Environmental Health and safety policy, abbreviated as EHS, is a unique document that highlights information on how you are going to eliminate, prevent, or reduce risks of hazards in your workplace.
It highlights a company’s or a business’s overall approach, commitment, and provisions you have in place to deal with health and safety.
Generally, it refers to laws, regulations, rules, programs, workplace efforts, and professions that protect the employee and the public’s safety as well as the environment from hazards associated with the workplace.
Why Environmental, Health, and Safety?
Well, when we talk about the environment, we are concerned about the environmental releases and spills; in Health we are concerned about things that can make you ill, such as biological pathogens, radiation, airborne particles, or things likely to harm you due to exposure.
In safety, we are concerned about things that are likely to cause injuries for example being run over by a forklift.
Regardless of the business, you run, your employees and your customer’s safety should never be neglected. The law expressly requires an employer to take responsibility for the protection of employees as well as the members of the public that are affected by their work.
If you lack a robust environmental health and safety policy, you could get prosecuted, fined, or get yourself into worse situations that could have been avoided.
An environmental health and safety policy is important for various reasons.
Safety of the employees
The primary importance of environmental health and safety policy is to prevent accidents and incidences such as illnesses, injuries, and harmful environmental releases.
Some of the horrible incidences in history that influenced the need for EHS include the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the Bhopal/Union Carbide explosion in 1984, and the Upper Big Branch Mine-South explosion of 2010, among others.
Legal statutes on Health and Safety at work require workplaces to have a written environmental health and safety policy that should be reviewed annually. This helps in expressing the employer’s commitment to health and safety.
Attract New Employees
Every employee is looking forward to working in a safe environment where employees are put first. For this reason, how you look after your staff is likely to have a positive impact when potential employees are researching your company.
Since a policy commits the entire organization to maintain a safe workplace, this is likely to increase customer loyalty. These are some of the issues that consumers research before they can decide on the company to get their money.
Another importance of EHS is certification. Certain rewards can act as a seal of approval for business operation as well as demonstrating your commitment and expertise to a safe working environment which could go a long way in distinguishing your business from your competitors.
Environmental health and safety consultant
An environmental health and safety consultant helps organizations and businesses with issues safety and environmental regulations as well as assisting companies mitigate risks and maintain environmental compliance.
As an EHS consultant, your duties will include assessing business operations and advising the company on how to address problems in case you find issues concerning work safety, the health of employees, or the public or pollution.
Some EHS consultants investigate workplace incidences as well as work with businesses that have broken environmental regulations and advise them on potential improvements.
If you are looking to become an EHS consultant, some of the qualifications include a degree, knowledge, and experience of workplace and environmental health and safety guidelines.
You will also need strong investigative skills that will help you assess an organization’s operations as well as establishing causes of past incidences.
You should also specialize in one industry such as pharmaceuticals, food production, or manufacturing.
Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines
EHS guidelines are technical reference documents that inform the employees of a company or an organization the rules, guidelines, and codes of good conduct that ought to be followed with regards to a healthy, safe, and environmentally acceptable working area.
These guidelines stress the responsibility of every person who is considered part of the organization or the company, especially those exposed to hazardous substances, equipment, or activities in workplaces.
Different components and major environmental health and safety disciplines
The six main categories of hazards experienced in the workplace as addressed by the environmental health and safety discipline include:
Biological hazards: these include bloodborne diseases and infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Blood-borne diseases are bacteria and viruses transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids. Health workers such as dentists, doctors, nurses, and clinical workers are the most at risk of contracting blood-borne diseases. Cleaners and waste collectors are equally at risk from these infections as they are likely to encounter sharps in the course of their work.
Chemical hazards: these are hazardous substances capable of causing harm whether immediately or at a later time. These substances can cause both health and physical impacts. Some of the people at risk that are not considered to be at risk immediately are hairdressers, waiters, cleaners, nail technicians, or florists. Due to the continued use of chemical substances, incorrect usage of the same might pose dangers such as skin irritation, asthma, respiratory system irritation, allergic reactions, and blindness in the future.
Physical hazards: these include environmental factors capable of harming an employee without necessarily touching them. Examples include heights, noise, radiation, and pressure. Electric live wires are likely to cause serious injuries such as electric shock and burns. Similarly, fire can cause serious injuries and even fatalities and for this reason, risk assessment is important in fire safety procedures.
Ergonomic hazards: these hazards result from physical factors that are capable of causing musculoskeletal injuries. These are almost in every place of work and if they are not managed correctly, they are capable of significant impacts on employees’ health, either short or long term. These injuries affect the musculoskeletal system by either damaging muscles, bones, tendons, joints, nerves, blood vessels, or ligaments. Some examples of ergonomic hazards are manual handling, prolonged use of poorly designed workstations, and vibration.