Managing EHS in the Real World

Many professional EHS managers bemoan the fact that they do not have enough Dollars and Support to properly carry out their duties. Certainly not all, but enough to indicate there is an actual or perceived problem in the industry. It is easy to get trapped on the losing end of a conversation about money. The easiest way for someone to say "NO" is to say it costs too much, or it is not in the budget. In many cases, it is not about the money at all. Money is just an easy way to end the conversation.

EHS practitioners are often forced into a harsh and confusing world of politics and finance, where it can seem like their proposals are under attack, where people are using $$$ to trump safety - with potentially catastrophic results. The "maybe $$$" of injury avoidance are not a good match against the "real $$$" of safety cost. But some helpful insights, and a few useful strategies can give you a great advantage in the battle to improve safety.

First you need to know how companies calculate dollars for the EHS effort. Companies operate in many different ways and handle safety and health expenditures in a variety of ways. Some may budget for it as a percentage of sales. Others may establish a budget based on past spending, or workers compensation costs. Some provide the budget to the EHS department to oversee, while others mix it into the operating budget as a business unit requirement, viewing safety as a necessary part of operations. Some make a distinction between compliance related expenditures and new or discretionary initiatives. Compliance may be considered a baseline expense, regardless of budget, while investments, such as spending on a new recordkeeping system, are carefully scrutinized. Sometimes the calculation can shift in mid conversation.

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