Broken Link in Chain

Is There a Missing Link in Your EHS Implementation Chain?

June 10th, 2020

If you’re concerned that your EHS program may be fundamentally broken and in need of a complete overhaul, we’ve got good news for you: That probably isn’t the case.

Just as a spoke in the wheel can halt progress for an otherwise functional vehicle, unseen disconnects and oversights can prevent an EHS program from doing what it’s supposed to do. But properly diagnosing these issues is sometimes challenging.

Even for experienced EHS leaders, it can be all too easy to misread the root causes of poor performance. While it may on the surface appear that the programs are not structured correctly to drive results, it could simply be that the programs have not effectively been implemented.

Let’s delve into some warning signs, common pain points, and solutions.

Has Your EHS Program Been Properly Implemented?

We all know the old trope about the non-tech-savvy person who calls in to troubleshoot a malfunctioning computer or television set.

First question from the rep: “Is it plugged in?”

Response from the caller moments later: “Oh. Oh yeah. It’s working now!”

Pinpointing EHS issues isn’t quite so easy as checking on a cord or flipping a switch. At Antea Group, we’re often called upon by organizations to come in and help shape up programs deemed to be ineffective. What we find in many cases is that the shortcomings with these initiatives are not due to complete breakdowns, but rather incomplete rollout, unclear accountability, or employee buy-in. Partial implementation leaves gaps that can lead to increased risk, noncompliance, and substandard working conditions.

This is understandable! EHS is a complex beast, especially for larger organizations with multiple facilities and many considerations to cover. Here are some things to keep an eye on.

Common Issues with EHS Program Implementation

Based on our experience, we find that these are among the most frequent missteps that prevent EHS programs from reaching an optimal state:

  • The program is so lengthy and complicated, that it’s difficult to understand and implement.
  • Lack of clear and specific accountability for all elements of the program, such as resource management, and personnel assigned to enforce and monitor at the corporate and site-level.
  • Audits aren’t being conducted to ensure implementation or effectiveness of the process
  • Implementation timeline and/or scoping is unrealistic, leading to inadequate performance and/or resource allocation.
  • Too many programs are being rolled out simultaneously.
  • Employees aren’t being effectively trained on EHS programs or their responsibilities outlined within the programs.
  • Failure to get EHS buy-in from all hierarchical levels of the organization. When this focus isn’t framed as a clear and genuine priority by leadership, it isn’t likely to resonate throughout the employee base at a personal level.

These are all indicators that something is not working effectively in your EHS management system, but none of them necessarily signify a total system failure. If any of the pain points sound familiar, here’s how we recommend addressing them.

Get on Track: How to Address Incomplete EHS Implementation

By taking these steps, you can put your EHS program into a proper fully functional state where all objectives and requirements are accounted for.

Simplify and condense your program documentation. A guiding document is useless if no one reads it. Employees need information they can digest and take action upon. A giant stack of papers covering every requirement and training detail rarely accomplishes this. Review your EHS program documentation and aim to make it accessible and useful for everyone in the organization.

Drive collective buy-in. Stakeholder engagement is critical to generating lasting momentum for an EHS program. Communicate clearly on why these systems are important, and urge your executive leadership to set the example from up-top. Find ways to make EHS relatable to employees at all levels of the organization.

Internally audit your EHS management system. Take a step back and gain a clear view of where your program currently stands. Are all key aspects of workplace health and safety being considered? Are the proper individuals tasked with EHS initiatives? Generally speaking, EHS leaders cannot be expected to manage all of these needs on their own.

Be realistic about budget and timeline. Being cost-conscious is smart, but proper EHS management does require funding and committed personnel. And full implementation doesn’t happen overnight. Take your time with planning, set achievable milestones, and hold yourself and your teams to them. Don’t be averse to making adjustments as you get going, because these are intended to be living, breathing documents that are routinely revisited and revised.

Build EHS training into your onboarding process. The initial training period for a new hire is critical for imprinting habits and priorities. When EHS is a major component of employee onboarding, it helps genuinely embed workplace safety into the business culture. Recurring EHS training is a good idea to keep initiatives top-of-mind and ensure all employees — from newcomers to long-time fixtures — are aware of new or changing procedures.

Divide and conquer. Don’t feel compelled to take everything on at once. Pinpoint the most urgent EHS risks based on your business, and address those first. Some questions worth asking in this endeavor:

  • What are our highest-risk activities?
  • Where are we having injuries and accidents?
  • Where are we seeing employee complaints?
  • Are certain areas of your business or industry more prone to compliance risk?
  • What are audit findings and employee feedback telling us?

Get the Most Out of Your EHS Program

Partially implemented programs deliver partially satisfying results. If you feel something is amiss with your EHS management system, conduct a critical analysis to determine whether you’ve fully implemented your program across all departments, facilities, and employees. Taking the above steps will help you do so, and our team at Antea Group is happy to help.

If you ultimately determine that the issues are more granular and easily addressable than previously thought, you’ll save yourself a lot of time making unnecessary (or even counterproductive) fixes.

 

 Contact us to learn more about how we can help you get the most out of your EHS program.

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