The Ultimate Guide to EHS&S: Meaning & Importance
14 November 2023 - Evotix
What is EHS&S?
EHS&S (environment, health, safety and sustainability) is a term that encompasses many processes, guidelines and initiatives that are in place to embed safe operations throughout an organization. This includes ensuring the health and safety of employees, customers, the environment in which an organization operates and making sure actions are completed in a sustainable fashion.
When ‘environment’ is discussed, it means the natural world in which people, animals or plants live or operate. Reducing a company’s carbon footprint, addressing climate change, preventing pollution, improving air quality and limiting chemical hazards all fall under environment. ‘Health’ refers to anything that could negatively impact the physical or mental condition of an employee. ‘Safety’ relates to the measures a company takes to identify and address workplace hazards, ensuring the well-being of employees and the workplace. It goes beyond just avoiding incidents or accidents by actively minimizing adverse effects and having processes in place to keep employees safe during work. ‘Sustainability’ relates to preserving natural resources so they can be used again. Sustainability practices include using renewable energy sources, reducing energy consumption and recycling materials.
Why is EHS&S important?
Every person has a right to work in a healthy, safe and fulfilling environment. The cost of poor safety is high. It’s clear that one of the main reasons why EHS&S is important is that behind every safety-related statistic is a name and family. The cost of poor safety is the lives of your employees, but the cost doesn’t stop there. Safety is a legal obligation and poor EHS&S management will lead to:
Increase in costs (fines, claims, etc.)
Disruption to production
Decrease in employee morale and retention
Loss of future investment
Damage to business reputation
Good EHS&S management is a core part of the operational ecosystem and doing it well can promote engagement and wider productivity benefits. Which is why it’s time to shift the mentality on EHS&S to safe operations being an organization’s top priority.
The Western world’s outlook on employee health and safety has changed drastically over the last few decades, with legislation being brought in during the 1970s to provide more protection for employees than ever before. Thanks to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (passed to prevent workers from being killed or harmed at work), employees in the U.S. have the right to a safe and healthy place of work, while the U.K.’s Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 lays out specific health and safety responsibilities for employees and employers alike.
Incidents such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which caused 57,500 square miles of petroleum leakage, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others, and the Rana Plaza accident, a building collapse that killed at least 1,132 people and injured 2,500, serve as powerful reminders of the importance of truly prioritizing EHS&S. While it is easy to forget that hazards exist in our day-to-day lives, by placing safety at the heart of effective operations, tragedies like these may be avoided.
Even if you don’t work in a high-risk environment, making safe operations a value within your organization is beneficial for the following reasons:
Reducing the days of missed work for employees
Prioritizing safety minimizes the occurrence of workplace injuries, ultimately reducing the number of days employees need to take off due to accidents. This not only fosters a healthier workforce but also ensures continuity in operations by mitigating disruptions caused by absenteeism.
Eradicating employee fears surrounding potential accidents
Emphasizing safe operations alleviates concerns among employees about potential accidents or hazards in the workplace. This creates a more secure and positive work environment, fostering employee well-being, satisfaction and a sense of security in their daily tasks.
Increasing company profit
A focus on safe operations contributes to a more efficient and productive workforce. Reduced accidents and injuries translate into lower healthcare costs, decreased workers' compensation claims and increased employee productivity. The resulting cost savings and enhanced productivity directly contribute to the overall profitability of the company.
Improving public image
Prioritizing safety not only protects your employees but also enhances your company's public image. Stakeholders, customers and the broader community appreciate and support businesses that prioritize the well-being of their workforce and demonstrate a commitment to responsible operations. This positive perception can contribute to customer loyalty and attract socially conscious partners and investors.
Why do businesses need to consider EHS&S?
The pressure on companies across all industries to be more transparent about their EHS&S practices is growing stronger. The escalating demand for transparency, especially concerning the environmental footprint, underscores the critical need for companies to address EHS&S considerations proactively.
In recent years, a significant shift has occurred, acknowledging that turning a blind eye to environmental regulations is no longer a viable option. The growing public awareness, coupled with stringent regulatory frameworks, has made businesses increasingly accountable for their impact on the environment. Companies are now under more scrutiny than ever, prompting the need for comprehensive EHS&S strategies.
One noteworthy development in regulations is the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which places a spotlight on the significance of transparent sustainability reporting and accountability. As businesses navigate this evolving landscape, embracing EHS&S practices not only aligns with regulatory expectations but also establishes a foundation for fostering positive public perception.
Incorporating robust EHS&S practices not only helps in complying with regulations but also enhances brand credibility, mitigates risks and positions companies as responsible stewards of the environment. Businesses that proactively integrate EHS&S considerations into their operations are better prepared to thrive in an era where sustainability is a key driver of corporate success.
How can EHS&S software help?
In a nutshell, EHS&S software helps you manage your environment, health, safety and sustainability program to keep your workers healthy and safe, all while helping you reach your corporate operational goals.
EHS&S software, through its proactive capabilities, enables the capture, storage and organization of information and workflows, ensuring a unified system to demonstrate compliance and track insights.
The top 10 benefits of using EHS&S software include:
1. Embedding the right processes to meet safety regulations and ensuring visibility for monitoring compliance across multiple sites.
2. Implementing a more streamlined mechanism for on-the-go incident reporting and investigation.
3. Minimizing the use of spreadsheets, enabling a single data entry point to reduce administrative time and potential errors.
4. Harnessing powerful business intelligence to streamline the process of assembling reports.
5. Centralizing data collection to one secure location for storing all incident details and supporting documents.
6. Effectively educating staff through interactive EHS&S training.
7. Easily identifying incident patterns and root causes for improved risk mitigation.
8. Staying informed and compliant with changing legal obligations related to EHS&S.
9. Enhancing your company's reputation by transparently addressing its environmental footprint.
10. Boosting employee morale and engagement by empowering them with direct control over safety, encouraging them to be a positive force for change.
Prioritizing EHS&S isn't just a legal obligation; it's a strategic necessity for organizations of all types. Whether in a high-risk industry or a seemingly low-risk environment, embracing safe operations offers tangible benefits, from reducing absenteeism to enhancing public image. As businesses navigate an evolving regulatory landscape, EHS&S tools can help streamline compliance, incident reporting and environmental and sustainability management.
EHS&S isn't just a regulatory checkbox; it's a cornerstone for fostering a positive work environment, ensuring employee well-being and navigating the path to sustained success in an increasingly conscientious business world.
To learn more about the evolving regulatory landscape around sustainability, check out our infographic: Navigating the EU CSRD
Tips for Managing EHS With an Aging Workforce
18 April 2023 - Evotix
The concern around the impact an aging workforce has on the EHS space has been growing greater in recent years. As more workers approach retirement age and continue working into their 60s and 70s,..
10 Key Steps When Choosing EHS Software
9 May 2023 - Langdon Dement
When picking EHS software for your organization, it’s important you pick the best software tool for your organizational processes. There are a lot of companies selling various software tools that can..
Q&A With Chris Newson of Make UK: ISO 45001
3 May 2023 - Evotix
Created by a committee of occupational health and safety experts, ISO 45001 is making waves in the health and safety world as a leading global framework for health & safety in the workplace...