Environment, health and safety

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Environmental, health and safety (EHS) departments, also called SHE or HSE departments, of some companies are responsible for environmental protection, occupational health and safety at work. According to C. Stephan,[1] 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.[2]


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.

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  1. ^ Stephan, Constantin (2012), Industrial Health, Safety and Environmental Management, MV Wissenschaft, Muenster, 3rd edition 2012, ISBN 978-3-86582-452-3
  2. ^ Kavianian, Hamid R. "Occupational and Environmental Safety Engineering and Management", Van Norstrand Reinhold Company, New York (1990), ISBN 0-442-23822-3