News & Content: Member Blog

The Technology of EHS

Monday, January 27, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Abbey Kwiat
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Stephen Rylander, VP Engineering, Sphera 


In support to David Metcalfe’s article (“Why aren’t EHS Professionals technology leaders?’) - it is surprising how far the profession of EHS (Integrated Risk in general) is behind as an industry. And if David and Verdantix aren’t accurate in this assessment, then who can be? This is especially notable considering the resources at disposal within large organizations. We can attest that this is not for a lack of technology solutions.

Coming out of finance, the worlds feel almost upside down. Not just the day to day, or trying to compare mutual fund management to high-risk, capital intensive, labor intensive industries. There is no relevant comparison there. Except that every company is a technology company now and finance acknowledged it and then there was an avalanche of movement. We’ve not had that moment publicly in EHS - but it’s building beneath the waves.

With that, finance employed technology rapidly comparatively over the last 15 years. In finance they deployed and continue to deploy machine learning, RPA (robotic process automation) and other technologies to squeeze out remaining efficiencies. Most workflows are already digital. They are picking off the remaining human intervention operations and squeezing. So, moving towards an optimization trend now.

We could follow this lead in EHS across the board. At Sphera we are by building cloud first, integration first, digital first solutions. As an industry, are we going to manage carbon emissions with non-digital workflows? Really? Measure incidents in spreadsheets...who does this benefit?

The premise that less than half (only 35% in 2017) of EHS respondents think software is a critical success factor will always hold us back. In 2011 Marc Andreesen said that “software is eating the world”. It has been ever since then. Today, AI and ML are starting to supercede software. It’s moving at an incredible pace. If EHS is behind on digitization today, then can they leap the chasm? Of course they can. They must. If not, many large organizations will suffer greatly. It takes deploying integrated, secure, cloud ready solutions to win now.

So David is proposing modifying career tracks inside of large organizations to add additional focus for EHS professionals with technology. I applaud this train of thought.

Here are some other ideas I’ll add add in:

  • Put EHS and technology into digital transformation initiatives
  • Offer digital workflow training (EHS or otherwise) so professionals can see the possibilities
  • Inject team members from other professions into the EHS practice at catalysts.  

Myself and the rest of Sphera believe we can change this trend with our integrated cloud solutions and hybrid take on moving on-prem to cloud. That with an integrated solution built by professional software teams and world class subject matter expertise we can raise all boats and benefit providers, EHS professionals and everyone's bottom lines.

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