The ABCs of EHS Compliance–Part One

As an Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Professional and Consultant, I am often asked to describe the responsibilities or functions of this profession.  Prior to answering this question let’s begin with a review of some general definitions. The term environment typically references the impact and interaction of a business’s activities on the surrounding land, air, and water. Health and Safety is a term that references the interaction of a business’s activities on the health and wellbeing of those employed.   An EHS Professional is often responsible for ensuring that the external environment is not negatively impacted by business operations and that the internal work environment is not dangerous to employees.

The company by which the EHS Professional (also known as Coordinator, Specialist, Engineer, or Manager preceded by the term EHS) is employed or contracted is instrumental in the definition of the role; however as with any profession, the role begins with knowledge.  In this case, it is the knowledge and identification of the relevant legal requirements for the business activities that impact or have the potential to impact the environment or the health and safety of the employees.    In addition, the professional knowledge should encompass to the ability to evaluate and identify hazards—these are the activities that cause or contribute to work-related injuries, illnesses, fires, explosions, chemical spills, and similar unwanted incidents.  Another function is to evaluate the current state of the business with respect to the requirements—its compliance or noncompliance with the applicable regulations initially identified.   Regulatory noncompliance and risks identified are typically documented in an audit report, gap assessment, or software system. A project, corrective action and/or risk mitigation plan is established to eliminate non-compliances and reduce hazards—this plan often includes corrective and preventive actions, in addition to short and long term objectives.  Implementation of the project, corrective action or risk mitigation plan is another role of the EHS Professional.  This begins with resource allocation, documentation, employee training.  These are points of contention for many companies, however a 2009 study conducted by Liberty Mutual concluded that companies realized a 300% return for every dollar spent on workplace safety.[i]   Finally ongoing assessment and risk mitigation is the key to maintaining an effective EHS program.

An experienced EHS Professional can provide leadership, direction, and rally involvement of key management and employees to institute compliance, reduce hazards and begin to transform company culture.    This highlights the need for soft skills and the ability to engage employees from every level within an organization.   The experts at EHS Compliance Services Inc. are proficient in EHS regulations; understand the delicate balance between compliance and production; and have ability to deliver effective compliance solutions.


[i] Huang, Yueng-Hsiang, Leamon, Tom B., et. al. (2009, April) Financial Decision Makers’ Views on Safety. Professional Safety. 36-42.  Available at http://www.asse.org/practicespecialties/bosc/docs/F2_Huangetal_0409.pdf (accessed June 15, 2012).
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