is to ensure that people and the environment are safe and healthy. 

Let’s see what E, H, and S mean in the broader sense. 

Environment refers to the surrounding conditions, including the natural and built environments in which an organization operates and the impact of its activities on the environment. It includes regulations that govern topics such as air and water quality, waste management, and conservation of natural resources.

Health refers to the physical and mental well-being of employees, contractors, and others in the workplace and the impact of the organization’s activities on public health. It includes regulations that govern occupational health and safety, emergency preparedness, and exposure to hazardous materials.

Safety refers to protecting employees, contractors, and others from accidents, injuries, and harm. It includes regulations that govern topics such as fire safety management, emergency evacuation, and personal protective equipment.

EHS Program Timelines

Here is a brief timeline I have put together to help you understand how EHS practices came into existence.

1979

Industrial Health and Safety (IHS) program was established in the 19th and 20th centuries when industrialization significantly increased workplace accidents and illnesses.

2004

IHS was renamed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) to ensure employers provided their employees with safe and healthy working conditions

2015

OSH was again renamed Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) to protect the environment and promote environmental sustainability in the workplace.

What is EHS Compliance?

EHS compliance refers to following all laws, regulations, standards, and guidelines related to the workplace’s environment, health, and safety management. 

A factory, for example, must comply with all regulations set by the EPA and the OSHA to ensure that emissions from the factory do not harm the air quality and that workers are safe. Compliance with these regulations is crucial to protect employees, the community, and the environment from any negative impacts caused by the organization’s operations.

What is the Importance of Health Safety and Environment?

A while ago, we mentioned Triangle Waist Company, a garment factory in lower Manhattan, where the neglect and apathy of the factory owners resulted in a devastating fire that claimed the lives of 146 innocent workers. 

Similarly, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 brought to light the devastating effects of an oil drilling rig explosion that caused the largest oil spill in history, wreaking havoc on marine life and the environment.

To prevent such industrial accidents from happening again, EHS was implemented to protect the natural environment and the people in it from possible harm or danger at their workplaces. 

From the industrial point of view, these are the reasons why EHS is crucial for providing healthy, safe, and environmentally friendly working conditions. 

  • To protect human health from exposure to harmful substances and conditions in the workplace and the environment. This includes exposure to hazardous chemicals, noise pollution, and poor air quality.
  • To avoid occupational injuries and identify and control potential hazards in the workplace. This includes implementing fire safety management measures, providing proper training, and monitoring equipment and processes for potential hazards.
  • To comply with laws and regulations and protect the environment and public health. Adhering to these regulations is important for avoiding penalties and legal action.
  • To improve productivity by providing a safe and healthy workplace, reducing the number of accidents and illnesses among employees, and lowering the cost of employee turnover and lost productivity.
  • To protect the company’s reputation and public image, companies require strong EHS programs viewed favorably by the public and customers, leading to increased business and stakeholder support.

What does EHS Management Include?

EHS management includes various activities and processes implemented to protect employees, customers, and the wider community. 

Some key areas that EHS management typically includes are:

Process Safety Management

Following process safety management standards and regulations for businesses that deal with hazardous materials such as toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases.

Auditing and Monitoring

Conduct regular audits to ensure EHS policies and procedures are implemented effectively and identify improvement areas.

Risk Assessment

Identifying potential hazards and assessing the harmful risks to the people and the environment.

Injury Prevention

Implementing strict safety management practices that will help you reduce occupational injuries at workplaces. 

Incident Reporting and Investigation

Having a system to report incidents and accidents and conducting investigations to determine the cause and prevent a recurrence.

Emergency Preparedness

Planning and preparing for emergencies and having procedures to respond effectively to incidents.

Compliance

Ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, including environmental protection, health and safety, and emergency response.

Training and Communication

Providing training and communication programs to ensure that employees know their roles and responsibilities and know about the potential hazards and measures to curb them.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly review and update EHS policies, procedures, and practices to ensure they remain effective and aligned with the latest regulations and industry standards.

Sustainability

Incorporating sustainable practices into the organization’s operations to reduce the negative footprint on the environment.

What is the Role of an EHS Manager?

An EHS Manager is a professional responsible for developing, implementing, and managing an organization’s EHS programs and policies. They are responsible for ensuring that the organization complies with all laws, regulations, and standards related to EHS. 

Some of the specific responsibilities of an EHS Manager may include the following:

  • Developing, implementing, and maintaining EHS policies, procedures, and programs
  • Conducting risk assessments and audits to identify and evaluate potential hazards in the workplace.
  • Developing and delivering EHS training for employees
  • Investigating incidents and accidents to find the root cause analysis and implement preventive and corrective measures.
  • Identifying and implementing appropriate controls to eliminate or mitigate identified hazards.
  • Managing environmental programs such as waste management and pollution control.
  • Maintaining EHS records and reporting on EHS performance to senior management and regulatory agencies.
  • Preparing and submitting required EHS reports to regulatory agencies and other stakeholders.

What is EHS Software and How Does it Fit in the Picture?

As you can see, EHS management is a crucial aspect of any business operation. EHS Managers have many responsibilities that cannot be easily carried out without the help of technology. Luckily, many software like EHS software, safety audit softwareetc., can help them effortlessly manage everything, from conducting audits and identifying health and environment hazards to implementing appropriate measures or reporting.

For example, they would ensure that construction sites are properly fenced off to prevent public access and that the construction activities do not pollute nearby water bodies or air. They would monitor that the construction company follows the regulations and guidelines for waste management and hazardous materials handling. Furthermore, they would conduct regular inspections and audits to oversee safety management and environmental regulations.

Improved Compliance

EHS software allows organizations to easily track and manage compliance with relevant regulations, such as OSHA, EPA, and other industry-specific standards. It can also help organizations identify and mitigate potential compliance risks.

Increased Efficiency

It automates many processes, including incident reporting, hazard identification, and corrective action tracking. This can save organizations time and money by eliminating the need for manual data entry and paper-based record keeping.

Better Data Management

It provides a central location to store and manage EHS data, making it easier to track performance, identify trends, and measure progress over time.

Better Communication

It can help organizations to better communicate EHS performance and compliance information to employees, stakeholders, and regulators.

Better Decision-Making

It provides access to a wide range of data, which can be analyzed to identify trends, potential risks, and areas for improvement. This can help organizations to make better-informed decisions about how to improve their EHS performance. 

Conclusion

I hope this blog provided a clearer understanding of what EHS is and why it is essential for any organization. If I put it this way, EHS is like a superhero for your workplace, and it is the force that protects your employees, the environment, and your business from harm. The guardian ensures compliance with regulations, and it is the secret weapon (non-lethal) that helps your organization run smoothly and efficiently. 

Key Takeaways

Think about it, without EHS, you could be putting your employees at risk of injury or illness, damaging the environment, and facing hefty fines. But with EHS, you can rest easy knowing that your workplace is safe and responsible.

And just like any superhero, EHS has tools to help it do its job. One of the most powerful of these tools is EHS software. Imagine seamlessly integrating EHS into your operations with just a few clicks. That’s what EHS software can do for you. It makes compliance easy, streamlines processes, and gives real-time insights into your EHS performance.

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