Thought LeadershipWhether you work in Aviation, Mining or the Zoo Industry, the EHS Department is often caught in the middle between the C-Suite and everybody else in the company. One of the key problems is that SH&E professionals often lack the interrelation skills necessary to effectively communicate with both groups. Your role as facilitator, interpreter, and messenger between Executives and Workers is essential to your job.

Unfortunately, many companies that claim safety is a core value, don’t really mean it. It’s politically correct to state this as their higher purpose and so they say that safety is a core value, when really it’s just a priority. It may be a very high priority, but one whose importance moves up and down on the list depending on other factors.

When safety is just a priority, then it’s going to be affected by short timelines, increased costs, decreased profits, other projects, and pressure to compete. It’s not uncommon for a company’s financial incentive policies that are tied to staying under budget or performance can result in being counter-productive to EHS activities. However, when safety is a core value, it instead positively impacts all decisions in other departments, including HR, Purchasing, Accounting, Production, and Marketing.

I suspect that 90 percent of the time, any random visit to a construction site or manufacturing plant would reveal at least one worker doing an unsafe act. This disconnect where workers are operating outside of company mandates, is what we must correct. Quite often this is a middle management issue and it is a golden opportunity for the EHS professional to educate the person about the financial benefits of safety.

The key disconnect for SH&E professionals is that many Executives have business or financial backgrounds, but no education in EHS disciplines. Likewise, EHS managers often lack formal business or financial training. To begin to bridge the communication gap, both parties should consider developing interdisciplinary training. When EHS managers understand the numbers, you can explain the bottom line benefits of an effective EHS department, its programs, and policies to the C-Suite. As you build this relationship, engage Execs in the EHS process and work together to define how to achieve safety as a true core value.

Meanwhile, EHS managers must be able to be an interpreter for the worker by translating the lofty ideals set by the C-Suite into real-world scenarios that workers understand. Make sure employees know where Executive Management stands on safety.

Unfortunately, sometimes employees behave unsafely or unethically because they think they are helping the company. Show how this violates company core values and how safety is implemented in day-to-day activities. It is equally effective to demonstrate the personal impact even small safety infractions can have on the worker directly.

The EHS professional has for too long been on an island by themselves. It is time to get the overt management support for programs that we know save lives while protecting property and the environment.

ISHM offers these certifications:

Certified Safety and Health Manager (CSHM)

  • Demonstrate full knowledge of Environmental, Health, & Safety management skills & techniques by education, experience, & examination
  • Accredited by the Council on Engineering Standards boards (CESB), a leader in setting quality standards for credentialing organizations

Associate Safety and Health Manager (ASHM)

  • Demonstrate readiness to apply a broad range of tools in safety & health management by a combination of education & experience
  • A building block toward the CSHM

Certified Safety Management Practitioner (CSMP)

  • Recognition of those who have demonstrated capabilities by experience & examination with a less formal safety & health education path
  • Accredited by the Council on Engineering Standards boards (CESB), a leader in setting quality standards for credentialing organizations