Environment, health and safety (EHS) programs can do more for your company than simply checking off compliance boxes. EHS can also be an integral part of your company’s culture, demonstrating to employees that their happiness, health and safety is a priority—leading to more productivity and a more proactive approach to minimizing risk. Even in low risk environments, like offices or retail settings, environment, health and safety considerations are important to a successful organization. After all, low risk doesn’t mean no risk.
Most companies have fairly distinct company cultures, and integrating EHS into your company culture can be an effective way to create sustained awareness around a safer, healthier and more productive work environment. However, intertwining EHS and company culture takes a collective effort. All employees need to know what it is, why it’s important and how they can contribute. According to our research, a whopping 72% of employees are largely unaware of their company’s EHS function.
Below we offer 5 tips for creating a company culture around EHS, where employees understand its value and feel compelled to participate.
1. Get buy-in from top leadership.
Getting buy-in from top leadership and executives will give your EHS initiatives credibility throughout the entire organization. No one will argue against the idea that their employees are a huge asset and keeping them safe is a priority, and building commitment from the top is an excellent way to demonstrate how important the workforce is to the company. Even in low-risk environments, company leaders need to consider whether the company has done everything in good conscience to protect its employees.
EHS leaders can go a step further by highlighting the business value that can be derived from creating an EHS culture. According to OSHA, safety and health initiatives can result in cost savings in a variety of areas, such as lowering workers' compensation costs and medical expenses, avoiding OSHA penalties, and reducing costs to train replacement employees and conduct accident investigations. In addition, employers often find that changes made to improve workplace safety and health can result in significant improvements to their organization's productivity and financial performance. If employees feel that their company leaders care about them, including their health and safety, they will feel more loyal and more committed, resulting in a more positive workplace.
2. Build a brand around EHS
A great way to make it easy for executives, managers and employees to learn about and support EHS initiatives is by building an EHS "brand." One way to do this is to create an EHS-focused campaign to promote initiatives, processes and resources around EHS. Give your EHS campaign a name, and ensure your material and communications have a consistent look and feel so employees at all levels can recognize the organization’s EHS efforts. Use multiple communication channels to promote the EHS campaign; have safety reminders and procedures on bulletin boards, the intranet, and company groups like Chatter. Building a brand makes EHS familiar, and reinforces it as an integral part of the daily information flow in your organization.
3. Market EHS as a company value.
As a core component of your campaign, market EHS as a company value. As you build your EHS brand, look for ways to recognize outstanding EHS values in the organization. Some ideas for building an employee "culture of caring" could include:
- Featuring an ergonomically correct workstation in your EHS communications.
- Using quotes and examples from employees on ways to improve workplace safety.
- Running simple competitions that encourage EHS activities, such as promoting pictures of employees correctly using PPE.
- Make EHS a positive force in your organization--according to our research, 45% of employees in are not comfortable pointing out an unsafe act to a coworker. Make safety cool, and use positive reinforcement as a tool for ensuring employees continue to value and uphold EHS and believe and enhance good EHS practices as a core company value.
4. Get employees at a variety of levels and departments involved with EHS initiatives.
After conducting an EHS culture assessment, get all types and levels of people involved in the EHS campaign and initiatives. Asking for an EHS volunteer from each department, floor, or other internal group is a great way to get feedback and generate ideas. Ask employees how they would like to be involved and ask what is important to them, then use volunteer feedback to fuel the content for your campaign.
Consider ways to encourage volunteer participation, such as gamification or company recognition. Gamification can be as simple as offering a virtual or real ‘badge’ or ‘trophy’ for meeting an EHS milestone such as completing a training or participating in a volunteer meeting. Find ways to engage employees at all levels and through a variety of means.
5. Build successful EHS messaging.
Once you establish support from the top, build your campaign, and get a network of people involved, it is time to refine your EHS messaging. In low-risk environments, EHS is often dismissed as being irrelevant--there are no boiling vats of chemicals or fast-moving parts to avoid. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t EHS concerns. Driving safety, ergonomics, noise, air quality, proper use of cleaning chemicals, ladder safety, and more--the list is actually pretty long!
Low-risk environments need thoughtful messaging to build awareness and promote safe and healthy behaviors. Take time to do an assessment of the risks relevant to your work environment. Prioritize them, and then build out a schedule to promote, educate, or train employees on each. Use your volunteers to develop successful and relevant messages that people relate to, and then use your leadership and campaign communication channels to get the word out.
Most of all, keep up the good work! Creating and sustaining an EHS culture relies on ever-present reminders that we can’t just leave safe practices at home--we have to bring them to work with us every single day.
Want more news and insights like this?
Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, The New Leaf. Our goal is to keep you updated, educated and even a bit entertained as it relates to all things EHS and sustainability.Get e-Newsletter