Introduction and EH&S Content Alternative
I want to start off by saying that if you are more of a short, cliff notes type video person, then go no further! If not, read on and enjoy.
It's common for people to think that EH&S (Environmental, Health, and Safety) management is a scary and specialized area of expertise that only a few people can handle. The reality is that much of what's needed to effectively accomplish EH&S requirements has little to do with actual EH&S. It comes down to good management of an organization's resources, whether they are people or equipment. The effective management of resources has a significant impact on the organization's bottom line, and ultimately, its profitability. In this blog post, we will discuss how effective EH&S management can benefit your organization's productivity and profitability.
Afraid of Managing EH&S? You Shouldn't Be!
Do you consider EH&S management to be a bogeyman of sorts? Are you daunted by the prospect of handling it simply because it seems complex and unfamiliar? Well, we have good news for you. It isn't nearly as intimidating as you may think. In fact, if you can efficiently manage your human and non-human resources - such as equipment and funds - you're already halfway there. Just like these resources, EH&S management is a crucial part of your organization's operations. It's about understanding and mitigating risks, ensuring compliance, and fostering a safe and healthy environment for everyone involved. So, you see, EH&S management isn't a specter lurking in the shadows, but a strategic ally that can boost your organization's productivity and profitability.
A Practical Example
Let's delve into a practical scenario that should help illustrate the point I'm making. Imagine this: you're at a mine where some cement equipment is typically operated by four employees. Currently, you have two maintenance workers on shift. Suddenly, you receive news that the equipment has broken down. What should be your course of action?
Certainly, you could take immediate action by calling your two maintenance workers to rectify the issue. These trained professionals can quickly assess the situation and diligently work to get the equipment up and running again. Meanwhile, your four equipment operators aren't left idle. You could assign them to perform housekeeping duties or other productive tasks within the mine, away from the broken-down equipment. After all, until the cement machine is repaired, it's unfit for operation. This approach not only ensures optimal resource utilization but also underlines the importance of proper EH&S management—maintaining a safe and productive environment for all.
However, an aspect that might complicate matters is the heavy dust buildup on the equipment. This could require several hours of cleanup work if undertaken solely by the maintenance team. Furthermore, deploying your skilled laborers for a task that could be performed by almost anyone else, such as those original four equipment operators, doesn't seem very efficient. Indeed, it's akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This approach stretches out the timeline for EH&S requirements, making them seem more arduous than they actually are. Instead, a more efficient solution could involve allocating the cleanup task to the equipment operators while the maintenance team focuses on the mechanical issues. This way, all available resources are used effectively, adhering to EH&S guidelines and optimizing efficient and effective productivity.
In fact, the equipment operators, with their intimate knowledge of the machine, can initiate the lockout/tagout process. Being aware of the hazardous energy associated with the machine, they can safely disable it and start the cleanup process on their own. This not only ensures adherence to EH&S standards but also optimizes operators' time, having them focus on the high-priority machine getting back up and running instead of busy work. Once the operators reach a stage where the expertise of the maintenance team is required, they can signal for their assistance. With an existing lockout/tagout in effect, the maintenance team can seamlessly join the task in progress, eliminating the need for redundant procedures. Therefore, until their expertise is truly required for the intricate task of reviving the broken-down machine, the maintenance team can focus on other useful undertakings.
But We Haven't Looked at Actual EH&S Yet
There's a crucial lesson to be gleaned from the example we've just discussed. Efficiency and efficacy in task management come from a strategic analysis of the situation and optimal utilization of human resources. The principles of EH&S management are no different. Recall the first time you were learning the ropes of your current occupation. It's highly likely that there were EH&S aspects woven into the fabric of those tasks. Consider something as commonplace as driving a car - it's not devoid of EH&S concerns. Safety is a key consideration, of course, but even the potential environmental implications, such as oil leaks, can't be ignored. Therefore, EH&S considerations are ubiquitous in our lives, often subtly embedded in our day-to-day tasks.
The more you treat EH&S like any other task or responsibility, the more you find yourself asking key questions — What needs to be done? What constraints or limitations exist? Where can I find information about these constraints or requirements? How do they apply to the task at hand? How can this task be performed as expediently, effectively, safely, and compliantly as possible? Remember, there are rules governing almost everything you do. The rules/laws of nature count. The fact that something may be labeled as an EH&S rule doesn't change the fundamental principles that determine success. Just as with any task, understanding the parameters, planning effectively, and executing with care and precision are the cornerstones of success in EH&S management.
Preparation is a critical component of effective EH&S management. Just as you wouldn't start a job without the necessary protective gear like gloves, you shouldn't undertake any task without considering the EH&S aspects and making necessary preparations. Just think about it - would you arrive at a construction site without a hard hat or enter a scientific lab without safety goggles? Probably not, because you recognize the inherent risks and are prepared to mitigate them.
In the same vein, EH&S tools and rules should be in place and well-understood before they are needed. This could mean ensuring that safety equipment is available and maintained, that procedures are clearly defined and communicated, or that potential hazards have been identified and addressed. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive - to anticipate and prepare for EH&S issues rather than waiting for them to occur. This approach is not just about compliance or preventing accidents (although these are important outcomes); it's about creating a culture of safety and responsibility, where EH&S is seen not as an obstacle, but as an integral part of successful task execution.
Why You Should Care About All This
Indeed, if you're someone who values your hard-earned money and dislikes seeing it wasted, it's easy to understand why a business would feel the same. Often, spending money is much easier than making it. Failing to proactively address EH&S issues as we've discussed can lead to a significant drain on a company's resources. This can manifest in the form of lost productivity, increased costs, and consequently, decreased profitability. In some extreme cases, it may even jeopardize the very survival of the organization. Let's not forget a primary objective of any for-profit business or organization: to produce a product at a cost that's lower than its selling price. Well, that's the case for businesses and organizations that are for-profit anyway. The difference between these two figures is the profit. When EH&S matters aren't appropriately managed, it not only impacts the health and safety of the employees but also erodes this vital profit margin.
How Mismanaged Resources Impact EH&S
It's important to underscore that inadequate resource management can exacerbate difficulties in carrying out EH&S tasks. For instance, let's consider a scenario where welding or cutting tasks frequently occur in an area consistently cluttered with sawdust. Failing to maintain cleanliness in this area results in unnecessary expenditure of time and effort each time hot work needs to be performed. Therefore, investing in methods to confine the sawdust and keep the ground clean can alleviate much of the time, risk, and headache associated with these tasks. It serves as a reminder that efficient resource management is not only about capital or human resources but also about managing physical work environments effectively for safer and smoother operations.
Continuing this line of thought, if hot work or repetitive equipment repair has become commonplace at your facility, it might be time to address the root of the issue. This approach not only safeguards the employees from potential harm but can also keep you out of the complex realm of EH&S management for these tasks. Rather than applying metaphorical band-aids on your equipment, ensure a rigorous preventative maintenance program is in place. This strategy can significantly improve the lifespan and performance of your equipment, reducing the need for frequent repairs and thus, directly impacting your bottom line positively. It's all about getting the most returns on your resources; mitigating the need for hot work or repetitive repairs can mean less work, less risk, and more profit. Therefore, preemptive actions and regular maintenance of resources are key to avoiding unnecessary EH&S complications. Now, wouldn't that be a win?
Managing EH&S (Environment, Health, and Safety) need not be viewed as a daunting, ominous task. While sure, there can be certain elements that may seem intimidating, it's essential to approach this just like any other task, with a clear and focused mindset. Start by asking the fundamental questions: What needs to be accomplished? What constraints or limitations are there? Where can I find information about these constraints or requirements? How do they apply to the task at hand? By focusing on these key areas, you will be able to devise a strategy to perform the task as efficiently, effectively, safely, and compliantly as possible.
Remember, knowledge is power. The more effectively you manage your tasks and resources, the more proficiently you can handle EH&S. A well-implemented strategy can streamline the whole process, ensuring that you don't have to incessantly focus on EH&S management. This not only protects your human and non-human resources but also empowers your organization to flourish. With the right approach, awareness, and adaptability, EH&S management can transition from being a daunting responsibility to a part of your organization's thriving strategy. Getting better at general management makes EH&S management better and is just a part of how business is done.