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The Top Environmental and Safety Risk Management Challenge

September 10, 2015 by Rebecca Ward

Kathryn Carlson, Vice President of HR Management Products for KPA, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share her insight on the intersection of sales, marketing, and technology. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders. In this episode we discuss the EPA and OSHA, keeping up with regulation, and the use of software.

Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: You mentioned KPA helps out with EPA and OSHA compliance, those seem like quite different agencies. I'm just curious why the two?

Kathryn Carlson: That's a great question and you'd be surprised at the interdependencies. I'll use a client who has a body shop as an example. So someone who's doing repairs on cars has an obligation to how they treat the chemical waste.

Imagine repairing cars: you're painting them, you're using chemicals to fix them. We've got to make sure that waste, those chemicals are treated in the proper way under the EPA guidelines — both federal and state. But those very same chemicals that are harmful to the environment if not treated with care, could also be harmful to employees.

On the OSHA side, we need to make sure people dealing with harmful chemicals are also wearing protective equipment and have the right training on how to handle those. If there is a spill, do they know what to do if there is an emergency situation?

And goodness hope it never happens — but what if they do have an exposure? Then how are you going to help those employees work through the complexity of work comp, leave, and the real goal of getting them back to work? These are all things human resources software should help with.

There's a tremendous amount of interdependency between those, at least in our mind.

TA: So you're ultimately protecting employees and the environment from risk?

Carlson: Exactly. We think about the common term -- everybody understands when we say, "KPA does risk management," because from a business perspective, it is about risk management.

But over here at KPA, we think almost on the flip side. If you do the right thing, if you're protecting your employees, if you're protecting the environment, you're protecting your communities, you're protecting your clients, then it naturally falls that you're going to manage the risk.

Risk is in some ways about protection. We help you protect your most important assets which is your employees and the communities you live in, and that will by nature resolve your risk issues.

TA: What are some challenges right now in risk management that you're seeing?

Carlson: The regulatory environment is constantly in flux. Every time there is a new legislative session call, whether it's at Congress or whether it's at the State level, we know that we're going to be prepared to get changes. It could be tightening regulations, or it could be loosening regulations. And our goal as risk management tends to be a defensive position.

You have to comply with the regulation. What we hope we're helping our clients with is using compliance to improve profitability to the max — it becomes an offensive position. It could be our involvement in an elite organization of which KPA is a founding member, so auto dealers who meet certain criteria can be certified as environmental and safety elite. And that can be a real boost.

Consumers do want to work with organizations that care about the environment, care about their employees, and care about their communities. Being an environmental and safety elite organization dealership or collision shop can improve your bottom line. We think of compliance as not just defensive, although we have to always comply with regulation, but how do we leverage the fact that organizations are doing the right thing by all of their stakeholders. How can that become something that helps improve the profitability of the organization, long-term? That definitely is something we think a lot about here at KPA.

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Josh Bland.

Posted in: Environmental Health and Safety, Human Resources Management