EHS stands for Environment, Health, and Safety. Companies in a variety of industries have adopted EHS programs that not only ensure employees are safe at work, but also ensure that the quality of the environment and the health of the local community are protected from any hazards or consequences of the company’s operations, such as an accidental spill of dangerous substances. Unlike OSHA, which is an authority that has the ability to enforce standards and fine businesses for violating these standards, EHS is more of a discipline that businesses practice for the betterment of the community and the planet. Depending on the program and the company’s priorities, the acronym may be in different renditions such as HSE or SHE. Quality control and assurance are often added, making the acronym QHSE or a variation of.
This category describes the company’s strategy to minimize its carbon footprint and how it aims to protect the environment. Topics include waste management, water and energy conservation, air emissions, and ensuring water quality. One of the biggest aspects to any business’s environmental program is hazardous material management and the prevention of contaminating waters that are near the business or contaminating the land which it occupies.
This category ensures that the operations of the company don’t negatively impact the health and wellness of the local community. This addresses the availability and quality of water, traffic safety, the transport of hazardous materials, and the safety of infrastructure—for example, the collapse of the Hard Rock hotel construction in New Orleans in October 2019 killed three workers and compromised the safety of local residents, as the city has been unable to clear the partially-demolished wreckage. This health category also focuses on disease prevention. It establishes procedures for emergency preparedness and response to any accidental spills or release of hazardous substances, in order to ensure that the local community is protected quickly and efficiently.
The safety category mainly encompasses how the company addresses hazards that are either already present in the workplace or have the potential to become present. The EHS program should describe the company’s procedure for taking action to reduce or eliminate these hazards. This typically involves a communication program, extensive training, and providing/using personal protective equipment. Hazards include those that are physical, chemical, biological, or radiological.
Although EHS does adhere to regulations established by OSHA, many EHS programs go beyond required compliance. Companies that practice EHS typically do as much as they possibly can to protect their workers, community, and environment.