Planning an Environmental Health and Safety Program

A well thought out and developed Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) program will not only ensure your facilities are in regulatory compliance, but will also maintain your building’s value and support the endurance of your organization through policies, practices, and vigilance of environmental concerns. For these reasons, good managers will implement an EHS program as a cornerstone to their management approach.

To do this, you need to know and understand the basics of EHS regulations. Fortunately, you you can get by fine without having detailed knowledge. There is simply too much information and complexity for facilities one person to master.

However, you should be aware of which laws and government agencies are most relevant to your organization and its operation so they can focus on risk assessment, programming, training, and efficient responses. Finally, you should understand your roles and responsibilities for communications, in particular public relations, and make sure respective departments handle legalities carefully.

Different facility managers will have different approaches to accommodate owner-occupants versus tenants, but the following steps are a good place to start:

  1. Discuss the need for a formal EHS program with key safety and environmental managers in the organization, and mutually determine the effort/benefit analysis.
  2. Present the need for an EHS program, and gain your executive’s perspective and philosophy on establishing a program. This will accomplish three things:
    1. Determine the interest and support of leadership
    2. Establish the policies and messages to be communicated
    3. Lay out the milestones for progress reviews and approvals to various program elements

  3. Conduct a risk assessment for EHS situations, considering both external and internal situations, and prepare a formal report that can be vetted and approved by key stakeholders.
  4. Develop the actions necessary to improve current situations for better compliance or to forestall possible disruptions or damages.
  5. Establish a communications game plan that begins with philosophies from executives and policies approved by the organization’s policy committee. You will want to communicate often at the department and employee/tenant levels about goals, commitments, requirements, and expectations.
  6. Systematically execute the steps.
  7. Report periodically the results of EHS program actions. Reports may be directed at executives, peers, or employees, depending on the content and purpose.

Tools to Develop

The following tools and techniques are useful to obtain, develop, and apply:

  • Inspection forms that are simple, user-friendly, and computer retrievable. For example:
    • Building inspections—monthly by workplace managers and quarterly by occupant managers
    • Grounds—monthly by workplace managers and quarterly by other selected managers
    • Employees—monthly by occupant managers and quarterly by workplace managers
    • Contractors—monthly by their supervision and quarterly by workplace managers

  • Incident reporting forms that are computer retrievable and compatible with legal requirements (such as OSHA or EPA), including the capability to analyze. Historical numbers periodically reviewed for trends and communications are essential to monitoring an EHS program.
  • Communication devices that are regularly posted and updated in buildings, internal media, and directly to employees, with a standard format and accurate, easy to renew metrics. These are particularly effective in reporting month-by-month statistics, which could include serious injuries, chemical spills, energy consumption, or days worked without any incidents.

Analysis Reports to Generate

There are at least two types of reports that should be the focus for a healthy EHS program, with records retention schedules adhered to, and the metrics routinely or periodically reviewed and analyzed:

  • Those required by regulatory agencies for routine or incident reasons. These should be on-hand, familiar to the EHS department, and acted upon without fail.
  • Those desired or required by departments or executives within an organization. These might include regular inspection results, first aid calls (not OSHA recordable), audits, and training program completion.

Workplace managers must be superb at communicating, planning, and delegating workloads, setting and implementing goals, asking the unpopular question, defining and solving problems, negotiating, and collaborating with many stakeholder groups. They must plan strategically and work tactically.

More information on this topic is available from the BOMI International course Environmental Health and Safety Issues, part of the RPA® and FMA® designation program, which has been updated and will be available soon. For more information regarding this course and BOMI International’s education programs, call 800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.