United by best practice and lots of acronyms

An affinity for acronyms may not be a prerequisite for a career as a safety and health professional — but it helps. Our day-to-day responsibilities require us to know dozens of abbreviations. And though we share the same fundamental mission — keeping employees safe, healthy and on the job — we use a surprising range of different phrases and acronyms to describe our job titles, departments, programs, and even the industry itself.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is one of the most widely accepted terms — which makes sense as it echoes the federal act that brought the industry to greater prominence. Some organizations flip the order to OHS.

Others add Environment to the mix: EHS, HSE, SHE. Integrating Security yields a few more variations, like HSS and HSSE. And, as leading-edge companies continue exploring the synergy between quality management and workforce safety and health, we’re also seeing greater use of acronyms like EHSQ.

Still, I’d argue that “occupational safety and health” is what best describes the heart of all these programs. It’s also an appropriate phrase because those two functions are so closely intertwined — or should be. Although they are separate “silos” in many organizations, today’s most successful programs achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness by uniting safety and health management enterprise-wide.

Moving toward “uniting” management processes is worth the effort. Whatever acronym your organization happens to use, you will achieve better results if your occupational safety and health professionals work as closely together as the acronym suggests.

Read my recent article for more detail on areas where I think health and safety professionals can, and should, work together.