Signs of a Strong EHS Culture

Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff

At this year’s NAEM Forum in Tucson, several speakers and participants made the point that a strong environment, health and safety (EHS) culture is a prerequisite to achieving and sustaining a high-level of EHS performance, and EHS managers are better served by focusing on building an EHS culture than focusing strictly on outcomes.  Building a culture that values EHS is difficult and takes years, so it’s  important to have a clear vision of what a strong EHS culture looks like.  Here are my thoughts on the core characteristics of a strong EHS culture.

  • Top management is involved and visibly supportive: Senior managers include EHS in enterprise goals, metrics, and operations reviews. They engage in safety-related activities, such as safety walks and self-audits, and set a clear and consistent tone through their actions that EHS is a core value.
  • All levels of management are accountable:  EHS comprises a significant portion of performance evaluations for managers and supervisors.  Managers and supervisors are expected to create a safe work environment for their associates, and ensure the people under their supervision tend to their EHS responsibilities with the same rigor as they do quality, productivity and schedule.
  • EHS is integrated into core business processes:  The EHS program is made operational through the enterprise business management system and standard operating procedures.  In enterprises where EHS is well-integrated, EHS doesn’t require special attention or management exhortations.  It is simply how business is done.
  • EHS is communicated effectively and frequently:  EHS requirements are understood by all associates.  New associates receive EHS training appropriate to their jobs as part of orientation.  Management realizes that the importance of EHS must constantly be reinforced to achieve and maintain a high-level of performance.
  • Doing the right thing is innate:  Associates have a high-level of EHS awareness, receive sufficient and continuous EHS training and are given the tools to ensure effective EHS management.  Associates do the right thing and do things right, even when nobody is watching.
  • Associates are motivated:  People find intrinsic value in high EHS performance.  They understand its contribution to the success of the enterprise and take pride in doing their part.

What characteristics do you think are essential for a strong EHS culture?

About Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff is Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety for Danaher Corp. and President of NAEM’s Board of Directors. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveEvanoff.

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  1. William D'Alessandro

    December 1, 2011

    In the immortal words of John Winger (Bill Murray): That’s the fact, Jack.

    I can only add these words of warning: After following your advice, don’t then hire a perky personality to communicate the corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategy to the employees, the regulators, and the public.

  2. Virginia Winter

    December 9, 2011

    Tempting to comment on William D’Alessandro’s comment… (!)

    Solid encapsulation Stephen, thank you for putting it simply – Your opening points are the most salient for companies that think they’ve already ‘got it in the bag’ with enterprise mindset.

    I will only add that deeper integration of EHS within a culture means EHS professionals must want their ‘functional’ expertise to be embedded in the larger organizational ‘DNA’ – I have witnessed the lack of this, as a subtle form of resistance to the larger espoused vision.

  3. Bholenath

    December 14, 2011

    I would like to add that ethical angle is very important in dealing with all matters of HSE. Often we forget that the exchange of labor and money between employer and employee is violated when employee receives more than he had bargained for, that is he gets affected by the element of the work place in irreversible way.

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