Compliance is often perceived as a cost. Like many preventative measures from brushing our teeth to road maintenance – our human brains have difficulty calculating the true value of proactive action. For that reason, I absolutely love the John Oliver spoof trailer for preventative maintenance of infrastructure.
The reason we have laws, regulations, standards is “to incite behaviour that would not normally occur”.
Government, industry and internal requirements are here to guide us to a better way of doing things – a safer way, a cleaner way and a lower risk way. Though regulations may be burdensome at times and challenging to comply with, the regulator usually has the best interests of society at heart. Despite this intent and despite our agreement that regulations can help make a worksite safer, most companies still do not have a robust compliance program in place. In my opinion, the critical missing piece in many compliance programs is your organization’s perception of compliance. You can view it in one of two ways :
- an annoying cost of doing business, or
- as a tool to make your business and operations better.
Of course, the second option is better.
With the right training and education you can start to use compliance as a powerful stick to motivate your colleagues to take action on critical issues.
In many ways, these two contradictory points of view on compliance management reminds me of the two types of students you see at University.
The first student goes to University to get a degree, pass the tests and have fun. They learn the material, but only with the exams in mind. They do not own the content they are taught and never become truly proficient in their area of studies. They are there for the form – maybe because society says they should do it or perhaps their parents encouraged them – they are not there because they are passionate about the material. They leave school with the same degree as the second student, but with a very different experience and knowledge.
The second type of student attends school because they genuinely care about the subject they study. They want to learn and gain deep knowledge because they love the subjects they study. They do not care about the tests or even the degree. The student dives into the material and does all the work needed to really understand the topics. The tests become easy and the degree is just a piece of paper. This student is the one that walks out of university with the actual tools to accomplish their goals.
My question to you: Is your EHS compliance program designed to pass “the test” or are you using compliance to drive operational excellence?