Chemicals, EHS Management, Personnel Safety, Technology and Innovation

Knowledge Sharing: The Key to Increasing Productivity in EHS

Compiling, analyzing, and reporting environmental, health, and safety (EHS) data can be labor-intensive, time-consuming, and exhausting even for the most seasoned EHS leaders. EHS professionals are usually inundated with complex tasks such as tracking and managing hundreds of chemicals across multiple facilities and states in an effort to submit EPCRA compliance reports accurately and on time.

For EHS teams, a lack of proper knowledge sharing can decrease productivity and increase risks, especially if knowledge about EHS reporting and processes is contained to a very small team. When knowledge isn’t shared, it increases the risks of accidental omissions or missed reporting.

No matter the roadblocks, EHS teams remain vulnerable to reporting mistakes if they are overworked and rushed to meet submission deadlines. Environmental compliance knowledge sharing and technology help organizations make processes more efficient, automated, and repeatable. This investment enables businesses to retain employees and provide visible, trustworthy, and compliant data.

A need for institutional knowledge sharing

Due to limited resources, EHS teams may sometimes include just one or two people who’ve assumed the responsibility of compliance reporting for several years. This single person holds the keys to all of the reporting expertise.

These subject matter experts (SME) must share the knowledge of preparing and submitting compliance reports with external teams such as site and operations managers. This collaboration supports data validation, helps business continuity through change management, and supports more productive operations.

Without a single source of truth and information, fulfilling environmental compliance reporting tasks can become quite challenging. Establishing streamlined and standardized processes within environmental compliance programs reduces the lost time and switching costs resulting from employee turnover or collecting data from scattered sources. A centralized system increases data visibility and allows new employees to step in and understand the process quickly.

Utilize tools that meet organizational needs

To increase shared knowledge between EHS team members and other compliance stakeholders, quality access/quality control (QA/QC) channels need to exist for the information exchange to happen. Organizations can incorporate technology that reaches beyond a “one-person reporting operation” by:

  • Identifying which parts of the data collection and reporting process teams can standardize and automate.
  • Building online dashboards that provide a 360-degree view of an organization to keep EHS teams and company executives updated.
  • Implementing EHS software that eliminates menial, time-consuming tasks.
  • Encouraging EHS professionals to advise on technology decisions to ensure digital tools enhance the employee experience and overall productivity levels.

EHS technology—such as cloud computing, process automation, and digitization—requires a significant investment but be beneficial in the long run to reduce the risks of costly fines and reputational damage by helping EHS professionals maintain compliance with ever-changing and highly-regulated environmental laws.

The EPA, for example, regularly alters threshold planning quantities (TPQ) or adds new chemicals to its extremely hazardous substances (EHS) list. Companies unaware of these new or updated requirements may unintentionally become noncompliant and face stiff financial penalties.

Reducing employee turnover

Knowledge sharing and EHS technology also save organizations money and reduce the strain on resources by contributing to employee retention. People who collaborate on the job and have access to digital collaboration tools feel more satisfied with their job and workplace culture. Companies championing collaboration are 36% more productive than those that don’t.

Digital solutions also relieve EHS professionals’ workloads, allowing them to focus on additional strategic initiatives. Workplace loyalty and productivity improve when workers feel valued, knowing their company recognizes their input and ideas. Valued employees become more likely to elevate their own work and drive objectives forward.

Investing time and energy—plus knowledge sharing and compliance systems—enables EHS teams to operate more efficiently and catalyzes collaboration between teams. This cross-functional approach is essential, sharing responsibility among EHS professionals and their organizations for prioritizing environmental compliance. Executive-level support and collaboration with EHS teams compel employees enterprise-wide to buy into new solutions, creating a culture of knowledge sharing within the organization.

Luke Jacobs is Encamp’s CEO and helped launch the company in November 2017 as one of its co-founders. Before Encamp, he was an Environmental Scientist at GHD and a Research Associate III – Project Manager for Montana State University, a position funded through the National Science Foundation & U.S. Department of Energy and based in Bloomington, Indiana.