Those who take on environmental, health, and safety (EHS) positions have a great responsibility to a company and its employees. EHS professionals are instrumental in assessing and managing health and safety risks in the workplace. They also develop and implement safety policies and procedures to minimize those risks.
Through a combination of education, training, and professional certification, EHS pros utilize their unique workplace safety skills to advance their employer’s workplace health and safety record and preserve the life and health of their colleagues.
Here are four key skills every EHS professional should have.
1. Industry Knowledge and Insight
A successful EHS professional has a solid background and understanding of established workplace safety standards, whether those are issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or state and industry regulators; that understanding is further enhanced by a commitment to staying on top of changes, revisions, and updates to workplace safety skills.
EHS professionals need good organization skills to maintain corporate safety records, including incident and violation records, training records, remediation documents, and related files. They often use what they know to carry out workplace safety investigations as needed, document the results, and communicate those results and their recommendations to management.
In addition, EHS professionals often have basic first aid training in order to provide immediate and hands on assistance in cases where urgent incident response assistance is needed.
2. Organizational Support
EHS professionals provide support to employees through workplace safety skills training. They understand what essential health and safety skills are necessary for employees, given the unique risks at a given workplace. They manage the overall occupational safety and health program with the goal of minimizing those risks.
EHS pros use their workplace safety skills to carry out safety and compliance inspections, identifying issues that need immediate attention, and noting where increased or improved employee training is needed.
Support is also provided by serving as a resource for advice and guidance on workplace safety skills to managers and employees. EHS team members can utilize their workplace safety skills and expertise to help managers and employees decide what safety training and certification is appropriate for certain employees, depending on their roles and responsibilities. In addition, an EHS professional can facilitate the training and certification process for employees interested in advancing their own occupational safety and health credentials.
3. Data Analysis
EHS specialists provide critical analysis and feedback to management. Their assessment of the state of workplace safety skills can assist employers in identifying areas where training is needed as well as potential liabilities and challenges related to safety issues.
It's essential that EHS workers know how to read, analyze, interpret, and communicate various safety metrics, trends, and other data points. This important skill set can help the department - and overall organization - make better decisions and reduce risk within the workplace.
Safety officers' skills include ensuring that any company-wide safety procedures include essential components, like how to handle specific types of safety incidents - from chemical spills to slips and falls to basic first aid.
4. Software Automation
Some EHS departments may be undergoing a massive IT overhaul or they may be limping along with legacy spreadsheet systems. Either way, it’s safe to say it’s essential to be aware of the possibilities that exist today for automation of EHS processes.
From incident management to audits and inspections, every aspect of EHS software is moving forward with improvements at a tremendous pace. Namely, the benefits of automation are far-reaching, affecting every employee in every region, no matter whether they’re on an offshore oil rig, in an office at headquarters, on the assembly line or in the warehouse.
The move from spreadsheets to automation represents a quantum leap forward, but what exactly are the benefits? Here’s a good look of what’s in store for companies who make the switch from spreadsheets to automation.
Rapid Retrieval of Data
One obvious advantage of automation is the rapid retrieval of information that’s housed in a central, company-wide location. Without the ability to rapidly retrieve large amounts of data from multiple sources across the organization, trend analysis becomes difficult, if not impossible.
Improved Tracking and Deeper Insight
Embracing technology allows EHS professionals to more easily track incident data for better insight on where and when the problems are occurring. That in turn can lead to deeper insight about why incidents occur. And once that's known, EHS pros can constructively deploy prevention measures to reduce incident and injury rates.
When data is readily available to everyone who needs it—and at the same time—productivity increases. When EHS team members have the data they need, and it’s presented in clear, manageable formats that allow for easy reporting, decision-making gets easier as well.
The use of industry-specific and company-tailored templates increases efficiency, since employees aren’t inventing the wheel every time they access and use data.
Communication is also facilitated when data collection, storage, and retrieval is automated. Data is more easily shared than with spreadsheets, and having a centralized repository for company documents means everyone is on the same page.
Better Integration of Data
With an automated safety management system, data is no longer siloed. Rather, it’s integrated across departments, functions, and divisions in the company. Cross-referencing is a valuable tool for EHS pros, and it simply can’t be done effectively with spreadsheets.
Improving Workplace Safety
An EHS professional uses their workplace safety skills in a high-level way that benefits the organization as a whole and its employees individually. From overarching policy and procedures development and roll-out to front-line training, education and development, people in this career have a key role in keeping their employer’s rate of workplace illness and injury low.