Something we need to remember when we don’t get the budget we asked for is that EHS is only one of many competing interests within the company. EHS staff compete for capital and operating budgets just like the production department, finance department, IT, HR and others do.
Most companies do care about their employees and the environment, but they also have to balance spending on EHS with spending on other projects, like upgrading computer security, installing production information kiosks, replacing the broken security gate, adding a new turntable for line 3 or a conveyor for line 6, and so on. Everything mentioned here has importance to many people in the company and may even contribute to a safer work environment.
Measuring & Communicating Risk
You are one of the company’s Risk Managers and are there to advise the people who run the company on what you recommend and don’t recommend concerning safety and environmental issues. When you do that, you need to be able to explain the basis of your position. The basis is very important because it helps the decision makers weigh the risks and potential consequences of delaying a particular project against those of acting right now.
Let’s be honest, regulations, in and of themselves, have never been the only criteria used in deciding how and when to comply with a particular regulation. Companies cannot fix everything at the same time. It’s the costs and benefits that are the overwhelming factors that drive whether or not a company complies or not with a particular regulation at a particular time.
The key to competing for a company’s limited resources is to seek opportunities to level the playing field. Instead of just identifying the need and its cost, be more comprehensive by identifying the risks, benefits and costs avoided. But, to do this, you’ll need to track and understand your accident, environmental compliance and waste management cost data. You also need to know how a regulatory agency might respond to the non-compliance and the potential ramifications to the company. Knowing these variables puts you in a better position to inform your superiors about how much they will save and their civil liabilities, rather than just how much they need to spend.
About the Author: Bill Schneider is one of SRM’s Principal Consultants and has also served as an EHS Director for a multi-national firm and as regulator over the course of his career.