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Environment, Health, & Safety (EHS)

What is EHS?

EHS (Environment, Health, & Safety), refers to laws, guidelines, and workplace procedures that protect the health and safety of employees and the general public while also protecting the environment from adverse harm. These laws vary from country to country and even from company to company.

While bundling the responsibility of protecting the environment and the health and safety of people is no small feat, the three are intrinsically connected, meaning that efforts to protect one area will almost always have positive effects on the other.

Environment, health, and safety procedures are like any other working procedure, people need the proper training and guidance to follow the EHS standards of the country and the organization.

Key Takeaways

  • EHS stands for Environment, Health, & Safety.

  • These laws and regulations are designed to protect employees, the public, and the environment from adverse harm.

  • EHS guidelines both exist at governmental and organizational levels.

  • Companies can use VKS EHS Auditing Solution to intelligently adhere to and enforce the right EHS measures.

EHS Regulations & Agencies

Defining specific EHS regulations can be a bit hard to pin down as there is not one followed standard worldwide. This is because EHS regulations and guidelines are enforced at both government and corporate levels.

Government agencies, such as OSHA and FDA in the United States, provide and enforce the minimum standards that need to be followed within a given nation. Companies can also take these regulations even further and create their own EHS department and initiatives to reach goals such as carbon neutrality and zero workplace accidents.

Companies can also opt for 3rd party EHS programs such as ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems), CAN/BNQ 9700-800 (Healthy Enterprise), and OHSAS 18001 (Controlling Health & Safety Hazards). Companies that adhere to the specific set of guidelines achieve certifications in that respective field.

Following these well-known standards and achieving the certification shows the public that your organization prioritizes the environment and/or protecting employees, which can give a marketing boost to attract customers while also attracting more talent to the organization.

EHS vs HSE, SHE, & EHSQ

In North America, the common abbreviation used is EHS but other areas of the world will use variations of this acronym. In Europe, you’ll typically see HSE and SHE while some other organizations and countries will add a Q for Quality as in EHSQ. While each letter stands for the same word, it is useful to be aware of these acronyms when dealing with regulations in other countries.

The 3 Pillars of EHS

When looking at EHS, it's best to break it down into its three letters since each has a particular focus.

1. What is E in EHS? - Environment

We’ll start big: the environment.

While the manufacturing industry has taken some incredible strides toward sustainable practices, there is still a lot of waste and by-products that end up being produced. And any waste, emissions, and/or by-products need to be handled with care. If not, the surrounding environment, employees, and citizens will be adversely affected.

For example, if a machine experiences a hydraulic oil leak, the oil should not enter any of the surrounding drains. Otherwise, the municipality’s water supply could become contaminated. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the EHS department to ensure that employees have easy access to industrial spill kits that enable workers to contain spills and block drains.

spill kit

EHS environmental procedures also look at the working environment within the facility. A good EHS department will have procedures to monitor the noise levels, temperature, and air quality of a facility. If either of these factors is not properly monitored, the health and safety of your employees could be a risk.

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Pro Tip

Create EHS audits with VKS work instructions. Auditors use a tablet to walk through each section and ensure that EHS standards are adhered to. The results of the audit are then automatically stored for review.

2. What is H in EHS? - Health

The health of employees can be broken down into 2 main categories.

  • Physical health
  • Mental health

Physical health initiatives and guidelines are primarily concerned with the physical well-being of employees. These initiatives can be anything from healthy meal options in the cafeteria and available fitness classes, to proper working techniques and a biologically hospitable environment, such as no smoking indoors.

Likely, you’ve heard someone tell you to lift with your legs and not your back.

This is important health advice as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently stated that 33% of all workplace injuries and illnesses result from prolonged strain, pressure, or incorrect posture due to a specific ergonomic hazard.

Company EHS measures can take action to mitigate this prolonged stress on the bodies of its workers. For instance, our sister company CMP invested in mobile pallet lifts at worker stations. This piece of equipment ensures that workers don’t need to frequently bend down to place or retrieve parts. Similarly, companies can invest in ergonomic tools to limit the effects of repetitive motion and hyperextension.

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Pro Tip

Place Health & Safety reminders in your workers’ guidebooks through intelligently placed annotations, pictograms, and images. If employees need to pick up a relatively heavy load without equipment, a friendly reminder telling them to lift with their legs can help mitigate workplace injuries and downtime.

On the other side of the employee well-being coin, we have mental health procedures and guidelines which are primarily concerned with how an organization is taking care of its employees.

The WHO (World Health Organization) found that depression and anxiety cost the global economy 1 trillion dollars annually. For this reason, not prioritizing the mental health of employees could be costing you money. If employees are distressed or anxious, they may not be able to make safe work decisions, placing themselves and others at risk of workplace accidents.

To solve this issue, training and education is the number one method to boost mental health within any working environment. If employees and management know how to recognize anxiety and stress in themselves and others, they will be able to take the right steps to mitigate it and provide support.

Beyond education, companies can designate quiet spaces for breaks and create support systems and social networking. Fitness classes are also a great option to improve both the mental and physical health of employees.

3. What is S in EHS? - Safety

Safety guidelines are concerned with mitigating and eliminating accidents and injuries in the workplace.

A classic example of a safety initiative is mandatory PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like hard hats and gloves for specific jobs and tasks. These pieces of equipment help prevent injury in a scenario where an accident can occur, such as goggles when grinding down materials.

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Pro Tip

Use work instruction software to remind employees of the appropriate PPE for every job. Through a smart form checklist placed at the beginning of a work instruction, workers can confirm they are wearing the required PPE before starting a job or work order.

The goal of safety measures is to remove the risk of accidents completely. Similarly to promoting a healthy working environment, the number one way to eliminate the risk of workplace injuries is through education, training, and guidance. If employees are aware of the risks and have the proper guidance, they are much less likely to have an accident.

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Lightbulb Pro Tip

Pro Tip

Work instruction software enables operators to follow detailed and standardized guides, ensuring that they are using the best and safest working standards throughout every process.

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