Robert Polito will be a panelist at the Environmental Leader Conference on June 21-23 in Denver. His panel, ISO Standards and your Sustainability & EHS Programs, will be at 2 pm on June 23. We were able to catch up with him for a brief Q&A on his thoughts on the state of the industry and what he sees moving forward. To learn more about the EL Conference, visit the conference site.
Protecting employees across global operations is a major priority for businesses worldwide. Complying with rigorous, ever-evolving EHS regulations presents an ongoing challenge.
For example, as of January 2015 OSHA increased pressure on U.S.-based businesses regarding reporting of workplace incidents. The new OSHA requirements include reporting work-related fatalities within 8 hours and a newly defined set of severe work-related injuries within 24 hours.
In addition, the ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for companies and organizations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities. ISO 14001:2015 and its supporting standards such as ISO 14006:2011 focus on environmental systems to achieve this. The other standards focus on specific approaches such as audits, communications, labeling and life cycle analysis, as well as environmental challenges such as climate change.
Businesses must be ready to adapt to new regulations and have the systems and processes in place to ensure compliance. EHS information management software can play a significant role in helping companies comply with regulations and address risks as part of a broader program of strengthening EHS management and employee engagement.
Q: Why should an organization take a strategic approach to environmental performance?
A: There are many reasons why an organization should take a strategic approach to improving its environmental performance. Users of the standard have reported that ISO 14001 helps:
- Demonstrate compliance with current and future statutory and regulatory requirements
- Increase leadership involvement and engagement of employees
- Improve company reputation and the confidence of stakeholders through strategic communication
- Achieve strategic business targets by incorporating
- Sustainable EHS compliance performance by integrating EHS into the business process in a way that drives sustainable improvements
- environmental issues into business management
- Provide a competitive and financial advantage
- through improved efficiencies and reduced costs
- Implementation of new programs new programs, such as energy efficiency and other environmental sustainability efforts, can be more easily incorporated with an underlying management system as a foundation
- Encourage better environmental performance of suppliers by integrating them into the organization’s business systems
In addition to complying with key legislation, organizations typically are looking to improve transparency and accuracy of data. They also are keen to save time, reduce duplication and improve accountability by moving away from using Excel spreadsheets and common, in-house built systems.
Q: How can EHS Managers Move Beyond Compliance?
A: In the last 10 years, major organizations have upped their game on EHS. By increasingly focusing their EHS strategies on operational risk and improving business performance, they are prompting software suppliers to develop functionality to help them go beyond compliance and track areas such as incident management, performance analysis and management of change.
Many companies are using risk management tools to maintain a central risk register, plan and manage mitigation measures. Visual reports, such as an integrated risk heat map can provide simplified, easy-to-understand overviews of risk areas across their organization. This complements existing incident management reports, providing a way to measure and determine levels of risk and decide which items to address first.
Learning is an important part of achieving compliance and improving ongoing management. Software now includes the ability to identify key areas of concern and then create team rooms, where staff from across the organization can collaborate and share information. This type of activity is instrumental in preventing the issue from reoccurring elsewhere in the business.
In order to optimize EHS management and performance, businesses will use software to create targeted dashboards that analyze what they are doing well and where they need to improve. Complying with EHS regulations is a continuous, ongoing process, and data management software provides the bedrock for meeting changing needs and ensuring organizations are well-equipped to meet future challenges.
A comprehensive environmental management system allows companies to be flexible in the data they collect, helping them rapidly respond to new standards and regulations in reporting.
Q: What does the future hold for EHS managers?
A: Looking to the future, we see more companies continuing to integrate information from their systems for purposes beyond compliance and into various reports, performance management and communications. The use of mobile applications will continue to expand and companies increasingly will value the availability of accurate and live data.
Innovative mobile applications can improve EHS management and reporting also is increasingly popular and useful, with many companies using dedicated and integrated mobile applications for EHS management, allowing employees to work efficiently on the go.
Once companies embrace ISO14001 and put in an environmental management system and streamline data collection, boost accountability by managing and analyzing events and improve reporting efficiency, they can start to look to the future.
Some new thoughts and ideas that are being discussed by EHS Managers:
Injury Rate Matrix – Quickly identify potential risks by multiple factors (similar to a risk matrix) instead of looking at a spreadsheet and picking and sorting accident probabilities.
Predictive Tools – Identify high potential events by associating a percentage of chance of an event happening depending on certain conditions.
Creative Visual Tools – Once data has been collected, acting on it is vital. Provide visualization of the data so they can quickly evaluate the information and make decisions. Provide enhanced stakeholder communication with easily accessible, interactive, visually appealing content direct to intranet/external websites fed/updated by accurate, reliable platform data.
Use Available Technology – Take a look at connective devices such as iPhones using Siri to enter an event that you see on the go or quickly ask for information on a regulation.
Innovative companies are looking to collect data in new ways and reduce the burden on the frontline of the company while making it easier to decide what data is important. The goal is to give the EHS Managers back their time to focus on other important job related tasks.
Robert Polito is the Director of Business Development for cr360, part of the UL EHS Sustainability Team, a leading, global EHS & Sustainability Management Software company. cr360 provides enterprise-wide, web-based, EHS & Sustainability Management Software solutions.