6 Commonly Overlooked EHS Risks for Lower-Risk Facilities—And How to Address Them

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Courtesy of Antea Group - USA

EHS managers of lower-risk facilities understand that, while compliance is a must, their highest priority is ensuring employees work in a safe, comfortable and protected environment. But as companies focus their attention on expanding locally and globally, some EHS risks can be unknown or overlooked.

In our experience working with lower-risk facilities—work that has led to the development of our RiskRight EHSTM program—we’ve identified several EHS risks and issues that are often overlooked in many non-manufacturing facilities, especially tech companies. Below we outline these commonly missed risks and offer advice for overcoming them.

1. Bad ergonomics

Improperly equipped desks and workstations could cause strain on employees’ bodies, resulting in lower productivity and long-term injuries.

Develop an ergonomics program and conduct an ergonomic assessment using a discomfort survey to uncover how employees feel about their working conditions and issues they’re having. An on-site audit is also necessary to see exactly how people are working.

If you don’t have the in-house resources or expertise, consider hiring an EHS consulting firm. An EHS consultant can tailor an assessment program to your specific environment to provide facility-wide, as well as employee-specific, recommendations for improving ergonomics.

2. Poor lighting and air quality

Poor lighting and air quality issues such as unidentified odors could be distracting for employees, reducing productivity and comfort. In fact, studies show that comfortable, well-lit, well-ventilated and safe workplaces increase productivity by as much as 16% and job satisfaction by 24%.

Create a maintenance schedule and checklist to ensure that the HVAC system is in proper working order, lights are promptly changed when burned out, and common spaces are well-lit and consistently clear of any potential hazards.

3. Blocked access to emergency exits

In the event of an emergency, people need an unobstructed path in order to safely exit the building.

Make sure that evacuation routes and emergency exits are completely clear of any materials such as boxes or tools, and properly marked with the appropriate signage. Check on a quarterly basis to ensure that routes and exits remain free and clear in the event of an emergency.

4. Dangerous procedures and equipment

While employees at tech companies don’t usually work with toxic chemicals, they do get involved with the latest tech equipment, such as 3-D printers and drones, which have their own unique safety hazards and may generate unique wastes that need special handling and disposal.

Implement a process so that EHS is notified of new equipment and new processes, and develop training programs to ensure all employees are aware of proper safety measures and waste management protocols. Have all employees complete a safety training each year as part of their ongoing EHS education. In addition, investigate all near misses and incidents and use the findings to communicate lessons learned and to keep everyone accountable for safety.

5. Overlooking EHS for emergency backup systems

Many tech facilities have emergency generators and / or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems to ensure critical operations are protected in the event of a power outage. Both of these emergency backup systems have aspects that require careful planning to maintain environmental compliance and protect employee safety.

Emergency generators are usually powered by diesel fuel, and precautions are required to prevent a diesel fuel spill that harms the environment. UPS systems usually have lead acid batteries that require regular maintenance to prevent leakage and special disposal when they are replaced.

6. One-size-fits-all EHS programs

When it comes to lower-risk facilities and offices, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to EHS because standard programs don’t address workplace nuances or your company culture.

An EHS consulting firm can develop a customized program for the unique needs of your company. An EHS consulting firm not only brings broad-based knowledge and expertise to the table, but also flexibility and outside perspective to catch issues you may overlook.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you develop and customize EHS programs for your unique company, get in touch with Antea Group.

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