All businesses need to deal with EHS concerns, but there are different risks associated with certain types of businesses. If you are a business owner, it is important to understand the potential hazards posed by your industry and ensure that your employees are well-trained in EHS areas.
The Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) risks for businesses can be significant. The following are the top EHS risks that businesses face:
1. Environmental factors
It includes natural disasters and weather events, pollution and hazardous materials, and land use.
2. Occupational health and safety factors
It includes the risk of physical injury, poisonings, traumatic stress, work-related infections, and illnesses.
3. Biological factors (biohazards)
Biological risks include zoonotic diseases (i.e., diseases transmitted from animals to humans), food safety threats such as E Coli and Salmonella; occupational exposure to tuberculosis; emerging infectious diseases; and potential pandemics such as H1N1 flu virus (the “swine flu”).
4. Chemical factors (chemicals of concern)
The new global economy presents a wide range of new chemical risks for businesses, developing countries in particular: untested chemicals; unknown chemical properties; and changing global or regional restrictions on chemicals such as new EU REACH regulation.
5. Physical factors
This risk is similar to environmental factors but focused on hazards that could result in property damage only, such as fire and explosions. The primary cause of most non-fire commercial building fires is cooking. Other physical risks include natural calamities (e.g., earthquakes), workplace violence, and equipment failures which can lead to injuries and fatalities, taking place within the premises of a business firm.
6. Human factor for businesses
It’s the people inside human resources who may be exposed to EHS threats from the management systems of the business firm they work for, their own individual behaviors can also impact their safety and that of their work colleagues.
Terrorism can affect any business, regardless of size, sector, or location. The potential impacts of a terrorist attack include death or injury to staff and customers, damage to or destruction of property, business interruption, and negative publicity.
8. Crisis management
A crisis is an event that threatens the safety, security, or continuity of an organization and its people. Crises can be caused by accidents, natural disasters, pandemics, or acts of terrorism. Preparation for and response to crises is critical for protecting people and the organization’s assets.
9. Supply chain
The globalization of business and the growth of just-in-time inventory systems has increased the vulnerability of businesses to disruptions in their supply chains. A supply chain disruption can lead to shortages of essential goods and services, lost sales and profits, and higher prices for consumers.
Many ethical dilemmas faced by businesses have an EHS component, for example, decisions about whether to continue doing business in a country where human rights are violated or environmental regulations are not enforced; selling products that may have negative environmental or social impacts or providing financial support to organizations with unethical or illegal practices.
11. Business continuity
An organization’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from an EHS crisis directly affects its survival during a crisis. It requires developing plans to coordinate activities with key stakeholders inside and outside the company.
It’s not easy to create a sustainable business model which is profitable and respects the environment and humans. The aim of this article was to provide managers with some tools for approaching EHS risk factors to allow them to be aware of these issues, their consequences, and how to manage them in an organization.