Far too often, we encounter businesses that seemingly treat the environmental health and safety professional position as an add-on or part-time position. The result is that the organization invariably does not place appropriate value on the EHS function. The result is typically any of the following three outcomes:
- the position is under-funded and EHS employees tend to move on and out because of that;
- the position is treated as a bare necessity and the organization fails to provide the necessary support and resources to make the EHS function successful;
- the person in the EHS function may have been placed there due to reasons other than their abilities. For example, they may be a field hand or engineer by training but are now at the helm of a vital company function and most likely without adequate knowledge.
Any of these scenarios can be problematic. Low performers content with low compensation stay on board and effectively do little at best or muck things up at worst. Those with higher expectations move on and out and leave the position open (again). Lack of continuity dogs organizations with these issues. Another scenario is the multi-tasking engineer or administrative assistant challenged to do their regular job and also to keep an EHS program on track.
Interestingly, these problems are found in businesses large and small and certainly in multi-national corporations as well. Shortcoming in the functionality of an EHS program and/or a lack of competence and/or breadth of knowledge of the EHS professional opens the door to problems (and, by the way, opens the door to consultancies who are invited in desperation to identify gaps and prescribe corrective measures). In a perfect world, a proper prescription will set the organization right and self-sufficient as well. It always pays to examine your EHS management system functionality and to do so routinely.