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    Ultimate Guide to EHS: Meaning & Importance

    6 July 2022 - Evotix

       

    Before we begin, let’s acquaint ourselves with the acronyms

    So what does EHS stand for? EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) is an umbrella term used for all the rules, laws, programs, and actions put in place to support the health and safety of employees, customers, and the environment in which an organization operates. Depending on where you are located this can also be referred to as HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) or EHSQ (Environmental, Health, Safety and Quality).

    Table of Contents:

    • What is EHS?
    • Why is EHS important?
    • Which businesses need to consider EHS?
    • What are the benefits of EHS software?
    • What does an EHS manager do?
    • How can Evotix help?

    What is EHS?

    EHS is a term that encompasses many processes, guidelines and initiatives that build towards maintaining safe operations.

    When ‘environment’ is discussed, it means the natural world in which people, animals or plants live or operate. As in, “am I releasing toxic chemicals into the environment or polluting a stream?”

    ‘Health’ refers to anything that could negatively impact the physical or mental condition of an employee.

    ‘Safety’ relates to the organized measures a company takes to identify workplace hazards, thereby protecting employees and the workplace.

    Why is EHS important? 

    Every person has a right to work in a safe and fulfilling environment. The cost of poor safety is high. It’s clear that one of the main reasons why EHS 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 management will lead to: 

    • Increase in costs (fines, claims, etc.) 
    • Disruption to operational efficiency 
    • Decrease in employee morale and retention  
    • Loss of future investment 
    • Damage to business reputation 

    Good EHS 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 to safe operations being an organization’s #1 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 United States have the right to a safe and healthy place of work, while the UK’s Health and Safety at Work etc 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. 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. 

    Having an EHS department provides clear evidence that companies are not only serious about complying with governmental regulations, but also that they truly care about their employee's health, safety, well-being and happiness – promoting a positive work environment.  

    The benefits of a comprehensive EHS program are numerous. Even if you don’t work in a high-risk environment, making safe operations your #1 priority is beneficial for the following reasons: 

    • Reducing the days of missed work for employees. The Health and Safety Executive estimated that in 2019, the average person suffering from a work-related illness in the UK took about 17.6 days off work.  Similarly in the US, the National Safety Congress estimates that 99,000,000 days were lost in 2020 as a result of work-related injuries. 
    • Eradicating employee fears surrounding potential accidents. According to Richard Powell, Head of Personal Injury Claims at JMW Solicitors, more than a quarter of employees do not report a workplace injury for fear of financial repercussions from their employer.  
    • Increasing company profit. Incidents incur a range of direct and indirect costs to employers. For example, an incident with a direct cost of $5,000 will mean that the organization will need to generate $227,000 to cover the incident cost, according to Bill Gourdie, Health and Safety director at GAI. In 2020, the National Safety Council calculated that the total cost to employers for work injuries was over $163 billion which includes $44.8 billion in wage and productivity losses. 
    • Improved public image. By taking a firm stand on health, safety and the environment, public recognition and loyalty from customers, partners and investors is bolstered.  
    • Reduction in legal issues brought on by workplace incidents. According to Health and Safety Executive, organizations in the UK tried in a magistrates court can expect to pay between £5,000 to £20,000 in fines. Organizations may also have to pay compensation and legal fees. In 2019  the National Council on Compensation Insurance stated that the average cost on a US worker’s comp claim was $42,008.
       

    Which businesses need to consider EHS? 

    The pressure on companies to be more transparent about their EHS practices is growing stronger. This is particularly important when it comes to their environmental footprint. 

    Actions taken within the last few years show that ignoring environmental regulations simply won’t fly, with Severn Trent Water, a water company operating in the utility sector, being handed a £500,000 fine in 2019 for spilling thousands of gallons of raw sewage in a Birmingham Park. 

    While looking after the environment and its people should be a priority for all businesses, some will have to manage risk more stringently than others. The industries with the highest need for EHS are as follows: 

    Despite being dotted across a variety of areas, these industries have at least one (if not a few, or even all) of the following risks in common: 

    • Slips, trips and falls 
    • Fire-related hazards  
    • Exposure to harmful and toxic substances  
    • Contact with heavy machinery and electrical equipment  
    • Accidents involving collisions with other vehicles  
    • Managing work through extreme heat or cold 

    According to HSE, construction worker deaths accounted for just under half of all workplace deaths in the UK in 2020/21 (39 out of 142 deaths). In the US, the Department of Labor shares that construction worker deaths account for 20% of workplace deaths in 2019.  

    Although incident rates globally have been improving over the last few decades, this data still demonstrates that workers in some of these industries, such as utilities, are more frequently exposed to risks that can be classified as a serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs).  

    What are the benefits of EHS software? 

    In a nutshell, EHS software helps you manage your environment, health, and safety program to keep your workers happy and safe, all while helping you reach your corporate operational goals.  

    EHS software provides the means to capture, store and organize information and workflows to demonstrate compliance and track insights in one unified system. The top 11 benefits of using EHS software include: 

    1. Ability to embed the right process to meet safety regulations and visibility to monitor compliance across multiple sites 
    2. A more streamlined mechanism for incident reporting/investigating while on-the-go 
    3. Less use of spreadsheets, meaning one singly entry of data that minimizes admin time and potential human errors  
    4. Powerful business intelligence that reduces time spent on assembling reports 
    5. Streamlining of data collection to one central location that securely stores all incident details and support documents 
    6. Better data collection consistency through centralizing information leading to quality data to make smarter decisions 
    7. The ability to more effectively educate staff with interactive EHS training  
    8. The capability to spot incident patterns and root causes easily leading to improved risk mitigation 
    9. Staying up-to-date with changing legal obligations around EHS 
    10. Boosting your company’s reputation by being transparent about your environmental footprint 
    11. Increased employee morale and engagement by giving employees more direct control over safety to empower them to be a positive force for change
       

    What Does an EHS Manager do? 

    An EHS manager is responsible for developing, implementing and overseeing the health and safety program of an organization. Responsibilities of an EHS manager include: 

    • The management of health and safety systems  
    • Coordinating and delivering safety training 
    • Job hazard analysis  
    • Implementing controls for hazards  
    • Performing risk management duties  
    • Improving human and operation performance  
    • Working to reduce emissions  
    • And so much more 

    Due to the multi-faceted nature of EHS, the role may be split across several jobs. Safety officers, for example, are more exclusively responsible for carrying out observations, inspections, and safety training. EHS managers are vital in many organizations and keep the business profitable, operational and safe. 

    For a more in-depth review of the role of EHS managers, have a look at our article. 

    How can Evotix Help? 

    The job of an EHS professional can easily seem overwhelming, which is why EHS software solutions are excellent tools to help streamline and assist with EHS processes. Evotix provides EHS software that is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive to help automate all your critical safety activities in one system. 

    Evotix offers Assure, a platform that seamlessly tracks your data to provide sights that put you ahead of the curve, boost engagement and keep your people safe. Assure offers tools to help with: 

    • Incident management  
    • Risk management  
    • Audits and inspection  
    • Training and learning  
    • Environment monitoring 
    • Contractor management  
    • Asset management  
    • Behavior management  
    • AssureGO+ - a mobile web app 

    To find out more about Assure and AssureGO+, simply visit our resource library to learn more about our EHS management software capabilities.  

    Evotix also offers Learn, a training solution that ensures training and tracking across organizations and uses microlearning to embed learning throughout the everyday. Learn helps reach all people at your organization, with adaptable, targeted and compelling content.   

    To find out more about Learn, visit our website: Learn Health and Safety (EHS) Frontline Training App - Evotix  

    Conclusion 

    We hope this article has given you a better understanding of EHS, why it’s important, and the tools you can put in place to improve your EHS processes.  

    Embracing EHS will not only benefit employees, who feel safer and more valued but also secure your standing as an organization that believes in safe operations – a valuable currency in the modern world. 

       

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