Safety program management

Small-business EHS compliance

How can a small business best manage local, state and federal safety requirements?


Responding is Glorianna L. Corman, senior risk management consultant, KPA, Columbus, OH.

Overseeing multiple layers of complex environmental, health and safety requirements can be a daunting task for small businesses. And the speed with which requirements have changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – from OSHA down to the city government level – has made compliance feel like a moving target for many.

Small-business EHS teams don’t need to go it alone. They just need the right support to stay up to date on the latest EHS best practices and uphold them within their limited bandwidth.

Here are four resources lean teams can tap into to enhance their local, state and federal EHS compliance to-day.

1. Get involved in professional EHS networking organizations
Professional EHS networking organizations are an excellent resource for small-business EHS teams. These organizations typically host lunches, meetings, educational programs and facility tours for participating members to learn from peers and experts about a given safety or environmental topic. It’s a great way for EHS pros to grow their bandwidth both professionally and personally.

Many national organizations have state or regional chapters. Smaller networks can be particularly helpful in connecting EHS managers who face the same intersections of local, state and federal requirements within their industry. These organizations also enable small-business EHS managers to develop relationships with managers from other businesses to trade notes, helpful tools and professional development opportunities.

2. Attend EHS events to learn and network
Be on the lookout for EHS industry events, many of which are hosted by professional EHS organizations. The majority of these events have gone virtual during the pandemic, which opens up a wide range of programming no matter where you’re located.

Conferences provide opportunities to learn about EHS trends and regulation changes as businesses prepare for post-COVID-19 workplace environments. They’re also great venues for networking with other EHS leaders. Many conferences repeat every year, especially ones run by state agencies. Have someone on your team stay tuned to EHS organization websites and social media pages to find out about events.

3. Develop a relationship with contacts at your EHS agencies
Do you have the phone number of your state agency contacts on speed dial? If you don’t, find out who your local, state and federal EHS representatives are. This quick task will save you a lot of time in the event you need to contact them in an emergency, and it’ll allow you to build a working relationship for help and guidance.

Many state and local departments offer free consultation services to small businesses. For example, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, provides onsite visits, telephone support, partnership programs and educational materials to any business in the state.

Ohio provides similar services through its Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention. OCAPP provides free, confidential assistance to help businesses and organizations in the state comply with environmental requirements.

4. Leverage software to execute EHS best practices on a small team
Once you’ve learned from your network contacts about best practices for federal, state and local safety requirements, how do you proactively track safety metrics to ensure your operations meet compliance standards?

Technology can do a lot of the work for you if you’re short on personnel. Software specifically designed for EHS management can eliminate time spent manually documenting leading indicators such as the use of personal protective equipment, inspections completed and worker training participation to allow for focus on mitigation and prevention.

Digital EHS platforms can also provide expert consulting to teams that face unique workplace safety challenges. Look into all that EHS technology has to offer. Lots of apps, programs and websites that features unique to your needs.

It takes a village to keep workplace environments safe. Your small-business EHS team doesn’t have to figure out how to navigate changing workplace regulations on its own. That would be almost impossible. Lean into the support from professional organizations, conferences, agencies and technology to guide the way. And above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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