Regulatory compliance refers to the regulations that companies are required to comply with to protect the environment and people from harm resulting from business operations. EHS Compliance, a subset of EHS Management, refers to the activities, procedures and policies implemented by employees to achieve and verify regulatory compliance.
You may come across terms EHS compliance, HSE compliance and EHSQ but they are essentially interchangeable.
Why Manage EHS Compliance?
The simple answer is that companies are required by government agencies such as OSHA, CCOHS, and EU-OSHA to operate in compliance with applicable environmental and occupational health and safety regulations. This legal requirement, enforced by regulation, underpins a basic humanitarian obligation to prevent loss of life or injury in the workplace and our social responsibility to protect the natural environment.
From a purely financial perspective, the case for managing compliance is equally compelling. The penalties for non-compliance quickly exceed the cost of managing compliance due to fines, legal action, employee absence due to injury, and brand or reputation damage. In the United States, the National Safety Council estimated that in 2019 workplace injuries resulted in a cost to society of 171 billion dollars. OSHA reports that the direct costs of workplace injury costs employers almost 1 billion dollars per week.
In the 2016 OSHA report, Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs several financial and non-financial benefits of EHS safety management programs are described. The financial case for managing compliance is clear and extensively documented.
The ROI (return on investment) for EHS compliance is however more subtle than simply eliminating the cost of avoidable non-compliance events or EHS incidents. To understand the broader business value, please read our article about the broader ROI of EHS Management.
Staying Compliant with Regulations
In order to remain compliant with regulations, companies must either outsource or take responsibility for some or all of the following compliance program elements:
- Identify and check for changes in regulations relevant to your business.
- Document EHS compliance policies, procedures, inspections, assessments and preventative tasks to ensure that business operations are compliant with applicable EHS regulations.
- Develop and manage employee training programs related to EHS regulations, policies and procedures.
- Ensure that employees are trained to conduct specific checks for non-compliance, hazards, and safety concerns.
- Implement audit procedures to verify that all elements of the compliance program are implemented as intended and achieving desired outcomes.
- Incorporate continuous improvement procedures to ensure that procedures and documentation evolves in response to changing regulations, observed hazards and patterns of non-compliance.
Many companies choose to outsource the above functions because of the effort required to stay abreast of current and continuously evolving regulations, the knowledge required to implement and conduct required inspections and audits, and the cost of hiring for this skillset.
Who Regulates and Enforces Occupational Health and Safety?
Occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations are set and enforced by various national and state or provincial government agencies. Part of the challenge of ensuring that a company is compliant is that not all regulations apply to every business and that regulations are constantly changing. Companies often hire H&S consulting companies to stay abreast of ever-changing regulations and to conduct scheduled assessments to ensure that a company is complaint with regulatory requirements.
Here are a few links to government agencies responsible for occupational health and safety legislation:
- United States: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Canada: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).
- Europe: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
Who Regulates and Enforces Environmental Protection Regulations?
Environmental protection regulations are set and enforced by national government agencies. As with employee health and safety regulations, the challenge of ensuring that a company is compliant is that not all regulations apply to every business and that regulations are constantly being revised and extended.
Here are a few links to government agencies responsible for environmental protection legislation:
- United States: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Canada: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)