How to Enhance Safety Culture and Leadership through Proactive Legal Compliance?

by Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford 14 Jun. 2019

Compliance is a must-have.

The more you read about the EHS industry, the more you hear about how companies want to move “beyond compliance.” This statement is understandable—compliance can feel like just another administrative burden and just another thing for busy EHS professionals to manage. After all, compliance does not automatically equal safety.

But how can a company go beyond compliance if it is not compliant in the first place? Has something changed that means compliance with the law is no longer important?

A popular misconception has been perpetuated that rules and regulations protecting workers or the environment somehow harm business and stifle growth. This is plain wrong. Laws and regulations are not there to hamper businesses from growing; they are there to hamper irresponsible business growth. Can businesses be responsible without laws and policies to help guide and restrict their practices? Maybe, but there are countless examples throughout history of workers being injured, or a major pollution incident harming the environment—indicating that this is not always the case. Many of those incidents are as a result of companies not acting responsibly—so the controls, and laws, are there for good reason.

Whether you like it or not,your business/corporate leadership will no doubt expect you to be compliant with EHS laws across your locations.

In short, compliance is a must-have, not simply a nice-to-have.

But how can EHS legal compliance enhance your safety culture and leadership? There can be many barriers to creating and maintaining a compliance culture that spans all levels of your company—from site level to leadership and across different geographical locations. Compliance with the law is a complex and time-consuming business. Laws are constantly changing and evolving. Legal language is often a quagmire of references, cross-references, legal phraseology and obscure definitions. To add to this cauldron, is the simple fact that laws vary in every country and regional jurisdiction—and are often in a variety of languages.

 

A Global Compliance Program to Enhance Culture & Leadership

Legal compliance can absolutely be an important aspect of enhancing safety culture and leadership, if you company takes a global, proactive approach that allows On-going Compliance Management.

This involves creations of living “compliance registers” for each of your sites around the world. This fulfills the dual purpose of making companies aware of which laws apply to them, but also creating the possibility to assess, record and verify your compliance status continuously—not just when a compliance audit is scheduled.

Ongoing compliance management allows a company to maintain knowledge and understanding of its compliance status and be proactive. Such an approach involves the implementation of a system that enables:

  • The determination of applicable laws and requirements at the site/facility level
  • Conducting compliance self-assessments at site level
  • The verification of compliance by internal or external auditors
  • A global, corporate view on compliance status and performance
  • Notifications of regulatory changes on an ongoing basis

Any global solution should be standardized, centrally accessible and allow the collection and analysis of compliance metrics and data.

This will bring many benefits. One of the key benefits is that the global aspect fosters a corporate-wide strategy and approach to managing EHS compliance and seeks to embed those values deep into the culture of the organization – across all locations. When done correctly, everyone across of your locations will talk the same compliance language and they can also be measured/benchmarked against one another. This also enables leadership to have a better overall view on compliance performance and give them those compliance reporting metrics that we know are often required to be presented to the C-suite. Sounds easy, right? But how can you get to this point and create such a culture in the first place?

 

Best-Practice Approach

There are five common denominators for best-practice in implementing a global EHS compliance program:

  • Lead from the top
  • Involve everyone
  • Speak everyone’s language
  • Support, train and inform
  • Choose the right tools and services

The desire and need for a global approach needs to come from the top. Without corporate buy-in and commitment, a global approach will not happen. What’s more, if corporate is paying for a global EHS program, and saving sites money, this is a huge factor in successful implementation!

Of course, a global outlook for corporate EHS regulatory compliance does not mean taking responsibility away from local site knowledge and expertise—far from it. By setting the tone, the standards and the priorities, a corporate EHS function guides, inspires and gives more weight and ownership to on-site personnel working in the field.

It can also pay to start small, piloting a solution or program on a few key sites. This will create internal champions for your global program and encourage a “pull” from other sites. Once they see and hear of the effectiveness of a solution, they will be keen to learn from and adopt a similar approach.

If I, as a plant EHS manager, feel my corporate heads are watching out for me, giving me the structures and financial support that I need to do my job (including services I can use in my own native language as well as English), I will feel more valued and will perform better. In turn, if I support my global and regional EHS structure through measuring, calculating and reporting on my local EHS performance and challenges, I am directly inputting into the corporate strategy and directly influencing the safe-working and environmentally-conscious practices of my colleagues around the world.

The approach is also backed up by evidence from Enhesa customers, which demonstrates how different levels within an EHS management structure use our services:

  • Site level EHS staff use a facility dashboard in order to determine the laws and regulations that apply to them; to self-assess compliance against the relevant requirements—and keep on top of regulatory change through alerts. This means that sites are provided with a tool that fulfills the needs of a “legal register” (and in fact goes beyond that), and therefore do not need to spend money on a local-solution.
  • Regional/Country-level EHS personnel use the corporate dashboard to support and assist sites and to verify and maintain an overview of compliance status across their region.
  • Corporate EHS Auditors use the Enhesa Scorecards (in Excel) to carry out site compliance/verification audits, and are able to upload the results into the compliance dashboard.
  • Corporate EHS managers have a global view of their compliance status, can hone in on risk factors or specific issues at facility level and be more efficient and effective in where they choose to spend their auditing resources. This allows them to be more confident that they have knowledge and understanding of the compliance status, on an ongoing basis.

 

Measuring & Reporting on Compliance, Proactively.

At the most basic level, having a proactive approach to managing compliance continuously is, by its nature, positive and therefore “leading”—you are taking the initiative to prevent problems (citations, fines) from occurring by dealing with them before they occur.

Within that context, here are just some examples of specific leading indicators that can be derived from a global, ongoing EHS compliance program:

  • Status and progress of facility-level regulatory applicability assessments (i.e. has a facility followed the process to identify all applicable laws)
  • Compliance status, in percentage terms, of facilities with applicable laws based on self-assessments.
  • Compliance status, in percentage terms, of facilities with applicable laws based on compliance audits.
  • Compliance status, in percentage terms, on specific high-risk areas per facility (e.g. Air Emissions Management, Process Safety Management, Occupational Safety)
  • Percentage of internal compliance audits completed on time.
  • Assignments of risk ratings to non-compliance instances to compare and identify the most important ones to address first.
  • Time taken to close out a severe non-compliance finding following an audit or self-assessment.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that EHS legal compliance does not equal safety. Compliance is just one small aspect of managing safety (or environmentally responsible behaviour at workplaces. However, if a streamlined, corporate approach to managing compliance with local laws is taken, it can become part of your corporate safrety culture, from EHS-site personnel, up to you corporate leadership.

But don’t just take our word for it:

Matoo Ohara of Omron: “One of the benefits of using Enhesa services is that you can see your compliance status on a quantified scale. As you can clearly see the compliance status of each site, along with risk assessment and root causes for non-compliance, you can easily identify what the high-risk non-compliance and root causes are. Also, you can easily compare results by site even across countries. As a result, data is easy to present to top management, and it is easy to explain issues to them.