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04 July 2022

Darragh Geoghegan explains how technology can enhance your EHS programme

FOR MANY employees worldwide, how their employer looks after their welfare and guarantees their rights is fast becoming non-negotiable. Official regulators are also responding to the workforce’s increasingly ‘safety-first’ mentality, putting more legal pressure on organisations to ensure they look after their staff in the workplace. 

As you can imagine, this is prompting business leaders up and down the UK to recognise the importance of employee wellbeing. Equally, the introduction of tougher penalties for corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences will have spurred many companies to take a more active approach in protecting workers from risk. 

However, while the emerging good noises and intentions from C-suites (executive-level managers within a company) around workplace health and safety are a positive sign, turning words into tangible actions is often harder to achieve. 

For a start, you need to implement a robust Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) programme to build a positive culture and create as safe a working environment as possible. This will encompass all manner of important protocol from official rules, regulations and standards, as well as internal policies all designed to ensure best practice health and safety within the business. 

It’s much, much more than merely a set of codified dictates, signposts and PPE. Of course, these are important, but without clear direction of their use, in the context of your working environment, they’re next to useless. 

To achieve a scenario where these assets resonate, are engaged with, and adopted, you need careful planning. For me, it commences with the development of a comprehensive EHS strategy which leaves no potential risk unaddressed, yet is scalable and easy-to-understand. 

Essentially, an EHS strategy is the framework around which your organisation will build a watertight programme to ensure employee safety. It acts as the glue around which all activity can occur, providing structure and crucial clarity for the organisation’s health and safety protocol, and how it will be successfully implemented. 

A well-drafted strategy will create a useful roadmap which assists the delivery of an ongoing health and safety programme, placing milestones and plotting incremental goals to maintain focus and momentum. 

Here, it’s important to flag, its development needs to be coupled with clear support from the CEO and board, who need to actively demonstrate their seriousness on the subject of safety otherwise the strategy is rendered useless. The C-Suite much be fully committed. 

As with any business process, there are good ways of developing EHS strategies and bad ones. For the best results, I recommend: 

  1. Every angle addressed: A thorough and holistic audit is required before you start to define your strategy. Kick the tyres as hard as you can, and interrogate all existing processes, this will help you develop a strong programme which offers maximum protection. 

  2. Built-in flexibility: Regulatory compliance is ratcheting-up, with tougher legislation introduced and standards tightening-up. Your EHS strategy needs to accommodate this with inherent malleability to adapt to an evolving regulatory landscape which is only going to get more punitive in its sanctioning. Remember, as much as you’re de-risking for employees, you’re also doing it for the business itself. 

  3. Aim to win hearts and minds: The last thing you want, having invested in establishing an EHS strategy and programme, is for employees to either ignore it or wilfully contravene it. As such, the CEO and C-Suite need to take the initiative and the lead, establishing a positive culture from the outset and build the strategy throughout the business. Adopting a top-down, bottom-up approach, involving colleagues at all levels in its development will increase the likelihood of workforce adoption. 

Once the strategy’s in place your programme can be built around it, and implemented. Each programme will be unique to the requirement of an individual business. For example, the contents relevant for a chemical plant, where hazardous materials are handled on a daily basis, will be very different from that of a blue chip accountancy firm.

However, there are a number of universal truths which apply, from specifying general health and safety training and ensuring provision for specialist tasks, to ensuring the programme is compliant with current regulations and standards. And that’s just for starts.

Even for small businesses, there’s still a huge amount to consider and, whilst your programme might be as far-reaching as possible, backed by a rock-solid strategy, it can all fall apart if it’s not correctly introduced and managed. 

As we move further and deeper into the online-age of work, we’re becoming more reliant on digital technology to help deliver daily tasks and processes. Nowhere is this truer than in the pre-digital management and delivery of an EHS strategy and programme, which was prone to inconsistency, nebulousness and ineffectiveness through lack of engagement.

The last decade has seen the inexorable rise of EHS management software, to help streamline the implementation of an EHS strategy and programme. Recent research indicated that, by 2026, the market would be worth $2.5bn, representing a yearly growth rate of 11.5%1.

Typically, the software records compliance data from incidents and inspections, and a range of other safety metrics, and organises this data into dashboards, providing a more complete safety picture. Proven to boost efficiency and effectiveness, these digital tools are fast-proving how corporate EHS delivery can be a constructive and rewarding exercise, dovetailing with commercial objectives, achieving that crucial ROI to keep the C-suite happy. 

So, if there was one takeaway from this article, I would suggest it’s giving serious consideration to an EHS software platform to support your programme. In terms of the benefits from an investment of this kind, they will be quickly seen, but the ones I think are the most obvious, and of the highest value, are: 

  • A holistically safe workplace: The ability to collate, store and analyse relevant metrics and data accurately, to make informed decisions that de-risk the workplace should be seen a key advantages. It empowers individuals to make the right decisions through cutting-out any ambiguity or margin for error, while also demonstrating that you, as a business, take worker health and safety seriously. 

  • A socially-aware business: It also serves as a vital internal comms conduit, showing your colleagues, employees, customers and authorities you care about the welfare of your staff. In turn, this will motivate them to behave in a safer manner, in the knowledge EHS is a priority of senior leadership, whilst also giving them a crucial route to report near misses, incidents and more. 

  • Deep data diving: EHS management systems allow data to be centralised, tracked and monitored. Consistent and regular reporting is at the heart of any successful EHS programme, and the latest software can facilitate trends analysis to identify areas requiring tights safety measures. It also means you can share the information which really matters, highlighting important findings and cutting through the noise. Fundamentally it will help make better, more informed critical decisions. 

  • Legal compliance: Crucially, EHS management software boosts compliance. Should any party make a claim, so long as it’s been correctly collated, these platforms can host all information pertaining to that issue in one place. It also overcomes the administrative headache of physical paper trails and multiple spreadsheets, which have a massive margin for error, with potential legal ramifications if encountered by regulators. The cloud-based systems of many top EHS software systems overcome this problem, ensuring files sent over are in the correct template, format and up-to-date. This ensures maximum compliance with increasingly stringent regulation. 

I’ve only scratched the surface of how digital technology has the potential to enhance your EHS programme, keeping it on-track and ensuring the strategic goals are being met and even surpassed. 

Ultimately, the benefits to your business are myriad, from a healthier, happier and more-invested workforce, to fewer accident claims and legal cost pay-outs, less time off related to injury and a better reputation for your company. 

So there you have it. An EHS programme founded on a clear strategy and delivered with support from the latest digital software makes good sense. Not only will it protect the welfare and wellbeing of your employees, it will also safeguard your business, positioning it to adapt and thrive in a working landscape where company-wide social awareness is essential. 

Darragh Geoghegan is VP of revenue operations at EcoOnline. For more information, visit ,