Getting Started in EHS: A VelocityEHS Event
06/22/2022 | Nicole Lyman, MPC, Marketing Content Manager
For more than 25 years, the National Safety Council (NSC) has celebrated June as National Safety Month (NSM). This year, NSC has highlighted leading causes of preventable injury and death over the four weeks of June so people can improve workplace safety and live their fullest lives. Here at VelocityEHS we thought, “Hey, why stop at June? Safety is our jam, so let’s just keep this rolling into July!” Because of that, VelocityEHS is looking forward to following NSC with our own event: “How to Get Started in EHS.” This event will begin July 12, and similar to the NSC four-week plan, we’ll have new events and resources available each week to help those stepping into safety management roles.
Stepping into the role of an EHS Manager can be overwhelming, intimidating, and a little nerve-racking, yet very rewarding. After all, you’re cultivating an environment where you’re protecting people from occupational safety and health hazards while also protecting the environment from hazards from human-managed sources. If you’re just getting started in your EHS management journey, whether you’re completely new to the role or building/revamping a safety program, this event is for you.
EHS management involves a broad scope of responsibilities. It’s easy to not know where to start and can be difficult to get “buy in” to your programs. The goal of this event is to give you a high-level overview of a well-rounded EHS management program. Get familiarized with the core elements of a strong EHS management program and learn best practices that will support your long-term vision and success.
Safety Starts with OSHA
Even if you’re just a beginning EHS professional, you’re probably already familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has recommended practices for safety and health programs which should be the foundation of your EHS program. A solid foundation is characterized by a set of core elements. Once you establish these core elements, you’re able to tailor your program to the unique risks and workplace characteristics of your business. Every workplace environment is different and requires its own methodology.
The Foundation to Safety (Core Elements):
- Management Leadership
- Worker Participation
- Hazard Identification & Assessment
- Hazard Prevention & Control
- Education & Training
- Program Evaluation & Improvement
- Communication & Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors & Staffing Agencies
When getting started, you don’t need to have every detail planned out. Building a solid EHS program takes time and commitment. Every day is a new day and EHS should be viewed as a lesson curriculum where sometimes you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. Take your time deciding how to best complete each action item in a way that makes sense for your program and business. OSHA’s 10 Easy Things to Get Your Program Started highlights simple steps to get started.
Beyond OSHA—Additional Program Guidance & Best Practices
OSHA provides an excellent starting point for establishing and building upon your workplace EHS management program, but there are other valuable goals to keep in mind. Setting goals will not only help build a strong EHS program but can help you build your own career.
Engage Your Stakeholders
Any EHS program impacts virtually everyone in your workplace from workers up to management and across departments.
When building an EHS program a good starting point is to identify people within your company whose roles intersect with safety. You can often do this through your “safety walks” or “gemba walks,” and in having these conversations, you will likely identify other individuals you’ll need to involve in your safety programs. Then you can start recruiting them to be on your safety committee. The key consideration is to identify and include everyone who has the relevant expertise and experience to help you identify and control workplace risks.
While we’re focused on EHS management here, it’s also important to think ahead and recognize the growing industry important of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). Your company’s operations have impact outside of your organization on communities and the environment and can in turn be affected by the decisions of external stakeholders like investors, insurance carriers, regulators, municipalities, and other members of the community. As you develop sound EHS practices, you can start considering how to move toward adoption of an ESG management approach at a pace that makes sense for you.
Continuous Review of Current & Past Performance
An EHS management program is a circular cycle that will always need to be built upon. Your company most likely already has at least some EHS programs in place. You and your EHS team, including the internal stakeholders you’ve recruited, will want to analyze them and identify what systems and performance data are currently used to monitor safety performance. Use this information to see where improvement opportunities exist. Basically, you can start this process by asking yourself, “Is there a better way to manage this process?”
Then go on to ask:
- What reporting systems are currently being used?
- What software/documentation systems are used to manage various elements of the program?
- What EHS metrics/indicators are being tracked?
- Are these metrics within accepted limits?
- Are they trending in a positive or negative direction?
- What are the root causes or underlying drivers behind these trends?
- Which trends require urgent attention or improvement?
- What are the goals/targets for future performance?
- How will important EHS performance data be communicated?
- Is the data providing value to the organization/data users?
- How will this be prioritized?
Think Big, Start Small
We’ve already seen that there are many issues that fall under the broad scope of EHS management. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your EHS management program shouldn’t be, either. Prioritize your needs and decide which improvements will have the biggest impact. Consider what resources are available and what constraints exist. One great approach to testing your EHS program is to implement a pilot program in one department, seeing how it works before deciding to expand it. Remember you’re building a program, not magically making one appear.
Establish & Pursue Goals
Unfortunately, many EHS professionals manage their programs on a day-to-day basis, simply reacting to hazards and risks then failing to get ahead of their obligations. Don’t forget to involve your stakeholders in the process of setting goals, so you get better input on identifying risks and opportunities, and better buy-in to your programs. Clear goals and targets will help focus your efforts and enable a more proactive approach to EHS management.
When goals are met, be sure to champion your program. Celebrate achievements with your team, employees, and stakeholders, and clearly communicate the program’s performance and progress. If you haven’t met your goals, you’ll want to be honest about that, too. Transparency about your real performance helps build trust, which is essential to further progress.
Assess Available Tools & Technologies
There is a great deal of data and documentation generated through your EHS program. Managing all of it can be challenging, especially if information is outdated, disconnected, or paper-based, or if your software systems don’t work together well. Is the current system helping you grow and improve your program, or is there a better system that aligns with your goals?
Develop a program that can make the data you’re gathering work for you and your company. Take the guess work out of EHS and make data driven decisions. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do this out of the gate, because with the help and engagement of your stakeholders, you’ll learn.
Get the Tools You Need This July!
Our month-long event will kick off with the live webinar “How to Get Started in Safety Management: Tips for the New Professional” on July 12 at 11 a.m. Eastern. But that’s not all—we’ll also be offering four additional pieces of content each week on our, "How to Be a Safety Pro" Resource Hub.
VelocityEHS experts have hand-selected the best resources to help you succeed in your new role. You’ll gain access to free guides, infographics, webinars, and more!
Let VelocityEHS Help!
The VelocityEHS Safety Solution, part of the Accelerate® Platform, gives global leaders comprehensive support needed to tackle critical safety tasks, and the visibility into data and trends to deliver outstanding outcomes.
Want to learn more? Request a Demo to find out how our software helps you build a solid foundation to a strong EHS management program.