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Mapping Support for an EHS Management System

Management support for safety and health is difficult to measure, and there is no magic way to obtain it. To ensure management support, create a roadmap for success.

The benefits of an EHS management system must be explained to management if you want proper funding and support. But first, a roadmap for success must be made. You cannot ask for management support in driving a major initiative without knowing what the goals and objectives are and how to measure success. The roadmap of success also should contain cost and program milestones. Program successes will build momentum and help drive the rest of the program.

Do not think short-term, as a culture change will be occurring. Depending on your baseline of management support, a safety and health management system might take as long as 3 years. Frequent updates to both management and employees are necessary to help exploit successes and gain momentum to take the program to the next level.

What Works for You?

Safety and health management systems can be as comprehensive as the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) or the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS 18001).

Both programs are very comprehensive but might come with a certain fear of the unknown. A list of the positive and negative aspects for your company of both systems first must be compiled to meet the operational and business needs of the company. Local chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) as well as the Voluntary Protection Program Participants Association (VPPPA) are good sources of information. The VPPPA has a mentorship program to assist companies with starting a comprehensive EHS management system.

The American Chemical Council sponsors Responsible Care, an industry initiative to improve worker safety. Responsible Care has yielded a record for worker safety four times better than the average of the U.S. manufacturing sector. Other trade associations such as the American Petroleum Institute encourage participants to get management involved in safety and health.

Selling Safety

Whatever level of safety and health management program is chosen, a cost benefit will need to be completed to help justify the program to the skeptics in management and to further prove the worth of proceeding forward with a safety and health management system.

There will be a lot of skeptics that want to know why the company would like to invite OSHA or OHSAS auditors through the doors and evaluate the safety and health management system for inclusion into VPP or OHSAS 18001. Others in the management chain will be skeptical about inviting anyone in, including consultants, to look over the current EHS management system and put findings and recommendations down on paper for the world to see.

Selling occupational safety and health is not an easy task. It's very difficult to measure the things that don't happen (i.e., 15 percent reduction in accidents this year). A site can have a 15 percent reduction in accidents but the severity of the accidents that do happen can be worse than in other years. The statistics do not tell the whole story as to the severity of the injuries, and costs associated with these injuries will vary.

Determining Cost

Accidents and incidents cost money. If the management style at the facility is based on cost savings, then add up the direct and indirect costs for a true accounting of how much the accidents or incidents really cost. Direct costs are the medical cost, any workers' compensation claim cost and property damage. These costs are straightforward and easy to calculate.

The indirect costs are more difficult to obtain. The indirect costs include tool and equipment damage, lost and damaged product, production delays, increased supervision, overtime, legal expenses, accident investigation time and costs, emergency supplies and loss of business and goodwill in the surrounding community.

After the accident costs are calculated, the costs may be charged to the injured employee's department for proper cost accounting. The accounting professional at your company can help. Have a separate charge code set up when an accident or incident happens. Ask that all costs are collected and sent to that particular charge code. Keep track of the charges to ensure only the costs for this particular accident end up there. In some cases you might have to present an initial cost total and a final cost total later, as some bills from the indirect costs might take a while to get back to the facility.

Accident and incident costs are like an iceberg. You only see a small portion (direct costs) but under the water is where the rest of the iceberg can be found (indirect costs). These numbers may be presented at any weekly or quarterly safety meetings with management to help drive the bottom line of monetary savings point home. Talk about the direct and indirect costs at these meetings and for the first meeting, bring a pitcher of water with a few ice cubes or just draw the accident iceberg on a blackboard or butcher block and start to list the direct and indirect costs.

Management always will support monetary savings. The trick is to prove monetary savings in a way that the management team will understand. If your management team is focused on profit margin, then the proposed monetary savings should be communicated as a percent increase in profit margin. Now that the costs have been calculated for the accident or incident, the costs can now be expressed as a percent of profit lost.

Saving Money

Reducing workers' compensation insurance costs is another important strategy that can be used to obtain management support for a comprehensive safety and health management system.

The insurance industry has developed experience-rating systems as an equitable means of determining premiums for workers compensation insurance. These rating systems consider the average workers' compensation losses for a given company's type of work and the amount of payroll, then predict the dollar amount of expected losses to be paid by that employer in a designated rating period, usually 3 years.

Rating is based on a comparison of companies doing similar types of work and the employer is rated against the average expected performance in each work classification. Losses incurred by the employer for the rating period are then compared to the expected losses to develop an experience rating. Talk to your insurance carrier to obtain your company's experience modification rate (EMR). Lower EMR rates means that fewer accidents have occurred than were expected, resulting in lower insurance costs. This strategy also will help to drive home the point of monetary savings.


Benchmarking industry competitors is a strategy that can be used to encourage management support, especially if your goal is to prove monetary savings are possible while maintaining a high level of production.

Some companies will want a safety and health management system just because their competitors have one. A search of the OSHA Web page ( can help with VPP data. Also, interview any former competitor employees to help gauge the extent of their safety and health management system. Industry groups also can help by providing blind benchmarking studies of companies that have participated in industry questionnaires about the extent of safety and health management systems. These blind benchmarking studies also contain information of the severity of injuries and the most common injuries for the industry.

These data might be hard to obtain, but they are very valuable as companies scramble for every percent of profit margin and market share they can obtain. Any data that can be obtained should be presented to your management team, as this is a strategy indicating a value-added approach for a comprehensive safety and health management system and for staying competitive with the competition.

Think about initiating participation in a continuous improvement program like Six Sigma or ISO 9000. These are forums where ideas can be presented on cost savings and production improvement and where the idea for a comprehensive safety and health management system can be discussed.

Hold regular meetings, giving the idea of a safety management system more exposure. Continuous improvement systems have a section to list accomplishments for the week and any roadblocks to not completing objectives on time. Additional resources and funding also can be discussed. This is where you can slowly prove to the management team the benefit of having a comprehensive safety and health management system.


The next broad category that management styles and individual managers are concerned with is compliance with regulations. Safety and health regulations are not all-encompassing and gaps do exist. This strategy may be used as a stepping-stone in the path of continuous improvement.

A strategy to use here is to point out the General Duty clause and the regulations that are incorporated by reference (NFPA, local building codes, etc.). This will help add details to the safety and health program while being proactive at reducing, eliminating or minimizing hazards.

A good starting point is to search the OSHA page and look for the commonly cited regulations and violations. This will help prioritize your corrective actions and the amount of funding needed.

Present a progress report on a weekly basis to show the plan to abate the hazard and the resources that will be needed. Provide research, and wherever a General Duty clause violation exists, list the details of your site-specific safety and health program that will need to be covered. This strategy will help obtain management support for a safety and health management system by providing a detailed schedule of how you plan to abate the common hazards in your industry.

'The Right Thing to Do'

The third broad category for adopting an EHS management system is for ethical and moral reasons. This style of management or manager is concerned for employees and is willing to implement an EHS management system to reduce injuries and illnesses. For this style of management, emphasize the greater good that will be accomplished.

Also, talk to some long-term employees and get practical examples of how employees were injured 5, 10, 20 and even 30 years ago. Perform a brief search of the Internet to help discover the myriad of stories about occupational injuries and illnesses. Pick and choose the stories that could happen in your industry and present them to the management team.

A list of Fatal Facts from the OSHA Web site can be accessed to help get short and concise fatal accident reviews. The National Safety Council also collects accident and incident data. This is especially helpful if one of the fatal facts is an issue that the management team has been made aware of in the past.

'What's in it for Me?'

The fourth broad category is the most difficult: What's in it for me?" This type of attitude is not very common but still can be found. This type of management style is concerned with how implementing a comprehensive safety and health management system will benefit them personally.

You can answer this person by saying a comprehensive safety and health management system will result in increased production and morale, and they will not have accidents and incidents charged to their departments.

It also provides a better opportunity to meet production goals. If the manager has challenging production goals, ask him if he can meet his department's production and financial goals by having fewer people perform the work and with all the indirect costs of an accident being charged to his department.

The manager's attitude will be easier to change if his raise or bonus is tied to a safety goal that is incorporated into the facilities production goals. Finally, explain to him that when good results are shown, he specifically will be named as a major contributor to the program successes.

A safety and health management system is necessary if you, the safety professional, wants to proactively identify and eliminate or minimize hazards and determine the root cause of an accident rather than merely putting out a fire. To implement a safety and health management system, you need the support of your managers.

Remember that there is no magic phrase or formula to use. Study the person you are trying to influence and tailor your argument to speak the same language they do. Identify with what they identify with.

David Ayers, CHMM, CSP, M.S., has been an EHS professional for 9 years. He is the senior safety engineer for National Semiconductor Maryland and holds an M.S. in safety management from West Virginia University and an M.S. in environmental management from the University of Maryland. National Semiconductor Maryland has been an OSHA VPP site since July 2005.

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