Using Change to Drive EHS Improvement
In a business, change presents an opportunity to eliminate environment, health and safety (EHS) risks, and learning how to initiate and drive necessary change is an important skill for EHS leaders to cultivate.
Here are a few observations on how to reduce EHS risks by taking advantage of change:
- Identify the relevant opportunities: One of the key challenges is to explain which opportunities merit your involvement and why. While this may seem obvious to you, it may not be to your leadership or to the project managers who are under pressure to deliver results on schedule, under budget. There are the big opportunities such as a facility move, consolidation, or expansion, and new or modified equipment. These offer excellent opportunities to implement fire protection systems, machine guarding, electrical safety devices and ergonomic principles. New or reformulated chemicals or materials and changes in chemical use offer a more subtle opportunity to reduce EHS risk by substitution, improved control and more efficient use. New product introduction can be an opportunity to address long-term, regulatory-driven challenges such the European Union Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive or the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive. New customers, contracts and suppliers may be game-changers where EHS requirements are concerned.
Business leaders need to understand the EHS risks and opportunities that come with these new relationships.
- Get a seat at the table during the initial planning phase: This requires networking upfront with key process leaders as well as infusing EHS into the policies and procedures of the engineering, manufacturing and procurement departments. It also means engaging in strategic planning and product development processes. These relationship-building investments will pay dividends in the long-term. I have experienced missed opportunities due to lack of upfront involvement, such as failing to conduct a Phase I ESA prior to leasing a manufacturing facility and not specifying fireproof ceiling materials when renovating a building. Typically, trade-offs in material and equipment selection and capital investments are much more palatable when considered as part of a change.
- Make the business case in broad, but tangible terms: When conducting the traditional return on investment analysis that we are all familiar with, consider the financial benefits of EHS- driven investments that improve quality, improve productivity (e.g., more efficient material flow, reduced labor, and shorter cycle time associated with ergonomic improvements), reduce insurance premiums and avoid the cost of regulatory compliance administrative tasks (e.g., regulatory reviews, operating permits, and compliance training). Lastly, customer and employee satisfaction and retention are highly persuasive aspects of making a business case, if you can do it in credible, concrete terms.
- Reinforce the value of your involvement by measuring and reporting results: This is often forgotten in the swirl of the work day and the pressure to move on to new challenges. Once the change has been made and you are operating at steady state, do the analysis and demonstrate that the change has delivered what was promised. It will make people more receptive to your input the next time a change is contemplated.
What advice do you have for ensuring EHS is included in the management of change process? What lessons and success stories can you share?
Stephen Evanoff is Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety for Danaher Corp., a Fortune 250 global science and technology company. To learn more about the habits of effective change agents, tune in for NAEM’s Emerging Leaders webinar on “Strategic Influencing: How to Drive and Manage Change” on Sept. 20.
Entry filed under: Change Management, EHS Management, EHS Skills, Emerging Issues, Emerging Leaders Series, Leadership Development. Tags: business management, change leadership, change management, creating a culture of change, driving change, EHS leadership, EHS Management, EHS Skills, Environment Health and Safety, Environment health and safety management, Leadership, Leadership Development, leadership skills, Risk Management, Stephen Evanoff.