Workers and the environment in which they work are a critical part of that supply chain – and keeping them healthy is a key component in keeping sustainable supply chains running at a time of COVID related shortages and disruption.
In practice, EHS is about ensuring compliance as a baseline, and proactively managing risks. And what poses more workplace risk today than the spread of Coronavirus?
Most organizations that run large plants or facilities already have an EHS program in place. Ideally, the processes and systems that support the EHS program are robust and flexible enough to accommodate new risks that emerge. Whether the facilities are just coming back online, or they have been operational throughout the crisis, the EHS program is being tested like never before.
Safety (and wearables) first
Critical to success is gaining control over EHS data. Today’s best practice is to centralize data for visibility and analysis. With proper control over relevant EHS data, organizations can move forward with technology solutions that help advance the EHS agenda.
Take for example, IoT solutions that help to enforce social distancing policies on the shop floor. One leading use case involves the use of wearable sensors that trigger alarms when workers get too close. Another is the use of IoT sensors to continuously monitor air quality throughout worker shifts. These sensors can track temperature, humidity, and particulates in the air that could potentially increase the risk of transmission.
Machine learning algorithms can also be applied to EHS to identify patterns that would otherwise go undetected by the human eye. Not only does this help improve over time, it can also anticipate changes with a fast-moving and unpredictable virus – allowing to take the actions necessary to minimize infections, ensure worker safe, and keep supply chains humming.
Integration, visibility and PPE
Integration with other key business systems is emerging as a critical success factor for EHS. The need for integration is also making itself known as EHS professionals hunt for adequate levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) in many plants and factories. This requires access to enterprise data – purchase orders, inventory levels, shipments in transit, and more.
In addition, integration – along with adequate data visibility – is important for speedy audits. As EHS is so integrally tied up with compliance, connections to business systems and ready access to data can help the organization demonstrate compliance on demand without requiring days of work from your otherwise busy EHS professionals.
New guidelines are being put forth almost daily. Complying with these evolving requirements will take flexible processes and agile systems. In the near-term, organizations will need to trust their systems to limit legal liabilities and mitigate risk exposure. A robust EHS system can help.
It is evident that – COVID or not – the EHS risk landscape will continue to evolve. New infectious diseases may emerge, and other risks may present themselves. Indeed, some of these risks may result directly from mitigating policies implemented to address immediate concerns. For example, as masks are mandated in the workplace, some organizations are reporting increased risk of slips and falls as workers attempt to perform their duties with fogged-up eye wear.
EHS risk can emerge from anywhere. What’s needed are robust systems that capture all relevant data and support the flexibility required to respond to emerging issues.
Mike Censurato is in Digital Manufacturing for SAP Emergency Health & Safety.