To ensure optimal health for employees and the population at large, the environmental management of an enterprise should include the sustainable use of natural resources, energy efficiency, waste minimization, cleaner production, and the minimization of risks to human health by improving workplace health and safety. Enterprises should apply an integrated, preventive environmental strategy to production processes, and to products throughout their life cycle. Pollution prevention should gradually replace pollution control.
Good practice in health, environment and safety management (GPHESM) in industrial and other enterprises is a multidisciplinary approach to promoting health and safety in the workplace and minimizing its harmful impacts on the environment.
GPHESM also deals with the impact of the workplace on neighbourhood health, the health and environmental impact of its products, and preservation of the general environment. The integration of health, environment and safety management (HESM) functions into the overall management system of an enterprise should result in the effective and efficient promotion of GPHESM. It is the outcome of national and individual enterprise policies in the areas of health protection, promotion and surveillance at work, promotion of good working culture and of a work organization conducive to safety and health, and provision of a healthy and safe working and ambient environment.
The enforcement of health, environment and safety (HES) legislation is becoming more difficult, in part because of the growing number of small and medium-sized enterprises. The direct and active involvement of enterprises in demonstrating and proving good practice in health, environment and safety management (GPHESM) would be a valuable supplementary measure to improve compliance with HES legislation. Additionally, GPHESM which goes beyond mandatory requirements should allow enterprises to achieve HES targets set voluntarily by the working communities, as part of self-regulation.
Both enterprises and the national economy in all countries carry a significant economic and social burden caused by accidents, injuries, and occupational, work-related and workplace-preventable but non-occupational diseases. Economic loss from occupational accidents alone in some countries has been calculated at 3-5% of gross national product. Occupational and non-occupational diseases and injuries are responsible for much of the current levels of reduced work capacity, increased temporary and permanent work disability, shortened life expectancy, and premature retirement or death. The high rate and early onset of chronic diseases contribute to the high expenditure of national health care systems, as well as to high demands for disability pensions and compensation from social insurance funds. In addition industrial and other enterprises that lack adequate prevention and control measures contribute to environmental pollution and pose health risks to the population.
Changes in the global economy and the restructuring of production and service organizations, coupled with the subsequent changes in working life and in the responsibilities of employees, have created an urgent need to strengthen and adapt the tools and methods used to ensure that health, environment and safety (HES) are protected and promoted at the enterprise level.
The main objectives of GPHESM are to provide a safe and healthy working environment, while preserving the general environment and health of people living outside the premises; to ensure an optimal balance between economic and business interests, on the one hand, and the working ability and health of the entire staff, including their families, on the other; and to provide healthy and environmentally friendly products and services. To achieve these objectives, GPHESM should be built on existing national structures and practices for health promotion at the workplace, occupational health and safety, and environmental health.
The environmental benefits of GPHESM consist of greater efficiency in the use of natural resources, and a growing number of enterprises that manage environmental issues in compliance with legal requirements, using the principles and methods of such strategies as cleaner production, eco-efficiency, green productivity and pollution prevention.
To attain good practice, an enterprise requires to integrate occupational health and safety with environmental improvement, through a system that sets targets for improvement, verifies implemented changes through auditing, and communicates the results to employees and society at large.
The process of implementing GPHESM in all enterprises would: (a) measure the impact of each enterprise on health, safety and the environment; (b) use environmental quality and the health of workers as performance indicators; (c) take into account occupational, environmental, social and lifestyle health determinants; (d) assess the risks to health and the environment; (e) use measures to eliminate and control hazards and to minimize risks at the workplace; and (f) ensure continuous improvement in HESM.
A good practice should be composed of the following main elements or activities: (a) adoption of an enterprise policy on GPHESM by the employer or chief executive explicitly clarifying the commitment of top management and acceptance of its responsibility for this process and its aims; (b) ensuring the participation of management, employees and their trade unions in the development and implementation of effective HESM systems in the enterprise; (c) demonstration of full compliance with national HES legislation and standards; (d) compliance with the relevant ILO conventions and WHO and UNEP recommendations; (e) adoption of a concerted HESM system; (f) adoption of an education and training programme; and (g) appropriate monitoring and evaluation of HES outcomes using adequate tools and indicators.
Health, environment and safety (HES) are protected and promoted at the enterprise level by implementing the principles and mechanisms contained in the following international statements: (a) Agenda 21 and the [Rio Declaration on Environment and Development] (1992); (b) the [Helsinki Declaration on Action for Environment and Health in Europe] (1994) with corresponding national environmental health action plans (NEHAPs); (c) the [World Health Declaration] (1998) and [Health21 - the Health for All] policy framework for the WHO European Region - 21 targets for the 21st century (1998); (d) the European Union programmes on environment and on health and safety at work (1996-2000); (e) the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, recommendations and resolutions on occupational safety and health with relevance to environmental management; (f) the [Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters] and other documents referring to environment management in enterprises, adopted by the Fourth [Environment for Europe] Conference held in 1998 in Ã…rhus, Denmark; and (g) the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) [International Declaration on Cleaner Production] (1998).