What Makes an EH&S Management System Successful?

Review your company processes and culture to see if any of the attributes or pitfalls noted here apply.

Having examined hundreds of business cultures related to Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) management systems, I have discovered common elements that crop up in companies seemingly forever behind the curve. Despite this you’d be hard pressed to find a company that says that workplace safety and environmental compliance are not a priority. So how and why do some companies do so much better than others? Let’s take a step back at examine some building blocks.

Because systems run on people power, there should be compelling evidence that a system values the importance of treating all people – be they employees, customers or vendors – in an evolved and humanistic manner. As such, the culture should cultivate thoughtful communication.

It is fair to say then that organizations therefore run on communication, and if that aspect proves ineffective, that may be an indicator of other shortcomings. Now, senior management must not only communicate belief in EH&S compliance, but must allocate adequate resources to ensure that this aspect can be managed successfully. More than that, they must exhibit consistent and visible support for EH&S.

So far as EH&S management, success is built upon cultivating desired behaviors. For that to work, besides effective communication, there must be consequences for failing to meet desired goals and objectives. If the trend is to reward project completion and productivity goals without best considering the costs of failing to meet environmental and occupational health and safety objectives, the path to compliance will be difficult.

Some companies change management models and modes too frequently; too easily swayed by the latest jargon or program. Or, they may lose steam as management is shuffled or distracted. Employees notice when management is not committed to EH&S or tends to “change colors” as politics or other demands influence them. By then, it’s more difficult to gain employee buy-in. Stay consistent and tweak when necessary. Keep stakeholders in the loop to cultivate appreciation and compliance. Investment in EH&S goals and objectives requires commitment and patience.


The role of the EH&S professional should be seen as value added. There are parallels between EH&S management and quality management. Give them the authority, respect and resources necessary to do their job. Be careful who you select to administer EH&S. Think of all the companies over the years who have paid hefty fines or made the news in unbecoming ways because their EH&S professionals were leveraged to make inappropriate decisions or just did not have effective skills or knowledge. The EH&S professional should be given ample autonomy, and report to appropriate management within the organization. Examine your current reporting structure. Does it give the appearance of a potential conflict of interest? Be certain that the reporting structure won’t cause the EH&S professional to feel pressured to make decisions that favor production or another aspect at the expense of EH&S compliance.

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