Environment, health, and safety (EHS) can be a tough function to manage for any organization. Complexities abound, whether they come in the form of evolving hazards, shifting regulations, financial restrictions, or fluctuating complacency among the workforce. Even the most well-resourced professionals can encounter difficulties. But these challenges can be overcome with an effective EHS management system.
A well-defined and well-executed EHS management system helps continually improve EHS performance, allowing organizations to meet—and exceed—their compliance goals while ensuring long-term success and sustainability. Here’s how.
An EHS management system is the policies, procedures, roles (both individual and team/committee), responsibilities, and activities (including training, observation, investigation, and corrective and preventive action) that establish the methods and actions by which your environment, health, and safety programs are created, enforced, and sustained. The system’s purpose is to identify and mitigate hazards facing employees, reduce overall risk, prevent injuries and illnesses, and maintain a positive and accountable EHS culture.
The key building blocks to include when constructing an EHS management system include:
Job hazard analyses (JHAs)
Auditing tools for creating, conducting, and evaluating results of EHS audits
Comprehensive, accessible incident reporting and tracking
Documentation tools for management and archiving of important forms, files, and report documents
EHS training tools (perhaps including an integrated learning management system, or LMS)
Reporting functions and data dashboards to maintain metrics and track progress
A regulatory library, updated frequently to alert your EHS team to new or evolving compliance obligations within your industry
In short, an EHS management system should help you perform all the proven steps of quality control—plan, do, check, act, and sustain—within the context of supporting your organization’s unique EHS programs and goals.
However, it’s just as important to know what not to expect when considering your system. An EHS management system is NOT:
One-size-fits-all. Every industry is different, and every organization within an industry functions differently. This is why EHS professionals must develop a management system that not only addresses high-level issues, but is also tailored to their organizations’ unique needs.
A substitute for a well-staffed and properly resourced EHS department. While an EHS management system is indeed a critical tool for streamlining tasks and discovering efficiencies, it can’t be expected to make the observations or start the conversations necessary for EHS success. Only a well-trained human team can do that—and it’s important that everyone, from the shop floor to the boardroom, understands this.
An automatic, ironclad shield against incidents … or citations. Yes, a well-executed EHS management system can make it less likely that incidents or citations will occur. But complacency is a foe that never sleeps, and as mentioned above, a system is always only as strong as the people who maintain and improve it.
Needless to say, creating an EHS management system is a complex and sometimes daunting undertaking. Fortunately, there are numerous consensus standards that create frameworks for getting started, and they offer certification programs that incentivize continual improvement of EHS systems.
Some of these standards include:
ISO 45001: This standard, created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), was created to improve occupational health and safety (OHS) worldwide by eliminating hazards and minimizing risks. By helping organizations take a deep dive into auditing, planning, and analyzing gaps in their programs, ISO 45001 and its related certification provide a framework for achieving safety compliance and culture that goes beyond the norm.
ISO 14001: Also created by the ISO and rooted in rigorous auditing, this standard sets criteria specific to organizational environmental management. Becoming ISO 14001 certified can give organizations a competitive advantage both socially and financially, providing an excellent pathway to improved environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance.
Responsible Care Management System (RCMS)®: The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) RCMS and accompanying RC 14001 certification is required for facilities that must maintain ACC membership or is voluntary for those organizations that wish to assess how they stand up to the ACC’s high standards for environment, health, safety, and security performance.
EHS management systems will help you comply with regulatory requirements—but they are really intended to take you beyond compliance. Far above the security that compliance assurance brings, a well-executed system can also provide EHS managers with:
A better safety culture. An EHS management system allows for better communication, increased visibility into progress, and more opportunities for employee engagement with EHS initiatives.
Improved operations. When a good system is working right, it shatters the common misconception that EHS disrupts or slows operations. In fact, EHS management systems will improve operational efficiency by boosting employee morale while preventing unnecessary delays and costs.
An investment that results in cost savings. While an up-front investment is necessary to properly build an effective EHS management system, the return on investment is potentially enormous. The more injuries, illnesses, and environmental impacts are reduced, so are all of the business costs—both financial and human.
Whether you are just beginning to build your EHS management system or are looking to amend or improve existing systems, one thing is clear: The modern workforce requires modern EHS solutions. As organizations grow, adapt, and evolve, software is now a necessary partner to ensure the long-term success of your EHS management systems—and, in turn, your environment, health, and safety objectives.
Dakota Software’s ProActivity Suite® provides solutions to address all the necessary building blocks and quality control steps inherent to a solid EHS management system:
Profiler allows professionals to plan and maintain a proactive EHS program.
Tracer helps EHS managers do what they do best by facilitating the execution and tracking of action items across the organization.
Auditor provides a way to check and verify ongoing compliance activities against up-to-date regulatory requirements.
Scout tracks and analyzes EHS events so managers can act to improve safety performance.
Dakota also provides modules that contain the full text of many Management System standards, along with checklists and frameworks for how they may supplement or otherwise apply to your EHS management systems.
See how Dakota Software can help chart your path to the best EHS management system for your company—request a demo now.