Each organization has a unique EHS culture. It is critical to understand and manage your organization’s EHS culture in order to maintain positive EHS performance. EHS performance is most often driven by employee actions and behaviors, which are largely a product of the EHS culture within an organization. In order to manage EHS performance, one must be able to understand and manage their organization’s EHS culture.
An organization’s EHS culture is a product of an organization’s values, perceptions, attitudes, patterns of behavior, and competencies that define the style, proficiency of, and commitment to the organization’s EHS management.
EHS culture is defined by several considerations. In a general sense, it includes the beliefs, motivations, attitudes, values, and perceptions of employees within an organization. It also includes behavioral norms and regulations, which are patterns of behavior in the workplace and limits that the organization places on itself in group settings. An organization’s EHS culture is also defined by espoused values, which are the stated values of the organization that ultimately underpin employee behaviors, as well as formal philosophy, which is the formal way of speaking about an organization’s values to other organizations or even within an organization. EHS culture is also defined by the organization’s work climate, as well as the context in which the organization understands its work in relation to competitors or the industry. Ultimately, there are many factors that shape an organization’s EHS culture and similarly, many considerations in evaluating an organization’s EHS culture.
EHS culture can be assessed in a number of ways; but should certainly take into account EHS regulatory compliance, conformance to OHSAS 18001 management system elements, conformance to ISO 14001 management system elements, site observation, and candid employee feedback from all levels within the organization. Together, these elements give an experienced culture assessor a strong understanding of the EHS culture at an organization.
If any opportunities for improvement are identified as a result of the culture assessment, action plans should be created and steps taken to improve the EHS culture, which should in turn improve EHS performance. The actions required will be specific to findings identified during the cultural assessment, but can include: improvement of accountability, development of strong EHS vision, establishment of senior management buy-in, improvements in communication, establishment of trust between various levels of staff, development of stated responsibilities, and implementation of process changes.
Evaluating and understanding your EHS culture will help determine whether that culture supports your organization’s EHS objectives.