EHS managers constantly work with limited resources, with the most important of all – time – in shortest supply.
It seems there simply is never enough time for an EHS manager to develop everything that needs to get done: safety assessment reporting, hygiene sampling, training management, environmental compliance reporting and more. These duties can have a dramatic impact on your operations if deadlines are to be met.
Many businesses only have time to meet the most major demands and may let the smaller tasks fall through the cracks – not out of choice, but necessity. EHS managers often don’t want to admit that everything hasn’t been covered, which can lead to the anxiety of not knowing whether compliance has been achieved.
Environmental compliance reporting is particularly guilty of consuming a lot of time. Even when you’re on top of your game, it takes time to research updates to regulations, to get chemical information from vendors and look up emission factors or other constants. Generating a compliance report can take hours just to collect all the data you’ll need, let alone calculating emissions, formatting reports and double checking figures.
And none of that takes into account how long the entire process can take if things aren’t running smoothly. Searching through a year’s worth of records to locate a missing entry can waste an entire day, pushing back other important EHS duties.
Finding The Right Balance
What’s the secret of EHS managers who manage to balance all their health, safety and environmental obligations without feeling the time crunch? Businesses have been trying to answer this question for a long time and have come up with a few solutions. Some employ a large EHS team to handle everything, while others hire a dedicated environmental manager who only deals with compliance reporting and emissions monitoring.
One solution that is gaining popularity is to automate as many time-consuming small tasks that can sometimes be forgotten so you can focus on the tasks that keep things running smoothly. Much of the grunt work of EHS management doesn’t require a lot of hands-on expertise, like manual data entry of new materials into your chemical inventory or calculating boiler emissions with the correct emission factor. The market is full of software systems that can automate these types of activities.
It’s important, however, to make the distinction between automating time consuming tasks and leaving them on cruise control. An EHS manager or environmental specialist always should validate any results your automated system provides. After all, automation is only meant to replace menial tasks; nothing can replace the expertise of an experienced manager.
The goal of automation is to shift focus from time consuming tasks onto tasks that are more important or consequential, like continuous improvement or sustainability. By reducing your manual workload, you’ll reclaim those lost hours and be able to accomplish those goals that are too often pushed back in the struggle to beat the time crunch.
Gary Vegh is co-founder of ERA Environmental Management Solutions with more than 15 years of experience in providing software solutions to manufacturing companies looking to comply with complex environmental regulations. Vegh graduated from Concordia University – Montreal, where he studied Chemistry/Ecotoxicology. He later moved to the Research Triangle, N.C., where ERA was founded, to meet the compliance needs of the local wood furnishing industry. Today, the company’s clients include Volkswagen, Toyota, Nalco, Vigor and BMW.