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What is Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)?
As the name implies, it is the department or personnel in a company or organization responsible for the health and safety of the employees. The role also involves environmental concerns that may pose a risk to the welfare of the employees. Therefore, EHS management must be familiar with and comply with state and federal regulations, such as managing waste and air emission standards.
Another crucial aspect of an EHS department is to ensure that the actions of the corporation do not adversely affect the environment. There is a concern for certain types of manufacturing that may emit pollutants or require the disposal of hazardous waste. Knowledge of environmental law is paramount.
By perusing any of the leading online employment sites, like Indeed or Glassdoor, you’ll see thousands of openings for EHS Managers. The duties for each job will vary; therefore, one’s typical workday in one position may differ from another. Some may necessitate more fieldwork, whereas another has one site of operation. Some postings stipulate up to 75% travel the first six to nine months of employment, including international travel for potential projects. Under these circumstances, a typical workday is atypical.
A job posting on Indeed seeks a Field Scientist with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science or related field. A multi-discipline engineering consulting firm advertised this particular position. Samples of the field assignments include environmental site investigations, assessments, and surveys to sample, measure, and analyze air, water, material, and soil. A typical day in the office has the scientist preparing permit applications, risk assessments, and technical documents, as well as proposals, reports, and regulatory agency correspondence. Hence, even though the job title is a Field Scientist, there are duties to be performed in an office setting.
Another example is a posting for an EHS Manager in Hammond, Indiana, at an aluminum coil company that produces coils from scrap for the automotive, construction, and agriculture industries. With one location, the manager’s daily tasks might be more predictable. This position could be typical for an EHS Manager at a manufacturing facility. Some of the responsibilities include:
- Maintain compliance with OSHA Safety and Health Programs
- Conduct accident investigation
- Maintain OSHA Accident Logs
- Perform workplace safety and environmental audits
- Implement and conduct safety training for new employees
- Maintain a record-keeping system for verification of compliance with all applicable regulations
- Submit required reports to the regulatory agencies on a timely basis
- Assist with employee monitoring and management of Worker Compensation cases
In addition to analyzing statistical data on plant accidents and reviewing OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, the manager’s planned day could be suddenly interrupted. Some manufacturing processes are susceptible to work accidents due to the inherent nature of the equipment. Injuries of any magnitude may prompt the EHS Manager to investigate immediately to determine the circumstances. Internal reports and accident forms for OSHA might be necessary. Additionally, the purpose of the EHS department’s investigation is to respond appropriately to reduce this type of accident in the future.
Most of the job postings stress the function of complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the specific regulations that pertain to the company’s manufacturing process. A company in the food and beverage industry requires the EHS Manager to be knowledgeable of and adhere to all food safety mandates. Some of these are the Safe Quality Food Program, the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Consequently, the EHS Manager must set aside time regularly to study industry regulations.
As illustrated in the above examples of job postings, there is diversity in the functions. Some have travel, and some have none. There are consulting firms and manufacturing facilities from cosmetics to paper goods—each with its set of challenges and the number of on-the-job accidents per workdays. The typical day in a company with a few hundred on-site employees will be different from a corporation with several thousand at multiple locations.
Perhaps the attraction for some entering the field of environmental health and safety is that no two days are the same. The unpredictability of the position and the myriad of issues that arise daily is the allure. Some will divide their time between field assignments and preparing environmental investigations at a desk.
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