Whether you’re in Food Production or Oil & Gas, there are risks to be controlled. EHS Management is a diverse profession; however, there are some universal signals indicating that, wherever you are, you may, indeed, be an EHS Manager.
The “industry” of Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) has grown since the 1970s. EHS practitioners' goal is saving lives, but over time, that list of responsibilities has expanded.
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Despite the differing day-to-day life of each EHS professional, shared characteristics are not hard to come by. Some are funny, some are frustrating, but they’re all down-right relatable.
Here are nine signs that you are an EHS Manager. (What do you score?)
1. Your profession is more than just a job
Whenever health and safety is mentioned in any context - a movie you're watching on a Friday night, for example - you receive an obligatory nudge and nod. Yes, I also see that they are doing health and safety wrong. Mhmm. Yup. (Ask yourself, are you watching a multi-award-winning blockbuster, or is it Million Dollar Boo Boo?)
The next thing you know, its 3AM and you’re deep in YouTube watching OSHA presentations between cat videos.
You eventually fall asleep, and dream about workers wearing their PPE even when you’re not looking. Bliss.
Jokes aside, many EHS professionals are incredibly passionate about their work - EHS Management is a massive undertaking.
According to a Safety+Health Magazine survey, 79% of EHS professionals recommend a career in the profession. One professional commented:
“If you really care and really work to make that difference, it requires a lot of time and energy. You risk your livelihood to ‘do the right thing’.”
2. It’s often a struggle to get “buy-in” or funding
Lack of funding is the third top barrier in improving EHS performance; 62% of Verdantix respondents found it Significant or Very Significant.
This is despite the fact that workplaces see a $3 to $1 return on safety. Convincing the board to invest even appears on some EHS Manager job adverts.
The struggle for buy-in goes beyond management software. Our Building the Business Case whitepaper is a good starting point: learn about what matters most to the board, and how to present your proposal for investment.
3. You have thick skin
Fill in the gaps: H**lth a*d Sa**y G*n* M*d
Health and Safety is often a scapegoat, and you may have to defend your role. In fact, you may carry Safety vs. Productivity leaflets around in your pocket. (At that point, you’ve reached peak EHS Manager.)
The fact of the matter is, EHS Managers are determined, thick-skinned individuals who know when to try again. You’re a self-starter and that’s how you got to where you are today.
However, for every “no respect” comment on the Safety+Health Magazine survey of EHS professionals, there’s one countering it.
4. You look just as good in a hi-vis vest as you do in a suit
EHS Managers generally have the flexibility to move around. One day you're at the warehouse, the next at the corporate office.
If one thing’s for sure, EHS Managers don't sit at a desk all day. Successful EHS Managers deeply understand operational risk, which involves speaking to workers at the coalface.
Regularly visiting facilities appears as number seven on EHS Today’s Habits of Effective Safety Managers. A walkthrough isn't just reminding employees to wear their PPE, but also to communicate with the workers you protect. Interestingly, most production employees would rather talk in person than call you by phone.
5. You have a Bachelor of Science degree
72% of respondents to the NAEM EHS&S Career Profiles survey have a BSc degree, and 63% have a Master’s – both across a range of subjects including geology, safety sciences, ecology and engineering.
It’s not surprising, given that the practice of EHS involves scientific methodologies.
6. You have both technical and soft skills
NAEM states that “the most successful EHS&S professionals possess systemic thinking and communication skills to explain technical processes across departments, functions and geographic borders.”
As aforementioned, EHS Managers deal with incredibly scientific methodologies. Translating technical terms into understandable conversations is a skill in itself.
Science helps understand human factors in safety. Human factors influence behaviour at work and thus EHS Managers must study them as a contributor to risk prevention. In other words, EHS Managers must empathize in order to comprehend risk.
Furthermore, there's been debate around whether EHS professionals should be responsible for mental health at work. It’s a divisive issue, but certainly one requiring soft skills.
7. Pyramids aren’t just exotic structures you’d find in Egypt
Did someone say Hierarchy of Controls? Or was that the Heinrich Pyramid? EHS management is filled with pyramids visualizing numerous processes.
We challenge you to count how many EHS-related pyramids you’ve come across. And we’ll bet you’ve never even been to Egypt.
8. You’re frustrated with the tools you have for management
Many EHS professionals self-profess their lack of data science abilities. The majority of EHS leaders feel that they don’t have the right tools to effectively analyze their data. (72% report it as Significant or Very Significant in slowing down EHS analysis.) Do you agree?
Another common complaint of EHS professionals is the use of Excel spreadsheets to collect, track and analyze data. It’s simply not fit for purpose; EHS Managers know there is a host of reasons to move away from manual methods, but building the business case to invest in commercial software can be a challenge (see Sign #2).
However, it’s not all bad news. Strengthen your case by leveraging your company’s investment in Microsoft programs like SharePoint for a new EHS Management platform.
9. You follow EHS Safety Memes on Twitter
Everyone loves a meme, unless you are now asking, “what’s a meme?”
If you follow @EHSSafetyMemes on Twitter, it’s likely you’re an EHS Manager. If you’ve just clicked the link to see what it’s all about, we’ll guess that you are also an EHS Manager, just one who’s catching up.
Trust us, it will brighten your day!
What are the signs telling you, are you an EHS Manager? If you are, we hope you laughed a little in your head at least once—there are others just like you, navigating the strange world of workplaces.
What did you score out of 9?