Keeping workers protected and workplaces safe needs the commitment and involvement of all divisions within a business. It also requires an integrated approach to what might be described as EHS&S or environmental, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability. One that includes:
- Steps to define and prepare for risk,
- Aligns a stronger and safer workplace culture,
- Maps EHS and sustainability goals and objectives, and,
- Consolidates for consistency across all business segments.
An EHS&S information management system may be just the thing your organization needs, but how would you know? Check out this four-phased approach, below, for answers and guidance.
Phase 1. Step Back and Evaluate Your Needs:
Are you only managing permits and compliance deadlines? If so and your business is small, simpler could be better.
“You can have a process that is supported by a simple tool like an Excel workbook,” says Marcel Guevara, vice president of EHS for ehsAI, a company that provides artificial intelligence-powered software to help track and manage EHS compliance.
“A lot of people laugh at that idea, but it might be all you need. With a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, you can assign a timeframe and responsibility to each staff member. With that and Microsoft SharePoint you could have the tools to administer your management system, including your compliance program.”
But if your EHS management needs are more complex: you may want to track elements like incident reports, observations on when and how incidents take place, and inspection dates, along with reporting and permit deadlines. Again, it may be possible to create an in-house system using, for example, tools like Excel for reporting.
However, homegrown products can be difficult to search and manage. If after evaluating your existing program and discovering that your needs are more complex, you may be ready to scale your EHS management program to increase your visibility into what is happening within your company, identify problem areas and define actions.
Phase 2. Choose the Type of EHS Software That Is Right for Your Program
Software can be as basic as a compliance calendar program or as complex and robust as a full EHS management platform. A compliance calendar may be sufficient for simply tracking deadlines for reporting, compliance, permitting and the like.
“If you want to track incident reports, observations, inspections, and similar things, then that would increase the complexity of what you need,” Guevara says, explaining there are more narrowly focused software platforms that track and manage those types of elements without requiring a full EHS software platform.
But when it comes to complex enterprises like chemical companies, where there is high risk exposure, large facilities, potentially high levels of emissions and other areas of associated risk, “then these tools are not even close to having a good enough system to make sure everything is taken care of. That’s when you want more complex platforms,” Guevara says.
Phase 3. Pick a Provider
What EHS elements do you need to tie together and what’s your budget? Who will use the EHS software? How quickly does it need to be implemented? What are the information technology requirements? Below is a detailed breakdown of the next moves you might make:
Step #1: List your considerations: What modules will you need? Can the software providers you’re considering provide them? These modules might include incident management, audit management, document control, training and compliance management.
Step #2: Identify your team. You’ll want to include the usual players such as executives at the VP level, middle management and workers on the line. Include the information technology (IT) team. They need to stay connected and engaged throughout the whole process. However, make it clear that ultimately the implementation is a business rather than technical change.
Step #3: Start your research and consider potential providers. Think about these considerations:
- Geographic presence: You need a company that understands local regulations.
- Track record: Does the provider have other clients in your space? How is it working out for them? Do they serve larger clients who will always come first and edge you out?
- Is the software configurable? If a company has a mature set of processes, they likely already have a set management system in place, so new software must be able to integrate.
- The IT element: The IT department generally won’t tell you who you can buy from, but they will tell you who you can’t. The platform must fit in to the existing puzzle.
- Who needs to be involved? “An important consideration is team requirements for implementation.
Step #4: Create a worksheet where you can directly compare companies and build your business case. Include the modules you need, company size, location, health of the company and how it is growing, longevity (whether they have the potential to be bought and shut down any time soon, for example) and price.
Step #5: Create an RFP and invite your shortlisted vendors to bid. When proposals come back, score them quantitatively. Look at your worksheet and score each company based on how it fits into each category (modules, company size, location, etc.).
Step #6: Scrutinize more closely then decide. At this point, you can bring your three favorite vendors in for on-site or virtual demos. Get to know the people. Find out what the implementation timeline would look like and consider whether they are the implementation partner you want to work with on an ongoing basis. Choose, sign a contract and move forward.
Phase 4. Manage and maintain the project with a governance model
The final step is to ensure successful adoption and ongoing use of the software platform. You’ll need a governance model. Gather stakeholders who are a subset of the people who were involved in the beginning and give them authority to create a process or document that outlines how you’ll manage change.
Finally, the model should include a guideline for ongoing management, with meetings held every three months or so to understand what is changing within the business, how the vendor partnership might be shifting, what new projects might need to be incorporated and how progress should be reported to the CEO.
Learn more about tracking information the right way and how to save time, aggravation and valuable data using a software solution. Get the eBook, How to Evaluate, Choose, and Manage Your EHS&S Software Solution