COVID-19 has disrupted the business world on a scale many of us have never before seen. It’s important to look for opportunity amid crisis, however, and for environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals, our current moment may be a great chance to focus on the efficient digitization of organizational EHS programs.
As many employees moved to remote work amid the pandemic, it became apparent that rapid digitization would be a key consequence of the pandemic. Even post-COVID-19, there is a strong reason to believe that companies will continue to function in a more digital environment as organizations discover cost savings surrounding facilities and in-person staffing. All industry has been affected, even manufacturing, which could potentially see an even faster adoption of automation and robotization—a trend that was on the rise even before lockdowns and social distancing revealed even more competitive advantages of automated “smart” factories.
In this environment, EHS has to keep up with the times as well. While many departments have digitized at least partially in recent years, there are quite a few organizations where unorganized spreadsheets (or even pen and paper) are still the norm for recordkeeping, metrics analysis, and decision making when it comes to EHS culture and compliance. The time to change is now.
Know Your Data and Beware of Siloes
Using comprehensive data collection and analysis tools, EHS professionals should seek to consult both leading and lagging indicators with the confidence that their data is reliable, relevant, and appropriately able to drive confident decisions. Areas of concern for your organization may include:
- Job hazard analyses;
- Air emissions data;
- Waste management recordkeeping and compliance; and
- Incident and accident management.
Data from virtual EHS audits can also provide you with further insight into the successes of your programs as well as areas for improvement.
Always remember that EHS does not operate in a vacuum, however, and as a part of a whole organization, recognize that other departments have separate, siloed data and goals. Ensure that the lines of communication across these departments are open to try to break down the siloes and make the data (and the decisions driven by them) useful to the goals of the entire company.
Digitize Your EHS Training
It’s somewhat ironic that it is currently unsafe in many regions to conduct in-person safety training. A digital training platform can solve this issue as well as provide an engaging way for employees to be introduced to organizational safety policies, on a variety of devices and at their own pace.
Some key considerations for this element of EHS program digitization:
- Ensure the training is compliant. While online learning may satisfy some regulatory requirements surrounding health and safety training, there are some instances where the training must be in-person and/or hands-on. Consult federal, state, and/or municipal law to ensure your program is compliant.
- Review the materials for accuracy and relevance. It’s of the utmost importance that employees are being delivered correct information and also understand the reason why they are receiving the training.
- Use a platform that can track training completion across the organization. Participation and completion of training is a key leading metric for EHS programs that can connect to your preventive action data as well as make the business case for investment in health and safety initiatives.
Digitization of EHS programs has been accelerating, and COVID-19 has contributed even more to that acceleration. With a data-driven approach, EHS managers and professionals can both protect the workforce as well as contribute to creating more efficient organizations.