Estee Lauder Polishes EHS Communication

Replacing hazardous materials with safer ones is an important strategy for protecting workers and the environment.

When Estee Lauder conducted its first comprehensive risk management plan, the company was surprised to learn a lack of inter-department communication was creating hazards in the workplace, William Fealey told about 200 attendees of the Arthur D. Little/Conference Board EHS conference in New York.

While most managers felt their departments were safe, they claimed decisions made in other departments caused problems for workers.

"When we went out and asked 30 key executives what keeps them up at night, we found it usually was risks associated with another area," said Fealey, executive director, Risk Management. "We realized that in any organization, risk is interrelated and communication wasn't as good as it needed to be."

The company took the information it received from the managers and incorporated it into its risk management plan. Some 65 risk factors were identified, said Fealey, and the company examined their potential effects, reduced or eliminated them, and monitored changes. Lack of communication, poor understanding of how things worked globally for the company and a lack of safety training were just a few of the risks identified by the company.

"We believed that if we could manage our risk better than our competition, it would give us a competitive edge [and it did]," he said.

After the company implemented controls to eliminate obvious risks, it turned to the culture for added value. "We looked at everything from a cross functional perspective and made sure everyone knew what their role was," Fealey said. "We decided to integrate EHS into the culture of the company."

The company established a risk oversight committee, developed a template for contingency plans, and implemented formal self-assessment plans; all with the goal of involving employees and managers into the risk assessment process.

"When people are personally involved, they tend to take it more seriously," he said.

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