What is an EHS Manager? Today and in the Future
20 April 2022 - Evotix
For over the past decade, a big transition has been taking place in the way companies manage health and safety.
The combination of an aging workforce with the next generation of Health and Safety professionals emerging into these important roles has seen companies across the globe evaluating and re-assessing their priorities when it comes to keeping their employees and their environment safe.
Typically, an Environmental, Health and Safety Manager is responsible for developing, implementing, overseeing, and managing their company’s health and safety programs. It’s a vital role in many organizations, keeping the business operational, profitable, compliant, and engaged with its employees.
Here at Evotix, we have been observing the latest changes to the EHS manager role and understand that this isn’t so much a paradigm shift as a convergence of generations. But whether EHS managers are younger or older, the challenges they face are still the same, and we are here to create a safer, smarter future for those EHS managers and everyone whom their role impacts – which is everyone at the company!
What is included in an EHS manager’s role?
An EHS Manager’s job role involves a wide variety of responsibilities. These could include:
- Identifying safety risks and proactively planning how they are managed
- Monitoring safety as practiced to confirm employees are operating to the safety plan
- Tracking the latest regulation and assessing regulatory compliance
- Investigating any safety incidents which do occur and taking appropriate action
- Providing safety training for each employee
- Performing hazard assessments and analyzing audits and inspections to identify areas of improvement
Creating a good safety model and set of processes is a vital foundation but is not the full story. It is also part of an EHS Manager’s role to develop health and safety within a company’s culture. It is useful to apply one of a variety of maturity models. Examples include the UK Hudson Safety Maturity Model or dss+ Bradley Curve model.
At Evotix, we have developed our own maturity model, which sets out five styles of EHS management. These are:
- Negligent: “It won’t happen to us” – no EHS presence or accountability
- Reactive: “Accidents happen, we try to stop them from happening again” – limited thought or consideration
- Compliant: “We’re doing what we have to” – understand and deliver the minimum required
- Proactive: “EHS is a priority for the organization” – proactive and leading indicator-driven EHS
- Excellence: “It’s just the way we work around here, safety is a continual process” – continuous improvement at the core
What type of person is best for an EHS manager role?
The hallmarks of a good EHS leader combine a solid technical understanding with the soft skills required to influence and have impact across the organization:
- The correct technical skills and qualifications
It’s important to have the right ‘hard’ skills for the job. Some EHS managers have an educational background in Health and Safety and come armed with technical qualifications for the role. Others may not have started out in the EHS role, but with time have moved into the job, and have years’ worth of experience in the industry. It is important for those new to the role to quickly access relevant learning and education online or via the various industry associations, accreditation organizations and regulatory bodies, as well as functional peers.
- Good soft skills for the role
As important as the technical skills though are the soft skills. It is these skills that help to define safety as practiced across the operation. This is achieved through influence. It’s important that EHS managers are viewed as more than just the “safety cop” – their colleagues should value and respect the role they play in the organization. Ultimately, working with, not against, these colleagues will help to improve the overall workplace safety culture. This means establishing a good rapport and camaraderie with fellow employees and creating an environment of mutual trust.
What are the benefits of having an EHS manager?
An EHS manager is one of the most important roles in an organization, particularly in industries where there are many hazards and employees are dispersed in different activities across the workplace.
Most organizations have three key goals to keep the business operational and profitable:
- Health and Safety
EHS managers play a key role in keeping a business running efficiently and safely. In helping employees move past seeing safety as a tick-box, bureaucratic process that gets in the way of doing their real jobs, they have the potential to create real employee engagement. Engaged employees are not only safer but also more productive. Furthermore, employees encouraged to identify safety hazards and suggest improvements will likely suggest improvements to other aspects of operations. Who, better than your employees, knows where the opportunities lie?
A key factor in creating engagement is to take reporting seriously to ensure those vital Key Performance Indicators are up-to-date and accurate.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed anything about the EHS manager role?
It’s undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years has changed some aspects of the role for EHS managers. As the workplace has changed so drastically, the responsibility of an EHS manager has had to evolve and become broader to accommodate this.
For example, mental health and wellbeing has been significantly affected as a result of COVID-19 and consequent lockdowns. EHS managers need to take this into account: if a colleague is going through some difficult personal issues at home, managers need to ensure they are fit for duty that day, particularly if they’re going to be operating equipment or undertake other risky activities. We need to make sure that they are not a risk to themselves and their colleagues.
In addition, the nature of workplace injuries has changed as a result of stay-at-home orders and the rise of working from home. Just because an employee is working from home doesn’t mean an organization isn’t still responsible for their wellbeing – it’s still their role to ensure any risk of injury is mitigated.
A changing workplace
The workplace is changing rapidly, and so is the role of an EHS manager. Digital transformation is happening across organizations at an unprecedented rate and is as applicable to safety management as to any other activity: manual processes are no longer sufficient.
For the EHS manager, digitization means that easy-to-use software to support safety activities is no longer a nice-to-have but an absolute must. This platform should work anywhere, be scalable and be able to track and record instantly, support corrective and preventative measures, and uncover trends at the touch of a button.
If you want to know more on how an EHS solution could support your business, or the role an EHS Manager should be playing, get in touch with Evotix today. We’d love to hear from you.
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