June 25, 2020

EHS Management and Sustainability: A Dynamic Duo?

What is Environmental Health and Safety?

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) management is the concept and practice of having systems, processes, and procedures in place to ensure the safety of employees and contractors in their workplace environments.

We previously wrote about present-day EHS management in part one of our three-part series on EHS incident management, and defined the ‘E’ in environmental health and safety management (EHS); which refers to the surrounding workers are in and all possible hazards, risks, and concerns potentially affecting the health and safety of workers and preventing productive operations (such as air, water or land pollution, chemical spills, etc.).

The ‘H’ in EHS stands for health and relates to the potential exposures that can negatively impact workers’ health, physically and/or mentally, such as noise, chemicals, pathogens, and pollutants.

Finally, the ‘S’ is for safety. It is a critical piece in holistic EHS management and focuses on assessing, mitigating, and handling workplace incidents and injuries. 

Defining Sustainability

A pertinent part of EHS management is sustainability and taking environmental implications into considerations. This applies across multiple industries, particularly in mining and mining services where land and vegetation considerations are paramount to their operations.

‘Sustainability’ is one of those buzzwords which can be easily misguided. So, let’s define it.

Sustainability describes how natural systems function, remain diverse, and produce everything it needs for the ecology to remain in balance. It focuses on the balancing act between competing needs; our need to move forward technologically and economically, and the need to protect the environments in which we and others live. Sustainability is not just about the environment, it’s also about our health as a society in ensuring that no people or areas of life suffer as a result of environmental legislation, and it’s also about asking questions about how it may be improved.

Monitor & Manage

There are different angles from which we can look at sustainability. For example, in the field, to enforce the philosophy of sustainability and support compliant practices, you would conduct your measurements of various sample runs for further testing as well as ongoing monitoring in both the field and laboratory.

Observing levels of soil, water, air, and potentially other elements is part of the cycle of sustainability. Let’s unpack that.

When the goal is to preserve the vegetation of a particular area, keeping an eye on its current state by means of regular observations and monitoring is crucial to ensure no variables change in a drastic way.

This not only impacts the immediate environment, but also the health and safety of surrounding communities. Imagine the water stream being monitored for any foreign particles that could impact the nearby town’s water supply. If that is the case, mitigation measures would need to be implemented to ensure no further damage consequentially occurs. 

Environmental Monitoring: Integrating EHS and Sustainability

Integrating EHS management and sustainability practices more often than not involves initiatives, programs, systems, and software platforms to:

  • simplify data collection
  • aggregate data and information in one place
  • provide a centralised source for everything EHS related
  • ensure greater oversight of monitoring operations
  • generate statistical reports in close to real-time

In recent years, many companies have developed programs that focus on addressing sustainability challenges like energy and water use and ways of monitoring these. Integrating EHS and sustainability management programs into one unified program and into the core business operations lay the foundation for compliance, consistency and continuous improvement by creating a single source of operating instructions and procedures for all company processes across facilities, regions and the entire organisation.

Before data-sf-ec-immutable=”” you can truly integrate EHS monitoring into your daily operations, it’s vital to get your team on board. Train your workers on the importance of sustainability and educate them on why you’re making these efforts within the business.

Step 1: The first step in integrating a sustainability program into the existing EHS program and into the core business operations involves incorporating sustainability metrics into corporate reporting.

Step 2: The second step focuses on combining EHS and sustainability resources to drive cost savings and revenue opportunities. Finally, full integration into the core business strategy requires securing commitment from the board and making sustainability part of a company’s core business strategy.

The Benefits

Ultimately, the close collaboration of a company’s EHS and sustainability programs have material impacts on an organisation:

  • Increase revenue: an integrated sustainability/EHS program positions a business to increase its revenue by enhancing its reputation with customers, the public, and other key stakeholders. It also can open up new revenue streams
  • Save money: leading EHS and sustainability programs help companies reduce their use of raw materials, decrease waste per unit of production and reduce energy use – all of which can bring significant savings
  • Manage risk more effectively: well-integrated EHS and sustainability programs do a better job of identifying and resolving EHS and sustainability issues, which helps improve regulatory compliance at a time of increasing scrutiny. It also helps prevent disruptions in the supply chain
    and minimizes reputational and regulatory fallout when problems do occur

Recognising this, in an Ernst & Young LLP study, it was found that 65% of CFOs in leading corporations are involved in sustainability initiatives. Collaborating with other business units inside a company can also accelerate these efforts and bring additional resources to bear.

Multiple departments are involved in making this happen. Proactive projections of sustainability plans are best done with forecasting roadmaps, such as this one:

Business Sustainability Roadmap

Source: Getting to Sustainability

What’s next?

One such technology simplifying operations for managers and employees is INX InViron, which assists organisations to keep on top of requirements, planning sampling, sending reminders, log data collected from samples in the field, and automating the import of data back into the system from the laboratories. Perhaps the most critical part of the system is validating data against permits or licensing requirements, receiving first trigger level and then exceedance notifications.

A multinational gold producer, with global operating, development and exploration projects has been using INX InViron and multiple other INX solutions for over 10 years and has successfully scaled the system across its organisation. From the original deployment on two sites within one country, INX solutions are now used in seven sites across five countries. Being able to scale a system to meet operational activities and accommodate business expansions has been crucial to supporting their overall operational excellence.

There are many parts within the INX suite that interact and ‘talk’ to one another, and share relevant information for multiple reasons:

  • Eliminate the duplication of data
  • Give users insights to the information stored in a system they may not have access
  • Increase efficiency and match the users’ task workflow
  • All these relationships make it easier for organisations to view data holistically and begin to pre-empt trends and remedial action or provide an easy way to report on environmental sustainability

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