EHS stands for Environment, Health, and Safety. It is a generic term used to refer to laws, regulations, improvement programmes, and workplace endeavors to safeguard the health and safety of employees and the public, as well as the environment, from hazards related to the workplace. EHS is a common way to abbreviate this, however it is often also found as HSE or other versions - sometimes one can find the addition of a “Q” for Quality, as in EHSQ.
This article will take a closer look at what EHS does, who is responsible for it, as well as some tools used in the field.
Why is EHS important?
The primary, obvious benefit of EHS is preventing incidents such as injuries, illnesses, and harmful impacts on the environment.
One of the most well-known (and tragically horrifying) historic examples of a workplace incident that illustrated the need for EHS efforts was the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Other well-known and more recent examples include:
- The Bhopal/Union Carbide explosion in 1984
- The Upper Big Branch Mine-South explosion of 2010
- The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010
- The fire in, and ultimate collapse of, the Savar building in Bangladesh in 2013.
- The Ammonium Nitrate storage explosion in Beirut earlier this year, 2020.
These hazards are real. That is why EHS programmes are critical and provide real benefits. For example, this OSHA website on safety and health management programmes provides a number of case studies demonstrating these benefits. Malta’s OHSA and ERA websites are also brimming with useful information on Environment, Health and Safety.
In addition to safeguarding people and the environment, EHS programmes at work also show employees that companies care about their well-being. With an active and healthy EHS culture, your company may have fewer incidents but it will also make employees feel safer and more valued. This sense of security and worth will have a positive psychological effect on employee’s morale, retention, and productivity. It may even attract new applicants when the word on the investment in employee wellbeing spreads.
On that note, a study by the American Psychological Association indicates that millennials rank safety as an issue of workplace stress higher than any other concern (and higher than earlier generations have). This adds up, as a generation that was raised in the spirit of 9/11, the Great Recession, school shootings, and Hurricane Katrina. Since more and more millennials are entering the workforce, this is an element that cannot be ignored.
This is to mention one way that EHS programmes can provide a remarkable positive effect to your company’s performance. For instance, this study shows a direct correlation between EHS programmes and a company’s stock performance. Furthermore, this Safety Pays website from OSHA provides an online calculator you can use to price the cost of health and safety incidents at your own workplace. It can be quite the eye-opener.
EHS programmes also increase customer loyalty. Consumers nowadays research these issues before deciding which companies will get their money, as a matter of principle. Doing the right thing can therefore also possibly gain you an EHS-friendly revenue stream.
Bottom line: EHS safeguards your people, those around you, and the environment your company inhabits. The atmosphere of security that comes with nurturing an EHS culture within your organisation will benefit you as your employees will feel safer and more valued, and might even attract a well-being-conscious clientele!