Safety Culture

5 Processes to Automate in your EHS System

August 5, 2014
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Automation has changed the way business is conducted today.  Processes that used to take days or longer  to complete can now be accomplished in minutes—paperwork that was previously reviewed manually can now be done electronically, saving time and reducing the chance of mistakes occurring.   With this in mind, there are 5 capabilities in particular that the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) system will automate for you to improve efficiency and to simply make things easier.

Here are some common tasks EHS software can automate:

1.       Incidents:  One of the main safety processes within the EHS is recording and tracking incidents.  To promote continual improvement all incidents must be recorded, investigated, and actions must be taken to prevent or reduce the chance of the incident recurring. Automating Incident management within the EHS system lets you set up and centralize records of all incidents and collect the information needed to conduct investigations into those incidents.

Incidents are often the result of failures or errors and their cause may be apparent and can be addressed without the need for further investigation. Other times, an incident is considered to be critical, or multiple occurrences of similar incidents are observed, indicating a systemic issue.  Through automation, you can create records of all incidents that occur within your organization, collect the required information, conduct external reports, and conduct investigations into all incidents – all in a single centralized interface. This also becomes a benefit when you need to provide comprehensive reporting to OSHA and other regulatory agencies.  Automation and centralization of the Incident process can enable you to set up OSHA report templates and inherit the information directly into the report for an easy and streamlined method of reporting.

Using the automated EHS system to manage your organization’s incidents will ensure a process that is intuitive, quick, and provides consistent results.

2.       Job Safety Analysis: Job Safety Analysis (JSA) processes take a specific job and then break it down by each job step to assess the possible hazards of each step.  If it’s found that a hazard is too high, the JSA allows you to apply controls to that job step to reduce the hazard to an acceptable level.  Once each job step has been analyzed and controls put in place if necessary, the risk of that job step will have been effectively reduced. In turn, the overall risk of that job will be reduced to tolerable levels. 

This scenario is quite effective on a smaller scale. However, in terms of larger organizations with thousands of job types and employees, maintaining the JSA manually becomes tedious and you risk inaccuracies due to manual entry errors or duplication of data.  Luckily, by automating this process you can make the process of updating JSAs, reporting on findings more efficient, thus creating a more comprehensive JSA program.  What automation offers is a total, integrated method of managing each job’s safety. It allows you to easily document and train all employees on JSA controls to maintain a knowledgeable workforce, and enables you to continually review the JSA program and make the changes necessary to keep up with your evolving organization.

So, while there are risks in any job, using a JSA process powered by an automated EHS system and its integrated tools will allow you to more easily pinpoint and mitigate these risks, resulting in a safer workplace and more knowledgeable workforce.

3.       Employee Training:   In order to keep up with changing business processes, employees must be continuously trained on any new or changing process.  Not only that, but they must also be tested on their knowledge of these processes.  Automating Training processes related to EHS will accomplish these tasks more efficiently, creating a more intuitive training process for your organization.

Training Management involves identifying training requirements, building training programs, and flagging employees that need training, which is critical from a compliance standpoint. Without proper training, your organization risks noncompliance, safety issues, and can also run the risk of liability due to operator error. Training Management within an EHS system serves as a central location that houses a standard training program so that regardless of who comes into an organization, there is always a defined and consistent training program in place. The system tracks employee profiles, schedules training events, and manages the identification, responsibilities, authorities, training, and certification requirements for all employees. It is a centrally located repository for managing and tracking training for the entire organization. It also provides a simple method of scheduling and recording training. Furthermore, you can directly link your Training processes to a centralized Document Control process, so that any records that complete the approval cycle can be added to training and affected employees are notified.  With this link, you eliminate the need to manually update training records. Automation takes care of the paperwork, and you create a seamless process from document creation or updates to the training process.

Using Training Management within an EHS system can help your organization centralize and streamline its training program and identify how training fits into the overall EHS compliance dynamic.

4.       Permit Control: For many EHS-regulated organizations, controlling permits is very important for avoiding penalties, fines, delays, decommissioning or any legal consequences caused by invalid or out of date work permits. By automating the permit control process within your EHS, you are able to keep track of your permit’s timelines and regulations imposed by the responsible issuing agencies such as the EPA and OSHA—all in a centralized and intelligent manner.

An automated Permit Control process stores your organization’s active and operating permits. It controls the review and approval process of the documentation necessary for obtaining new permits and the renewal of expiring ones. By identifying responsible personnel and relevant dates, your organization will be able to ensure that all permits are readily available and current, and ensure that compliance is always met.

5.       Risk Management: Risk is inherent in all organizations—regardless of industry or size.  The most important thing about handling risk in operations is to properly identify it and measure it, so you can take appropriate action and control the risk.  The EHS system automates the process of Risk Management and allows you to handle risk systematically. It does this by catching risk at the event detection so you can mitigate systemic issues. This is important because if you can see where the systemic issues lie, you can make the needed adjustments to mitigate those events, see where the trends are, and gain the tools and therefore the visibility to reduce risk dramatically in the long run, throughout all areas within your organization.

Using Risk Management, you can create risk templates, apply risk parameters, and integrate Risk into other EHS processes to filter and assess risk levels within adverse events. Risk gives you reign over critical Risks and give you the tools you need to contain and control it, preventing it from escalating throughout your organization.

Another benefit of Risk Management tool is that it can integrate with the Corrective Action process. This is essential because it will allow you to weed out and filter the critical events from the noncritical, allowing you prioritize those corrective actions for the events most detrimental to your business. 

Once critical events have been addressed, the Risk Assessment tool ensures that the risk was reduced to an acceptable level ensuring that the measures taken proved successful. 

Closing Thoughts

EHS is a critical component to the operation of many organizations.  Having the ability to automate the above processes and many others provides you with the control, centralization, and transparency you need to ensure that you are tracking, training and documenting all aspects within the EHS system. With a flexible, automated EHS system, you can adapt the above processes and many more to meet and potentially exceed your unique business needs, whatever they may be.

In addition to the capabilities listed in this article, look for a system that is flexible, intuitive and will integrate with your existing business processes or outside systems. This is key to increasing collaboration not just within the solution but even extend the automation to other operational areas and business systems within the enterprise.

Using an automated EHS Management Solution will result in a standard and consistent method for your organization that can be repeated to ensure all processes are truly effective, intuitive and easy to execute.  

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