Untold Secrets of Finding Solution to HSE Problems

Know the secrets of finding solution to Health, Safety & Environment related problems that have been tried & tested and have worked for many HSE professionals.

The Problem

Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) professionals are frequently faced with the requirement to "put out fires" and manage virtually every conceivable aspect of the operations, human errors, environmental releases, process safety, chemical exposure, and several other hazards and potential risks. In essence, they often rely on the “quick fixes” solutions to problems that have worked in the past. But what does an HSE professional do when the “quick fixes” don't have the answer to a problem?

Due to changing technology, new regulations, changing equipment, and other factors, HSE professionals today are often faced with new problems and issues that don't have "quick fixes" solutions. Usually, there is neither a "tried and tested" way nor a framework or road map for how to deal with specific problems.   

The Solution

There is no “problem” that cannot be solved in the health, safety, and environment field when sufficient effort, attention, & creativity are provided to find a solution. HSE professionals should look for new and creative ideas and use outside networks' expertise and experience to develop innovative and workable solutions. Here is an example of a procedure that can be used to solve such problems:

  1. Check out the different standards used around the world. Is there a standard that applies to this situation?
  2. Search resources like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to find similar problems.
  3. Talk to people in your industry to find out if they've had a similar problem and how they solved it.
  4. Have a brainstorming session with employees and management team members to devise any possible solution, no matter how crazy.
  5. Talk to vendors to find out about new products and technologies that may be applicable.
  6. Rate each idea based on how well it solves the problem, how much it will cost, how many people it will need, and so on.
  7. Put the creative solutions in order of importance and analyze them based on how well they work, how likely they cause other HSE-related problems, how they will affect the workers, and other factors.
  8. Identify the pros and cons of each potential solution.
  9. Identify both short-term and long-term solutions to fix the problem.
  10. Select the best possible solution or solutions to solve the problem.
  11. List all the necessary tools, people, and equipment.
  12. Make an action plan with a specific timetable for putting the solution into action.
  13. Implement the solution.
  14. Evaluate the solution, change it, or give up on it. If you have to, start from scratch.

Another best way to find solutions to HSE problems is to get training from experts. HSE professionals should be well aware of the changing regulations and standards that impact them daily. New information can be acquired through attending conferences and training by professional institutions. Most of these methods take a lot of time for professionals who are already busy, and getting advanced training may not be possible because of time, cost, distance, and other factors. Thus, many HSE professionals have literally stopped their training and growth in their elected fields of expertise. Several online platforms, such as Alison and Udemy, have identified continuing learning difficulties and have a number of good quality online HSE training courses developed by experts.

The Challenge

Here comes the real challenge -  acquiring management support and funding to test or implement the potential solution. The professional’s ability to acquire upper-management commitment and funding is often the key to the success of most HSE professionals. 

But, the question for many HSE professionals is how does one acquire this commitment and the appropriate support and funding? Are there creative methods by which HSE professionals can maximize the potential of success in acquiring management commitment and funding for solutions to problems? Can the solution be cost-beneficial for the company? Are there other benefits to be derived from the solution which can be measured and evaluated?

In a casual setting, upper-level managers are more likely to ask "stupid" questions or want more information than in a formal setting with their peers. It is easier for upper-level managers to vote "no" on projects they don't know much than to admit to their peers that they don't know much about them.

When management asks why money should be spent on HSE projects, the usual answer is, "Because regulation says we need it." Many HSE professionals use regulatory compliance as a "hammer" to convince top management. The management looks at the request negatively and only agrees to pay for it because a government agency said so. In this case, it is essential to note that the management group was not told about the benefits that "the solution"  could do, such as saving money on workers' compensation and insurance. The management may not have any good feelings about the program. Instead, they feel like they are being forced to participate.

It's important to remember that not every attempt to convince the management will succeed immediately. But HSE experts should critically examine setbacks so they may construct a "larger and better mouse trap" for future endeavors.

Final Words

In the HSE world, the best solutions are often the simplest ones. Remember the old phrase "Keep It Simple, Sam" (KISS). Don't overlook the simple ones when figuring out how to solve a problem. Think of different ways to solve the problem and put them in order of importance. Look for the simplest solution that will work the best in the long run.

And lastly, do your work while still having fun. Let your imagination run wild and think of new and different ways to make your workplaces safer and healthier. When great ideas are put to the test, they often become the foundation for a new wave of transformation. If you don't try out an idea and see how it works, it's just another idea.

Reference: Schneid, Thomas D. Creative Safety Solutions. CRC Press, 2015.

Jawad Chand

Jawad Chand is an occupational health & safety practitioner and trainer with extensive experience in oil & gas safety management, process safety, pharmaceuticals hazard control, and health & safety management systems. He is a highly qualified professional with the most prestigious degrees in Business Administration, Chemical Engineering, and Occupational Health & Safety.

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