By Randal Meske
Managing Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) compliance is not for the faint of heart. It is for intelligent, responsible, dedicated people who mean business.
Mismanagement of EHS compliance, or even just a little bad luck, can not only put whole companies at risk, it can destroy our precious environment and endanger or even kill the very workers that make employers successful.
As far as work is concerned, most people have to worry about sustaining revenue, managing and preventing customer satisfaction issues and keeping their bosses and coworkers happy. It is a very select few, such as soldiers, surgeons, law enforcement personnel, and EHS compliance officers, who bear the stress of 24/7/365 responsibility for people’s health and safety and environmental sustainability.
EHS compliance officers are special people. They aren’t really appreciated when things are running smoothly, yet they have targets on their backs when issues arise.
Compliance is a team effort, so the complexity of their roles is exacerbated given the decentralized nature of managing their functions on a global scale. Although more and more companies are funding their EHS compliance practices more aggressively, it is still often the case that these dire responsibilities lay on the backs of far too few people.
Technical knowledge is required to do the job well, yet people skills are paramount to success in order to solicit cooperation from dispersed and diverse personnel in varied disciplines who may or may not report to the EHS compliance person in charge.
So, these people manage complex operations amidst high risk with limited resources and challenging interpersonal dynamics. They are asked to do the impossible.
In short, EHS compliance officers are super heroes.
One would think that this complex set of circumstances would cause these people to be serious and lacking in humor. The pressure they bear is real, and I wouldn’t blame them one bit for being a little less fun than the rest of us.
That is why I was quite surprised to read the article entitled “If You Think Accountants Are Hilarious, Try These Guys – Search for America’s Funniest Compliance Officer Is Tough; a Whoop for Dodd-Frank” in the Wall Street Journal. Not only do these hyper-responsible people have senses of humor, some of them actually participate in competitions to determine which of them is the funniest. Go figure!
Perhaps good humor is the elixir that helps them survive their tension-filled days. Maybe as a result, they are actually more funny than the rest of us.
Whether your EHS compliance leaders are funny or not is quite irrelevant. What matters is if they are effective despite the vast challenges they face.
These are special people with critical responsibilities. If you haven’t done so lately, the next time you see your EHS compliance person, give them a great big hug and thank them profusely for what they do (If that person in your organization isn’t a hugger, I’m sure a hand shake will do).
Do you know any stellar EHS compliance professionals? Do you have any humorous stories about EHS compliance professionals, experiences, or incidents? Please respond with your stories in the comments below.