7 Steps to Become a Successful EHS Manager

Construction Site
November 21, 2019

“A real star plays with the team. Maybe you should think about that.”
James Avery as “Uncle Phil” in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (Episode #1.11)

The October 2019 issue of the American Society of Safety Professionals’ (ASSP) Professional Safety magazine featured an article from Greg Gerganoff who provides guidance to small business owners on how to implement an effective safety and health program.

Small businesses may not have the budget for a safety professional. While this may be challenging, it can also have a positive effect: Without a dedicated safety manager, everyone from supervisors to workers becomes responsible for safety, and the business owner makes sure everyone’s accountable.

Gerganoff highlights seven steps for small business owners to follow when creating a workplace safety program.

When I first learned about the article, I thought that it may be irrelevant because all Enablon clients have dedicated safety professionals. This is not an issue that affects the Enablon community.

But then I went through Gerganoff’s seven steps and I thought “This is exactly what an EHS manager should do!” The steps were very much relevant.

The EHS manager’s role has some similarities to the role of a small business owner who has to implement a safety program. The EHS manager is an authority figure regarding an organization’s safety and health program, and has to make sure that everybody’s responsible and accountable for safety.

Let’s take a closer look at the seven steps, and how they can be used by EHS managers to become successful in their roles. They’re slightly adapted from Gerganoff’s steps.

1) Lead by Example

It’s not enough to talk the talk. You must also walk the walk. EHS managers should follow the same rules and procedures, and display the same safe behaviors as the ones they’re promoting to their workforces.

Even small things can make a big difference, for example wearing the appropriate PPE on a work site, or entering safety observations through a smartphone.

2) Set Objectives

This covers both objectives for people and overall safety objectives. In the first case, an EHS manager should define safety responsibilities to help set objectives. For example, the EHS manager is responsible for offering guidance, supervisors must ensure that workers have what they need to work safely, while workers should follow safety rules, report observations of at-risk conditions, and correct unsafe behaviors.

Regarding safety objectives, an EHS manager should not only set goals for lagging indicators, such as incident rates, but also set goals for leading indicators.

3) Provide Easy Access to Safety Information

EHS managers must make sure that everyone has access to sources of safety knowledge, especially information on hazards and risks. For example, all workers should be able to access job safety analyses/job hazard analyses though a central software system.

Similarly, all workers must have access to safe work practices, permits, equipment specifications, policies and procedures in a quick and user-friendly way, and also through mobile devices.

4) Outline Program Elements

A comprehensive safety and health program has many parts, including, but not limited to:

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Program Objectives
  • Hazard and Risk Assessments
  • Audits and Inspections
  • Incident Investigations
  • Safety Culture
  • Chemical Management
  • Training
  • Ergonomics
  • PPE Program
  • JSAs/JHAs
  • Behavior-Based Safety

An EHS manager should define all the components of the program, and make sure that everyone is aware of them. This also includes helping workers to navigate through all the different components.

5) Assign Roles

While each employee has a role to play in safety, Gerganoff recommends that organizations be flexible. This is also sound advice for EHS managers.

Each worker should be assigned a role in safety. But they must not feel like they’re being forced to follow instructions. They must participate in the safety program willfully and be engaged in it.

For example, assign roles for members of safety committees, but give them the flexibility to choose the topics to address at committee meetings.

6) Get Feedback

EHS managers should regularly ask for comments and suggestions on the safety and health program, both from supervisors and workers.

Ideally use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. For example, send a survey to everyone with multiple-choice questions. Also, conduct some one-on-one interviews with workers who volunteer.

Be sure that the sample of interviewed workers includes different segments (e.g. men and women, experienced workers and young workers, workers from different shifts, different workgroups, different sites, etc.)

7) “Brand” the Program

I must admit, this is where I took some liberties and did not follow Gerganoff’s list of seven steps to the letter. Gerganoff says that business owners should “Determine how the safety program will work and look”.

For EHS managers, something close to this could be to “brand” the safety and health program, to give it a “personality” of its own so people feel attached to it. It may sound silly, but it’s a well-known persuasion technique used by marketing experts, and even successful lawyers and politicians.

If you give something a catchy name or slogan, people are more likely to remember it (e.g. Nike’s “Just Do It”, or McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It”).

Ultimately, EHS managers must ensure that safety is everyone’s job. By following the seven steps, they can be successful in their roles and effectively promote a safety mindset across the organization.



Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader