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A Practical & Tactical Guide to Top-Down EHS Management

July 15th, 2020

Being systematic means following a fixed plan and taking a methodical approach to solving complex problems. So when we talk about creating an effective EHS management system, there’s a worthy emphasis on getting everything in order. 

Leaders know that compliance is a minimum, keeping workers healthy and safe is a must, and protecting and growing the business’s bottom line is the overarching goal. To meet these objectives, it’s important to carefully plan each step to be sure you’re developing a sturdy yet flexible long-term infrastructure.  

In this undertaking, many key ingredients are required — planning, teamwork, and steadfast determination — with an eye on the big picture. With the right building blocks, organized in a complementary and hierarchical fashion where one component feeds into the next, you can construct a strategic EHS management system that will be truly effective. 

From top to bottom, here’s how EHS leaders can take charge and put the right pieces in place. 

The 4 Cascading Tiers of a Sturdy EHS Management System 

When each tier is properly addressed, the one that follows becomes more stable and solid. Here are the four progressive levels that stack up to an effective EHS management system. 

Level 1: EHS Policy (The Commitment Tier) 

The first layer in a strong EHS culture is making that firm commitment and creating an EHS policy. At its core, this documented policy is simply a statement to demonstrate the company’s and its leadership’s commitment to providing a healthy and safe workplace by establishing the values they will commit to. Your EHS policy sits atop your management system framework, serving as the primary vision from which you’ll build. 

Level 2: EHS Procedure (The Minimum Expectations Tier) 

Having laid out your company’s commitment to EHS, it’s time to start adding on. At this level, you’ll develop a management plan, carving out a procedural framework that will drive your EHS strategy. At this stage you will want to answer a few critical questions: 

  • How prescriptive do you want to be in providing guidance for employees and stakeholders? 

  • Which legal jurisdiction will your procedures cover? Regulations and compliance can vary by region (for example, OSHA in the United States vs. broader international guidelines). Some programs adhere to the strictest standards out there, others aim to meet the minimum global requirements.  

  • Are you trying to make your program auditable? Determine how your planning and documentation will support this. 

  • What resources do you intend to make available for this program and its ongoing success? 

Make these determinations and communicate them broadly. EHS should exist as an interconnected groundwork. Be transparent and strive to make workplace safety a central fixture for your organization, so that consistency is established throughout. Setting minimum expectations keeps the scale of the task from becoming overwhelming, while solidifying a baseline for safety and compliance. 

Level 3: EHS Work Instruction (The Program Tier) 

Here we begin diving into the nitty-gritty. As an EHS leader, you’ll want to lay out clear actions and responsibilities that tie back to the high-level goals and expectations established in the previous step. These can be laid out at a corporate or regional level, but by now, EHS program details should be getting site-specific.  

Create a plan of action around key EHS concerns for your business. These key concerns, or risks, will vary based on your business. They may include: fall hazards, confined space management, control of hazardous energy, ergonomics, or emergency response as examples. As part of this process, you may want to consider identifying priority facilities or high-risk activities that require special attention. 

Level 4: EHS Records and Documentation (The Auditable Tier) 

By now you’ve created the EHS management framework to continually pursue the goals you’ve identified. But, your EHS program won’t stand on its own and weather the elements of change and uncertainty without ongoing attention and oversight. 

Monitoring, measurement, and optimization will help keep your program on track in perpetuity. Make a point of re-assessing and re-evaluating your goals, tactics, and tools on a regular basis. Keeping detailed, accurate records of policy, procedures, and work instructions is of the essence, and a primary differentiator between effective and ineffective EHS programs. This will help your organization prove that procedures are being followed as outlined in the management system. 

To make sure you’ve got a comprehensive foundation of records and documentation, we recommend an outside EHS audit, where experts can provide an objective analysis of accountability gaps and remaining risks while helping ensure full compliance with pertinent regulations. Consulting firms can also help with meeting critical ISO 45001 OHSMS standards and certifications

Reach the Pinnacle of EHS Management 

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The old adage rings true when it comes to developing a comprehensive EHS management system that covers all bases.  

Constructing anything for the long haul requires patience and care. Shortcuts and skipped steps can lead to a crumbling infrastructure that causes long-term headaches. And above all: you can’t do it alone. The EHS leader’s utmost prerogative is establishing a culture that inspires everyone in the organization to build toward something epic. 

If you want help getting your EHS management system in place, you can get in touch with Antea Group and we’ll help you craft a framework that is tailored to your organization.

 

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