Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) managers can’t be everywhere at once, but sometimes they might feel like their organizations demand them to be. Maintaining strong EHS compliance and culture can be difficult enough for a single facility, large or small—but what about when you have to manage EHS for sites spread out across a campus? Or across multiple cities? Or different states? Or even multiple nations?
The challenges of global EHS management can seem insurmountable. With a focused approach and the proper technological tools, however, it is possible to achieve high levels of success. Here are the key considerations for managing EHS across multiple sites.
As with many other challenges, the problem of multi-site EHS management becomes less overwhelming when it’s deconstructed and approached methodically. First, EHS managers must identify the greatest areas of risk. Important questions to ask include:
What are the physical risks? Take stock of the common hazards facing your industry and employ best practices for eliminating or mitigating them. Are they threats to health? To safety? To the environment? All three? Know the human and financial costs of incidents related to these risks, and develop organizational incident reporting to keep track of performance.
What are the compliance risks? If your organization is subject to regulatory requirements for training, recordkeeping, materials handling, and/or equipment safeguards, EHS managers must know these obligations and adhere to them. This can be quite complex when operational processes vary and when operating in different jurisdictions. Maintaining accurate compliance profiles for each location can be challenging, but software tools can help maintain accurate regulatory registers and even notify site leaders when relevant requirements change.
Does organizational culture exacerbate these risks? EHS programs are only as good as the safety culture they are built on. Multi-site EHS management presents a unique challenge on this front, but also a unique opportunity—if one site’s culture is vastly better than others, analyze what that group is doing and apply its lessons companywide.
As they prioritize tasks and create programs, managers also must remember there’s a difference between what corporate EHS wants and what site-level EHS needs when it comes to risk management. They must do their best to find a balance, create common ground, and learn to communicate both up and down in their organizational structure.
A well-organized, comprehensive compliance calendar is crucial for maintaining EHS performance. This necessity becomes even more essential if your company faces compounding environmental and safety compliance requirements across different facilities. It can be easy to forget something in the shuffle of multi-site EHS management—but that oversight can be costly if discovered by a regulatory agency.
EHS software can help managers create site-specific compliance calendars that include:
Reporting. Specific reporting requirements will vary depending on the industry, company size, facility, and the nature of the work. Depending on the situation, calendars may include Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) Tier II reports and the annual OSHA reporting of illnesses and injuries (Form 300A).
Permitting. Facilities that require stormwater and air permits must apply for—and renew—these permits on a certain timetable. Failure to obtain a permit or keep it up to date can result in costly facility shutdowns, not to mention related citations, fines, and penalties.
Audits and/or certifications. While internal auditing and certain certification programs (such as ISO 14001 or ISO 45001) are voluntary rather than required by law, they still follow strict timelines for maintenance and/or recertification.
Technology is the key to solving many of the challenges of multi-site EHS management. Not only can it improve visibility into compliance status, it can provide real-time awareness of issues and a broader picture of risk profiles and trends. Software tools that support the organization and management of task, inspection, and audit templates can help EHS teams save time, leverage best practices, and provide a framework for more effective data analysis and reporting. EHS managers can use technology to:
Centralize knowledge. Your facilities may be spread out, but your EHS knowledge and communications don’t have to be. With an integrated software system, you can create a one-stop shop for compliance calendars, employee training and communications, and plans for corrective and preventive action. This provides not only convenience, but the preservation of legacy knowledge should your staff experience turnover at any of your facilities or worksites.
Delegate responsibility. Budgets and resources are usually tight for EHS, but to the best of your ability, build a team of EHS professionals who are dedicated to the field and well-trained in the nuances of health and safety management. Spread your team out across sites, establish trust, and communicate frequently. If a team isn’t in your budget, technology enablers can help share the load of multi-site EHS management.
Virtual communications. Remote audits can provide EHS managers with insights into individual site performance from afar, and these insights can be put to use in guiding improvements to overall organizational performance. Enterprise software can track important tasks and action items.
Harness the power of analytics. In the modern business world, metrics are one of the most valuable tools at an EHS manager’s disposal. To keep your finger on the pulse of EHS performance, use tools to track and analyze incidents and issues. To gain insight into overarching trends and sites with higher risk exposure, use Business Intelligence (BI) tools with dashboards that deliver insights based on your site's unique EHS profiles.
It will always be impossible for EHS managers to be in two (or twenty) places at the same time, and no one can attain an omniscient level of insight into Environment, Health, and Safety performance across multiple sites. With a little strategic thought, a dedicated team, and customized technical solutions, we can achieve the next best thing—the mitigation of as much risk as possible and the creation of safer, healthier workplaces worldwide. Also remember that when you build a strong safety culture, employees take responsibility for the health and safety of themselves and their coworkers—and that extends the reach of your EHS program beyond geographical borders.
Dakota Software provides the resources you need to cover multiple facets of EHS management. View our demo video library to learn how we can help you face the challenges of multi-site EHS management, from training to auditing to incident management.