In the environmental, health and safety industry, emphasis is placed on reducing job-related incidents and increasing the level of workplace safety and compliance. Anything that jeopardizes those priorities needs to be contained and prevented from happening again. Risk management tools provide a systematic method for handling such events with consistency and objectivity.
Using a risk matrix – a tool that quantifies hazards based on severity and frequency – is the first step in that systematic process. A risk matrix defines numerical scales for the frequency and severity of possible incidents to determine how large of a risk that event is. For example, if something has high severity and high frequency, it is considered high risk. If something is low in both of those areas, it is considered low risk. This information helps EHS professionals make decisions across a number of areas.
Applying risk management to EHS organizations
Although the risks will be different for every organization, some applications of risk management are beneficial to all EHS organizations.
Incident management: EHS systems need to track any adverse incidents such as injuries, illnesses and chemical spills, among others. Documenting incidents and collecting data helps you contain the effects, get back into compliance and ensure the incidents do not happen again. Using a risk management tool such as a risk matrix helps prioritize these critical issues. It provides a systematic process to follow, which makes it easier to make decisions about handling the situation.
Job safety analysis: Risk management provides a benchmark for JSA, breaking down the individual pieces of a job description and analyzing them with the same methods as an adverse event. Once potential hazards are revealed, the organization can take steps to prevent or decrease the risk through protective equipment or safety regulations specific to the job. Knowing what incidents could possibly occur leads to prevention, which decreases the chance of the incident actually happening.
Corrective action: EHS systems can also apply risk to the corrective action process to determine if a corrective action was effective. The risk values of an incident after the corrective action measures the residual risk to see if the corrective action worked. This can be repeated as many times as necessary, until the risk has been reduced to an acceptable level.
Enterprise reporting: Having an automated EHS system that collects data is not enough. You need a tool that reports the data in a comprehensive manner, determining general trends and overall impacts. Risk management tools give executives fuel to make informed decisions and changes with support from data. They can connect the root causes of incidents that happen in different departments and look at the EHS enterprise as a whole.
Risk management tools are invaluable for EHS professionals in other areas: emissions tracking, energy management, Safety Data Sheets, aspects, objectives and targets, and crisis management – just to name a few. Incorporating risk management tools to all of your EHS operations will help you make informed decisions and get on a path of constant improvement.