Environment, health and safety
Environmental, health and safety (EHS) departments, also called SHE or HSE departments, are entities commonly found within companies that consider environmental protection, occupational health and safety at work as important as providing quality products, and which therefore have managers and departments responsible for these issues. EHS management has two general objectives: prevention of incidents or accidents that might result from abnormal operating conditions on the one hand and reduction of adverse effects that result from normal operating conditions on the other hand.
For example, fire, explosion and release of harmful substances into the environment or the work area must be prevented. Also action must be taken to reduce a company’s environmental impact under normal operating conditions (like reducing the company’s carbon footprint) and to prevent workers from developing work related diseases. Regulatory requirements play an important role in both approaches and consequently, EHS managers must identify and understand relevant EHS regulations, the implications of which must be communicated to top management (the board of directors) so the company can implement suitable measures. Organisations based in the United States are subject to EHS regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, particularly CFR 29, 40, and 49. Still, EHS management is not limited to legal compliance and companies should be encouraged to do more than is required by law, if appropriate.
The first formal EHS management approach was introduced in 1985 by the chemical industry as a reaction to several catastrophic accidents (like the Seveso disaster and the Bhopal disaster). This worldwide voluntary initiative called “Responsible Care” is in place in about 50 countries and centrally coordinated by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA). It involves eight fundamental features that ensure plant and product safety, occupational health and environmental protection but also try to demonstrate by image-building campaigns that the chemical industry acts in a responsible manner. Still, this initiative is restricted to the chemical industry.
Since the 1990s, general approaches to EHS management that may fit any type of organisation can be found in international standards like ISO 14001 for environmental management and OHSAS 18001 for occupational health and safety management or the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). In 1998, EHS guidelines were also created by the International Finance Corporation.
General approach to EHS management
The general approach to EHS management as per international standards ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 is based on the methodology called "Plan-Do-Check-Act" (PDCA), made popular by W. Edwards Deming. PDCA in the EHS context can briefly be described as follows,
-Plan, document the organisation's overall EHS aims and objectives in a policy statement, identify and register environmental aspects and impacts and occupational health and safety risks as well as regulatory requirements.
-Do, define EHS objectives and targets, implement suitable strategic initiatives to deliver results in accordance with the organisation's EHS policy and legal requirements.
-Check, monitor and measure the results against policy, objectives, targets and legal and other requirements.
-Act, take action to continually improve the performance of the EHS management system.
EHS guidelines of the international finance corporation
The EHS Guidelines are technical reference documents with general and industry-specific examples of Good International Industry Practice (GIIP).
- 1.1 Air Emissions and Ambient Air Quality
- 1.2 Energy Conservation
- 1.3 Wastewater and Ambient Water Quality
- 1.4 Water Conservation
- 1.5 Hazardous Materials Management
- 1.6 Waste Management
- 1.7 Noise
- 1.8 Contaminated Land and Remediation
- 1.9 releases to water
- 1.10 releases to land
- 1.11 use of raw materials and natural resources
- 1.12 energy emitted, heat/radiation/vibration
- 1.13 waste and by-products
2. Occupational Health and Safety
- 2.1 General Facility Design and Operation
- 2.2 Communication and Training
- 2.3 Physical Hazards
- 2.4 Chemical Hazards
- 2.5 Biological Hazards
- 2.6 Radiological Hazards
- 2.7 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- 2.8 Special Hazard Environments
- 2.9 Monitoring
3. Community Health and Safety
- 3.1 Water Quality and Availability
- 3.2 Structural Safety of Project Infrastructure
- 3.3 Life and Fire Safety (L&FS)
- 3.4 Traffic Safety
- 3.5 Transport of Hazardous Materials
- 3.6 Disease Prevention
- 3.7 Emergency Preparedness and Response
4. Construction and Decommissioning
- 4.1 Environment
- 4.2 Occupational Health and Safety
- 4.3 Community Health and Safety
- Occupational safety and health
- Robert W. Campbell Award, an Award for Business Excellence through EHS Management.
- Safety engineering
- NAEM, the premier Association for EHS Management: What is EHS?
- International Finance Corporation: World Bank Group Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines
- International Network for Environmental Management