Three reasons why now is the time to invest in EHS

Consider how COVID impacts your business. How are you managing your EHS department? Why is now the best time to invest in employee safety?

Jessica Sarnowski

by Jessica Sarnowski

Imagine your next conversation with your C-Suite. What do you want to bring up? How has COVID changed the way that you do business and how your Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) department is being managed? What’s the best way to invest in the health and safety of employees at your company? This worldwide pandemic has brought, no doubt, many struggles and operational pain points, but at the same time it has highlighted why EHS departments are so vital. Here are three reasons why now is the best time to invest in your EHS program.

1. EHS is the core of a company’s operations

It may not be obvious at first, but if your company is industrial such that it manufactures products, uses chemicals, or has warehouses, distribution centers and office space, then a solid EHS program is the backbone of productivity. Imagine your manufacturing facilities and visualize a plant with hardworking employees, high-tech machinery and tools, and processes designed to move product production from one phase to another. What consumers see is the end result – a quality product- but what goes into that product is much more complicated.

EHS is by nature a regulatory discipline. There are requirements for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), machine guarding, training and beyond. Your company’s EHS program spearheads the effort to comply with these requirements to keep employees safe. Processes and workflows are put into place to protect employees – and this is nothing new. What is new is that COVID has placed the spotlight on employee safety in a way that was previously unprecedented.

Yes, those in the safety field have always cared about sending employees home in one piece each day. But the general public, the consumers of your products may never have seen the connection between their beloved product and the work that it takes to keep the makers of the product safe. With vast and rapidly evolving COVID requirements (e.g. social distancing, mask requirements, etc.) now at the forefront, EHS professionals have a new opportunity to step forward and justify why EHS is so fundamental to the success of a business.

2. EHS is linked with operational efficacy

It is likely that if your company has a smooth running EHS department, then you have a solid compliance record. On the contrary, if your company struggles to maintain compliance with EHS regulations, then you may find that processes, both in your department and in other departments, are lacking. Go back to the imaginary manufacturing plant. If you have a process whereby new employees are onboarded with adequate training on how to use equipment safely, what to wear, how to handle dangerous substances, and in these times, how to social distance, then Employee A will complete her part of the process safely and efficiently, and then Employee B will be well positioned to carry on the task. If employees are disorganized or not adequately trained, or if their equipment doesn’t include the mandatory safeguards and corners are cut, then the manufacturing process will be interrupted and the overall product will suffer.

COVID complicates even the simplest of processes – e.g. showing up to work. But with a strong emphasis on the importance of environmental and safety protocols, companies can overcome these new challenges.

3. Safety effects corporate reputation and employee satisfaction

If a widespread news story details the spread of COVID in your company’s manufacturing plants, then your clients, suppliers and partners will take note. Just as your reputation followed you in high school, it follows you in corporate life as well. With an increased sensitivity to employee health and safety, now is the time to invest more fully in your EHS programs and to be on high alert with regard to compliance.

In addition, employee satisfaction is vital to the success of your business. Why would an employee of our hypothetical manufacturing plant risk exposure to the virus (let alone other safety hazards that often arise with the operation of heavy equipment)? Your company has a unique opportunity during these times to be a leader in safety and to refine and invest in the existing EHS department.

Build your argument from here

As an EHS professional, you may be in a position to advocate for your department – or you may be leading your department. If this is the case, then you have an opportunity to highlight the importance of your work and of keeping employees safe in these particularly dangerous times and when things return to normal. Use the above rationales the next time that you have a chance to talk with your C-Suite and build on them based on your specific industry and role.

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