A simple one liner as to who ‘owns’ EHS often resounds the corridors of decision making and management. The clear reason behind this situation is that all organizations feel better and more democratic when they say “…EHS ownership lies with our well trained workers and workforce”.
The truth however lies not within what sounds appealing rather what the law constitutes.
EHS ownership is a task cut out for the top level management. How they delegate, assign and make it happen on the sites and shop floors is an entirely different set of discussion. But fundamentally, enabling (not enforcing) EHS values is the top level management task.
The ownership role means that the management is the decision maker in charting an EHS strategy and within that ‘safe and environmentally sound’ vision, lie roles and responsibilities for individuals – The work plan for workforce who act and demonstrate EHS abilities in their daily work.
A leading safety expert Terry Mathis has laid down a simple EHS coaching strategy from the leadership group for the workforce – focus, facilitate and feedback.
EHS ownership can be summarized within these three key areas.
Focus – is the primary responsibility of owning EHS that is about learning and understanding the needs of the organization from a compliance viewpoint. How they will be affected by the nature of work while the facilities function.
Facilitate – The workforce with the essentials that are necessary in performing such work as per EHS guidelines. Whether it is trainings, control and acquisition software or equipment that enables hazardous work.
Feedback – It is the element that EHS owners sometimes forget. Feedback lets the program and strategy grow and prosper rather than remain rigid and stagnate.
Now comes the interesting part as we move our attention to the leaders.
The drivers of sustainable EHS systems are EHS leaders.
This cohort of workers, managers or safety experts are the real champions of even the most problem-fraught EHS program. Due to the simple reason that they are the ones who are on a constant lookout for rectifying and improving on errors. They are the keen participants as EHS stakeholders who really want safety and health to be an established way of performing work. These problems are identified, worked upon and improved to function in-line with the vision of EHS owners.
EHS leaders are the ones that EHS owners need to identify and promote through skill development based training programs. These drivers can act not only as a medium of communication for overall workforce. EHS leaders can show the rest of them that EHS isn’t limited to special equipment or knowledge. EHS is about essential safety for all and a healthier way of working that protects them from hazards.
The combination of leadership working with defined ownership forms the part of a reliable EHS framework. This is precisely what many organizations fail to recognize and promote – The right people for the right jobs.
Systems and processes are merely an extension of structure. Each organizational structure is built from its basic units – workforce. Assemble them the right way and you have the makings of cutting edge operations.
Ownership of decisions makers, roles and responsibilities for the EHS trained workforce while thought leadership to EHS leaders and innovators can dispel the myth of “we are doing our best but operations sometimes go wrong”.