Warning: This piece contains spoilers from Seasons 1 and 2 of “Stranger Things.” (As well as incredibly insightful commentary from a Demogorgon who was there.)
I know what you’re thinking. What EHS tips and insights can a delightfully heinous Demogorgon possibly offer a seasoned professional like you?
While my species isn’t exactly known for having original ideas—what with the whole “hive mind” thing—I’d argue my vicious talents, as well as my experience during the unfortunate Hawkins, IN incident, brings some unique value to the table.
From what I understand, EHS teams are under enormous pressure to manage risk and keep compliance and safety from slipping into the Upside Down. As both a risky individual and a creature who knows all about the Upside Down, I think there’s a little something that every EHS professional can learn from the havoc my monster pack and I brought to Hawkins.
1. Look beyond the surface for risk points
I think we all know the Hawkins National Laboratory was an EHS disaster waiting to happen. The scientists who ran the facility thought they had all their bases covered and secrets hidden, but when Eleven opened a portal between our worlds, it was evident they didn’t consider all the potential risks.
It’s imperative that you explore multiple risk scenarios—including the unlikely. Leverage data such as incident reports and near misses to understand common threats, as well as extrapolate other risks. Then create a plan of attack to monitor EHS risk points—in addtion to evolving compliance requirements—that can put compliance, safety, and your organization’s reputation at risk. In short, expect the unexpected!
2. Find the leader of the “hive”
My monster clan has an intimate connection with our master, the Mind Flayer, aka the Shadow Monster. We share thoughts, feelings, plans, and tactics—we follow the leader and as a result, we're a pretty formidable force.
The EHS connection? Employee engagement is critical for managing risk and helping ensure safety and compliance. And a great way to foster better engagement is to identify high-flying, respected employees who can serve as ambassadors. These people can become in-house Mind Flayers, if you will, who can lead by example and get others onboard.
3. Lack of insight can breed chaos
Dustin Henderson played a crucial role by discovering and raising one of my brethren—a little monster he affectionately called Dart. But despite many warning signs, he chose to believe he had discovered a new species—until it was a little too late for the precious (and delicious) Mews. His youth and naivety got the better of him.
Your takeaway? Inexperience and lack of insight can spell disaster; your employees need to know what EHS is, why it’s important, and how they can contribute to a healthier and safer work environment. How? Invest in onboarding and ongoing training. Look for ways to keep workplace safety top of mind, such as an annual EHS Awareness Day or eye catching signage. Make it easy for employees to raise red flags, and regularly engage with members of the team to get their thoughts on how your efforts can improve.
4. Keeping EHS right-side-up takes a team
While Eleven was the one who used her supernatural powers to strike the final blow and close the dimensional door, the plan was as the result of a collective effort. As much as I hate to admit it, her band of friends each brought unique insights and expertise to the table, and together they had the ability to innovate as they untangled our purpose and our weakness.
When it comes to keeping your own organization safe and compliant, make it a point to work across teams and departments to create EHS awareness and engagement. The most successful EHS programs are baked into company culture—and that takes effort and cooperation across the organization. If you lack the expertise or internal resources, engage an experienced workplace health and safety consultant to provide insight and support.
Friends don’t lie
You know that managing EHS risk and compliance can’t be accomplished with a set-it-and-forget tactics; rather, it requires a robust yet flexible strategy. But to really drive success, you also need to focus on stakeholder engagement, getting buy-in and action from across the organization, and seek help from friendly experts when you need it.
Wondering if it’s time to call in an EHS consultant? Inspired by the cult classic “Office Space,” we share five signs that it may be time to call in “The Bobs.”