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5 Key Risks that Health, Safety and Environment Departments Need to Consider

Governance, Risk and Compliance

Modified April 11, 2022 By Resolver

Depending on where you work and the priorities of your organization, your health (H), safety (S), and environment (E) team may be referred to as either HSE, EHS, or even SHE. But no matter how you choose to abbreviate it, there’s no denying that the health and safety of employees should always be top-of-mind. If your organization is large enough, you may have a dedicated HSE team to address any workplace incidents, but most times it is up to the Human Resources department to create, execute, and enforce health and safety policies for the business. Oftentimes, there is an overlap of responsibilities between corporate security and HSE teams. That being said, employee health and safety is, ultimately, the responsibility of everyone.

In this blog, we’ll look at the top 5 risks impacting HSE teams. These include:

  1. Laws and Regulations
  2. Occupational Hazards
  3. Natural Disasters and Force Majeure
  4. Employee Health and Wellness
  5. Environmental Impact

1. Laws and Regulations

Health and safety teams are closely monitored, this is predominantly due to the nature of the job. This is especially true regarding the different laws and regulations that these teams must be aware of and adhere to in order to keep employees safe and companies compliant. Most countries have independent regulators responsible for developing legislation that HSE teams need to comply with at a state/provincial, national, and even international level, depending on the organization's size.

Lack of knowledge and management of relevant laws and regulations can result in steep non-compliance penalties. In the United States, the OSHA penalties can range from approximately $13,000 per serious violation to almost $130,000 per willful or repeated violation. Individual states are also mandated to adopt maximum penalties that match the Federal OSHA’s, at a minimum.

Penalties vary from region to region, so consult the appropriate governing body for more information on the monetary and non-monetary penalties, such as imprisonment, for violating health and safety regulations. Not only can an organization be fined, but claims can also be brought by injured workers against the organization which may result in costly legal battles and reputational damage.

The potential cost of violating any regulation is just not worth it – know the regulations that are applicable to your organization and have internal policies in place to avoid non-compliance.

2. Occupational Hazards

A large part of health and safety regulations is maintaining a safe working environment for all employees. Depending on the organization's type, size, and industry, this could range from preventing slips and falls to ensuring that there are emergency showers and eyewash stations onsite for immediate decontamination.

Health and safety teams are responsible for identifying potential safety hazards and conducting regular workplace inspections to help prevent incidents and injuries. The best way to control a hazard is to completely eliminate it from the workplace. But if the hazard cannot be removed, you may be able to control the hazard and limit risk exposure by implementing new processes and policies, modifying equipment or plant layout, and/or providing protective gear.

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3. Natural Disasters

While corporate security teams are typically more concerned with risks that are a result of the actions of people, health and safety teams should be aware of unpredictable This includes, but is not limited to, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and even explosions.

Health and safety teams need to work closely with corporate security and business continuity/disaster recovery teams to develop an emergency preparedness plan that can be applied to multiple scenarios. In our comprehensive guide, we outline 5 steps to help your organization prepare for natural disasters:

  1. Identify critical business functions. This means determining which employees will be crucial in getting the business back up and running after a disaster for health and safety teams.
  2. Create business continuity or emergency action plans. These processes will need to be detailed and accessible to all employees.
  3. Communicate. This includes both communications within the organization and to any external stakeholders.
  4. Test the plans… and then test them again. You might create a preparedness plan that works in theory, but without testing it you may discover that there are some gaps that haven’t yet been addressed.
  5. Don’t become complacent. Unprepared companies are the ones that suffer the most significant losses. While all health and safety teams hope they never have to put a preparedness plan into action, it is better to be safe than sorry.

If a disaster hits, be sure to keep an eye out for official statements from local and national levels of government as they may be able to provide your team with additional information on how to protect employees. This can also serve as a source of information for additional alerts that may affect your team. If you’re unsure of where to begin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has multiple resources for working at natural disaster sites.

4. Employee Health and Wellness

An organization’s employees are its number one asset. Keep your employees healthy and happy, and your organization will reap the benefits. While providing healthcare coverage can be burdensome, ill health caused by infections or occupational diseases can result in long-term financial costs for the business.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines an occupational disease as “a health condition or disorder that is caused by your work environment or activities related to your work.” This may include biological bacteria, exposure to chemicals, ergonomic issues, extreme temperatures or noises, and even psychosocial hazards like stress, harassment, and lack of recognition.

Health and safety teams do their best to limit the effects of this risk by providing employees with the necessary resources to ensure that they keep their health top of mind. This includes providing sufficient healthcare coverage, but can also include developing mental health programs, creating a culture where workplace violence is not tolerated, and even offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that allows employees to seek help confidentially.

5. Environmental and Social Impact

Climate change is currently one of the biggest risks facing the world right now and as a result, many organizations are increasing efforts to minimize activities that cause environmental damage. However, health and safety teams would be doing a disservice to the organization if these sustainability efforts were purely to protect the bottom line. The environmental and social impact should be a part of an organization’s overall business strategy - not just a risk that needs to be mitigated.

One simple way that businesses can minimize environmental damage is to adopt the use of low carbon technologies and other clean-tech initiatives. That can include switching to smart lighting with sensors or using teleconferences tools instead of travelling to different locations for meetings.

How Health and Safety Teams can use Software to Manage Risks

As your organization scales and grows, the risks that health and safety teams need to be aware of start to have an even greater impact there are no strategies in place to mitigate them. By protecting your employees, you are protecting your business from litigation and significant financial loss.

Resolver’s risk management software helps risk managers and owners easily manage their risks and controls.

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