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Corporate Budget Allocation For Health, Safety On The Rise: Study

Companies are increasingly committed to safer processes, environment protection

Businesses in India are no longer putting in place environment, health and safety (EHS) initiatives as a matter of compliance but as a means to enhance their global standing, protect employees, and behave responsibly towards society and the environment.

In developed countries, all places of work — industries, offices, universities, medical institutions, government and social organisations – adhere to environment, health and safety (EHS) standards. But in India, an estimated 82 per cent of workplaces do not comply with EHS norms, according to a cross-sector survey by research and consulting firm Kaybase. There is, however, a growing consciousness of the need to comply with such safety requirements.

“We consider our co-workers family, yet are not conscious of their safety,” observed Sandip Ghose, COO of Birla Cement, adding: “That is probably because, even at home or in our personal lives, safety awareness is low. We treat accidents as an act of fate. Thankfully, the attitude is changing. Enlightened corporates can play a major role in making this shift — not just in factories and workplaces, but also at home and on the road.”

Cross-sector study

Kaybase surveyed companies across 11 sectors, to understand the changing attitude towards EHS issues. The sample base includes companies from among the top 500 and top 1,000 in India as well as those within the top 1,000. BPCL, Shell, several TVS group companies, Grasim Industries and Reliance Industries are some of the corporates that have implemented EHS standards. Prominent among EHS consultants are Chola MS Risk Services and DuPont India.

“India is a land of contradictions. Companies in the same sector are moving towards concepts such as zero harm, while others view accidents as an act of God. But, in the last few years, corporates have made serious efforts to address safety issues. Accident prevention is a boardroom topic across sectors today,” said Subba Rao, CEO, Chola MS Risk Services.

The sectors polled were engineering, pharma, chemical, oil and gas, electronics, facilities management, cement, infrastructure, construction and civil, FMCG and renewable energy. Researchers conducted 162 interviews across the 10 sectors; half the respondents were senior leaders from different organisations. The survey — from 162 interviews across the sectors — found that all sectors uniformly increased their EHS budgets over the last few years.

The cement, chemical and pharmaceutical industries have a similar approach towards EHS in terms of resource allocation, focusing on process safety. The engineering and facilities management segments have a similar slant to operational safety, but with lower budgets.

Sectors such as electronics, energy, FMCG, infrastructure and oil & gas varied in their EHS budget allocation, and their focus was on environment protection as well. All sectors considered similar parameters when choosing an EHS consultant, prioritising the ability to understand specific problems as a key criterion.

“It was revealing when many companies told us this issue is taking centre-stage,” said Ashok R Sankethi, CEO of Kaybase. “This is no flavour-of-the-month trend which will die down soon — attention to EHS is going to be an integral part of corporate life.”- The Hindu Business Line

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