Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS)
Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) is a big concern for companies and workers. EHS standards and regulations are all about preventing damaging environmental releases, illnesses, and injuries in the workplace. To ensure compliance, government agencies police workplaces to make sure activities do not cause harm.
What is EHS?
In simple terms:
Environment is about activities such as managing waste, spills, or the quality of air released into the environment. It also involves keeping up with “going green” workplace norms and obeying rules and regulations that protect people and the places where they work or live.
Health puts people at the center of attention. To stop or lessen the risk of harm, workplace wellness is promoted by carrying out programs that promote physical and mental health.
This can include “how to handle stress” programs, general health education classes, access to fitness services such as a gym, or a confidential mental health phone line.
Occupational health and safety also involves environmentally friendly work practices that control exposure to noise, or other harmful things like airborne particle pollution that can cause illness. Some bits and pieces of dust, dirt, soot, or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope. Many come from a source such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires. Most form in the atmosphere as a result of chemicals.
Safety means taking great effort to manage risk by spotting and correcting workplace hazards to reduce accidents and possible contact with harmful materials or situations. Training is key. This is especially important in areas such as protective clothing use, proper equipment use, accident prevention and accident response, and workplace emergency preparedness.
“The safety of the people shall be the highest law." – Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher (106 BC)
In addition to preventing damaging environmental releases, illnesses, and injuries, environment health and safety programs:
- Lead to fewer harmful events
- Show employees that their organization cares about their well-being
- Positively impact employee morale, productivity, hiring and retention
- Increase customer loyalty by being seen as an eco-friendly organization. In fact, 55% of global online consumers across 60 countries said they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact).
Environment, Health, and Safety Compliance is Better with Mobile Forms
Over the years, improved environmental health and safety regulations have had a dramatic impact on worker safety. Worker deaths in the U.S. are down from about 38 deaths per day in 1970 to 12 per day today, but efforts to improve conditions, processes, and workflows are ongoing.
Studies show a hefty number of Environment, Health, and Safety professionals still use paper-based forms and spreadsheets to collect, report and monitor EHS data and trends. Considering the amount of risk, no organization can afford to use a data collection system that leaves them vulnerable to accidents, lawsuits, reputation or brand damage, and possibly even terminated operations.
New digital technology has opened the door to improved EHS reporting capabilities. Mobile solutions, such as ProntoForms, have empowered EHS professionals to easily build a safety-first culture. By digitizing forms, users are able to swiftly collect, analyze, and share accurate EHS data, empowering them to meet—and even exceed—compliance standards. Plus real-time information gives a more immediate and detailed level of information. Over time that increasing amount of actionable and predictive data shifts decision making from reactive to proactive.
The Crosstown Transit Constructors (CTC) project, for example, was a joint venture of four Canadian and American construction firms lead by Obayashi. Its extensive construction project to expand the City of Toronto’s subway system is one with high EHS requirements that involve regular construction audits and following strict regulations. CTC has over a dozen types of forms that field workers must fill out.
Communicating information was a challenge. Paper form processing took up to five days. Crosstown decided on mobile forms running on iOS devices to speed up business processes and increase productivity. “We tested out ProntoForms and liked it right away,” says Christina Lindstrom, CTC’s Health and Safety Manager. “It was easy to see the value in mobilizing our forms in the field.”
Additional Environment, Health, and Safety Resources
Regulatory agencies such as the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S., and counterparts abroad, offer EHS standards, trends, and training. Here are a few sites to guide and evaluate corporate EHS conduct.
The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), including:
- Advancing Healthy Workplaces Portal
- Flu and Infectious Disease Outbreaks Planning Portal
- Young Workers Zone
- Healthy Minds at Work Portal
- The Health and Safety Report E-Newsletter
- WHMIS Classifications Search
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme developed by the European Commission
The International Finance Organization’s established EHS standards