The Role of an Effective Environment Health and Safety Program

An effective EH&S program has an objective with a documented strategy that is designed to prevent accidents, occupational illness and injuries, and prevent negative impacts to the environment. An effective program should begin with a policy statement that has the full support of senior management. The policy should contain at a minimum:

  • • The overall objective of the program
  • • The commitment of management to protect the H&S of employees
  • • Management responsibility and accountability
  • • The EH&S philosophy of the company
  • • Employee accountability and responsibility

An EH&S program must include the elements required by EH&S regulations and standards to demonstrate compliance and achieve the intended results. Because the mission of companies differs, it is not reasonable to expect that one EH&S program can be completely transferred across companies without modifications. However, successful programs can be shared as a starting point. Some critical elements of a successful environment, safety, and health program are listed as follows:

  • • Management commitment and responsibility
  • • Individual responsibility
  • • Employee led (H&S) committee
  • • Job hazard analysis procedure
  • • EH&S rules and procedures
  • • Employee orientation and training
  • • Workplace inspections, audits, and assessments
  • • Reporting and investigating workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses
  • • Emergency procedures
  • • Medical and first aid treatment
  • • EH&S communications and promotions
  • • Employee engagement

An effective H&S department is an asset to a company when seeking to reduce injuries; to lower the cost associated with injuries, noncompliances, and violations; and to enhance relationship with stakeholders and the community. Too often, an EH&S organization is not effective because of the limited staffing levels and professionals lacking the knowledge and experience necessary to be successful in the roles they are expected to perform. Often, workers are placed in positions as EH&S professionals and managers without any background, knowledge, or skills in the function. Companies that hire qualified EH&S professionals generally are able to implement a solid program that is valuable in ensuring that work is performed safely and helping reduce the cost associated with accidents, regulatory noncompliances, and injury and illness to workers. Combining Lean principles with the EH&S program is an effective way to strengthen both programs.

Lean principles are not about working faster; however, it is about working smarter. Planning work in a way that it can be performed safely is working smarter and the only way to work. An effective EH&S program is a proactive tool in reducing waste and unintended cost, and it compliments a company's desire to implement Lean thinking, practices, and tools successfully.

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