An Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) policy is an important part of any organisation’s overall health and safety program. It focuses on the prevention of injury or illness caused by hazardous materials, processes or activities within the workplace.
EHS policies are essential for businesses of all sizes. Implementing this type of management plan can help to reduce the environmental impact of operations, create a safer work environment and save money in the long run.
In this blog post, we’ll take a deeper look at what EHS is, what its benefits are and potential obstacles you may face when rolling out an EHS system.
Introduction to Environmental Health and Safety
EHS teams play a key role in creating and enforcing safety standards and protocols that meet local and national regulations. Through consistent monitoring, they also ensure that safety best practices are followed in the workplace.
These programs often include initiatives such as:
- Hazard assessments – risk assessments for processes, tasks and machines
- Training on safe work practices – training on the agreed methodology of working practices
- Emergency response plans – For instance, for gas leaks, floods, fire and bomb threats
- Regular compliance audits – this would be a documented check on the organisation’s rules and general safety compliance
Ultimately, implementing key components of an EHS program allows organisations to create safe working conditions for all their employees.
To ensure EHS compliance, you must be aware of applicable laws and regulations. They are wide ranging and include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Environmental Protection Act 2021, to name a few.
Organisations must understand their roles and responsibilities about environmental issues which include:
- Implementing environmental policies and practices
- Devising strategies to meet targets
- Encouraging best practice by devising the best tools and systems to monitor performance
- Implementing strategies to ensure compliance with environmental legislation
Full compliance with EHS standards helps to protect people and safeguard the environment and businesses.
Advantages of Implementing Environmental Health and Safety Practices
Implementing Environmental Health and Safety practices ensures that organisations are operating responsibly and sustainably, reducing the risk of injury to people and damage to the environment.
Benefits of EHS include:
- Identifying and addressing hazards before they develop into bigger issues
- Increased employee involvement
- Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements
- Confidence to respond to accidents and emergencies
- Reduced potential liabilities
- Increased morale
- Reduced environmental impact
- Efficient natural resources
- Reduced their waste output
- Cost savings in the long term
Challenges of Implementing Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Practices
Implementing EHS practices can be a complicated process that involves identifying potential hazards, assessing risks and developing strategies to prevent their occurrence.
Challenges in the implementation can include:
- Employee participation in EHS initiatives
- Employees need to be engaged and be involved in generating good EHS processes
- By engaging employees, they are more likely to participate
- Employee education and training
- Employees need to understand business risks and how to mitigate those risks
- Engineering solutions and use of personal protective equipment are examples that would require training on their correct use
- A one-day health and safety course wouldn’t provide all the necessary knowledge required
- Difficulties around implementing a culture of safety
- Safety culture is built by engaging employees and having two-way conversations on EHS matters
- Incident prevention
- Prevention of incidents is one of the main goals of any EHS management plan so it’s imperative all incidents are investigated in openly and honestly using a ‘no blame’ culture to investigation
- Lack of proper technology
- As technology changes, equipment should be updated to keep employees as safe as possible
- Compliance with regulations –
- Keeping up to date with regulations is essential to stay compliant
- There are external companies who can track changes but regulators such as the HSE and the Environment agency will also post updates on their websites
Besides implementing environmental health and safety practices, it’s important to understand that achieving successful implementation will also require coordination and cooperation from multiple stakeholders. These stakeholders can include workers, managers, regulators and other individuals who may have different approaches on how to manage the risks.
Regulations and Guidelines in Environmental Health and Safety
Regulations and guidelines in environmental awareness are essential to ensure the well-being of individuals, communities and ecosystems. They provide a framework for the prevention or minimization of risks associated with hazardous materials, processes or activities that could lead to an adverse impact on human health and the environment.
The regulations and guidelines include requirements for:
- Risk assessments – For all process, tasks and equipment
- Management systems – For Environmental Health and Safety, such as ISO 14001 (Environmental) and 45001 (Health and Safety)
- Permit conditions for any permittable activities such as air emissions and industrial water or safety permit conditions such as confined space, working from height, to name a few
- Monitoring and reporting activities – Waste and emissions may need to be monitored and reported
Every effort must be made to ensure that all regulations and guidelines pertaining to risk assessments, management systems, permit conditions, monitoring and reporting activities are properly met to ensure health and safety accreditation.
EHS Training is Vital to Protect the Environment and People
Environmental health and safety should be a top priority for businesses of all sizes. These practices are essential for reducing the environmental impact of operations, creating a safer work environment and saving money in the long run. Businesses need to understand the potential benefits of training health and safety teams to implement the EHS practices. Doing so will help them keep a successful EHS track record in the long run.
Human Focus offers various health and safety c.o.s.h.h courses as well as waste management. These courses help to create awareness, for everyone in your organisation, around environmental health and safety issues. It’s desperately needed if we want to save our planet.