EHS glossary

Important terms in the environmental, health, and safety field


A lean manufacturing method for creating and maintaining an organized workplace which includes five steps: sort, shine, set in order, standardize, and sustain.


Accident Site
The location where an unexpected failure or loss occurs resulting in adverse outcomes like injuries, product losses, property damage, and more.

Action Level
In CFR 1910, a concentration of a specific substance (calculated as an 8-hour, time-weighted average) that triggers a certain set of required actions like exposure monitoring and medical surveillance. 

Action Tracking
A system for documenting and monitoring approaches that you have taken to eliminate a hazard, prevent an incident, or improve a process.

Acute Exposure
A single toxic substance exposure event, often lasting a day or less, that has the potential to result in adverse environmental or biological effects. 

Affected Employee
A worker who uses equipment or machinery which falls under OSHA’s lockout tagout guidelines. This employee simply uses the equipment—he or she doesn’t perform maintenance or repair on it.

All-Hands Meeting
A gathering of all the employees within a company/operation to discuss companywide performance, future trajectory, goals, and important announcements.

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH)
A professional organization of industrial hygienists and professionals in similar fields with the purpose of distributing scientific resources that improve workplace health and safety protections for workers. 

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
A nonprofit organization that facilitates the creation of services, systems, personnel, products, and processes in the United States. It also advocates for other countries to adopt these standards.

American Petroleum Institute (API)
The biggest trade association in the oil and natural gas industry. It creates recommendations for best practices and standards that the industry needs, and it advocates on behalf of its members.

Ammonia Refrigeration
A cooling system that uses ammonia to absorb heat. Ammonia is a toxic substance and poses a fire hazard, so it is primarily used in facilities—not residential or commercial kitchens.

A Japanese term meaning “light,” which in the manufacturing industry refers to a type of signal workers use to let leadership know of a process issue.

Annular Blowout Preventer
A devices that seals an oil well and controls the flow of mud in the area surrounding a drill pipe. Its job is to prevent blowouts caused by unregulated mud flow.

Arc Flash
A dangerous explosion that happens when an electrical current deviates from its intended source and goes into the air. The temperature of an arc flash reaches temperatures higher than 5,000°F. Arc flashes pose a major fire and safety risk.

A mineral fiber that is known to cause lung disease. In the past, it was widely used as a building material. Although most forms of asbestos are banned, construction workers, home renovators, and anyone who works with older buildings are at a risk for exposure.

Asbestos-Containing Construction Material (ACCM)
Any material made up of more than 0.1% of asbestos.

Authorized Employee
A worker who is qualified to lockout and tagout a piece of equipment so they can perform maintenance or complete repairs.


A device that cleans the air of gases and dust particles that are harmful to human health.

A chemical compound that is found in crude oil reserves. It is a known carcinogen and cause of illnesses like anemia and bone marrow failure. In the United States, the workplace exposure limit is 1 ppm for each 8-hour shift.

The process of comparing a site’s systems and performance against that of industry leaders.

Any biological agent, such as viruses and fungi, that can cause illnesses.

Bit Record
In oil drilling, a document that lists out all the drill bits used for a specific operation.

Blood borne pathogen
A microorganism that lives in the human bloodstream and causes disease.

An uncontrolled release of natural gas or crude oil from an oil well which can be highly dangerous for workers.

Blowout Preventer (BOP)
A device that seals an oil well to stop a blowout from happening. There are two main types of BOPs: annular blowout preventers and ram blowout preventors.

Any area of the process that slows down production because an inefficiency has created more demand for a task/piece of equipment than is available.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
A federal entity that tracks and reports on economic statistics related to: (un)employment, productivity, pay & benefits, inflation & prices, consumer spending, and workplace injuries.


A naturally occurring metal that is commonly found in batteries, electrical components, and coatings. It is toxic in its dust form, causing pulmonary edema, cancer, pneumonitis, and other health conditions.

Any substance or agent that can cause cancer.

Case Management
A process that facilitates the care of an injured worker. It involves collaboration between medical professionals and safety professionals to determine the best course of action to help the injured employee recover.

Change Management
The process for making any modifications, upgrades, or replacements within a system. This includes changes to a variety of inputs like personnel, equipment, workflows, and more.

Chemical Hygiene Plan
A written program that outlines the equipment, PPE, practices, and procedures that a business will use to protect employees from chemical hazards.

Chronic Toxicity
Adverse health effects due to long-term exposure to contaminants and toxins. 

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
The published and enacted rules of various federal agencies in the US. The CFR covers many areas of public protection, including workplace safety standards.

Compliance Audit
An evaluation of a company’s adherence to regulatory requirements, typically performed by a third party. 

A term that describes any surface or substance that is infected with a hazardous or unwanted material.

Contractor Safety Management (CSM)
Oversight of third-party workers to ensure that they are following internal safety training, procedures, and practices.

Control area
A workspace designated for the controlled handling and processing of hazardous materials. It’s separate from the large work area, so as not to jeopardize the health and safety of other parts of the product or process.

Core Competency
The primary activities and processes within a facility that are essential to production and overall cost generation for the company.

Corrective Action
The process of addressing hazardous workstations, processes, behaviors, etc. that pose a safety risk.

Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA)
An incident management method that involves correcting issues and implementing new measures to prevent them from recurring. 

Corrosion Control
A process that businesses use to address existing corrosion and prevent future corrosion from happening. This process reduces corrosion-related health hazards from contaminated water sources and equipment as well.

A type of machinery that lifts and lowers heavy equipment or work materials. OSHA has a crane standard about the inspection process businesses must follow before allowing workers to use crane equipment.

A process involving the transfer of bacteria from one surface (utensils, hands, hair, etc.) to a food item. 

The process of training employees in one department on tasks in another area of the business to improve overall shift coverage for each position and to develop workers’ skillsets.

Crude Oil
Liquid petroleum that hasn’t been refined yet.

Cycle Time
The total time it takes for a product to go through the production process, including assembly and quality testing but not including time sitting as inventory.


Danger Zone
The temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit in which bacteria can grow. 

A unit of measurement for sound level.

The process of cleaning employees or pieces of equipment that have been exposed to a harmful substance.

Department of Transportation (DOT)
A federal agency that oversees the creation of all safety regulations related to transportation modes like buses, trains, planes, boats, and cars. DOT manages the implementation of nationwide transportation systems.

A structure that sits above an oil well and raises or lowers tools, pipes, etc. in the hole. It is typically made from steel but can also be made from wood.


EHS Director
A safety professional who oversees the implementation of EHS policies across several sites. They often work in an office and visit facilities to make sure that processes and procedures are successfully adopted.

EHS Specialist
A safety professional who implements a site’s safety protocols, programs, and procedures. They are typically in charge of compiling shift reports and complete root cause analyses to solve organizational safety issues.

Emergency Planning and Response
The process of creating a set of guidelines for what to do when emergencies happen in the workplace. 

Energy Control Procedure
A document that explains to workers the steps they need to take to control a hazardous energy source while performing maintenance.

Emerging Pathogen
A microorganism that causes illness and is either an unexpected illness source or previously unknown as a pathogen; or has recently caused a steep rise in illness cases.

Employee Participation
An element of process safety management (PSM) compliance that requires companies to involve their workers in the development and implementation of the PSM program.

Energy-Isolating Device
A mechanism that stops energy from releasing or transmitting to a nearby area or worker. One example is a circuit breaker which immediately stops the flow of electricity from a device.

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)
The term for professions, regulations, systems, policies, process, etc. that protect employees and the environment from workplace hazards.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
A government document that explains how a proposed project will affect the environment.  

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The federal agency that establishes standards and regulates policies pertaining to the health of the environment.

Eyewash Station
An area where workers can clean out their eyes if they come into contact with a harmful chemical or substance.


Fall Protection
The prevention of workplace injuries related to falls. This term can be used to describe the systems, plans, and equipment that protect workers.

Fire Hazard
Anything that can cause a fire. These types of hazards include electrical hazards, flammable chemicals/liquids, and any other substance or situation that may serve as a catalyst.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Federal agency that enforces laws relating to public health. Its other responsibilities include food and drug regulation, approval/denial, and production.

Foodborne Illness 
An infection or intoxication that occurs when a human ingests chemical or microbial contaminants through food products.

Food Code
A bi-annual document published by the FDA that contains information on best practices for safely handling food in retail settings.

Food Inspection
The process of ensuring the safety of food products for human consumption.

Food Safety
A health and safety system for preventing foodborne illnesses at all stages of the supply chain. 

Food Safety Management System (FSMS)
A process designed to ensure the safe production of consumer food goods. An FSMS prevents consumers from ingesting hazardous materials and toxins.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
A law that allows the FDA to regulate how companies grow, harvest, and process food products. President Obama signed this law in 2011 to reduce public health risks associated with contaminated food sources.

A powered industrial truck that and raise and lower materials throughout a site.



Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
A food safety approach that protects consumers from hazards in the production process. This tactic focuses on a range of hazards, including things like chemical contaminants and physical objects that may enter the food supply.

Hazard Assessment
A process that includes finding hazards, figuring out what risks they pose, and setting up a way to control or eliminate them.

Hazard Classification
The process of determining how serious a threat that certain hazards pose to workers. It involves an analysis of multiple hazards and their relative impact, typically using a hazard classification checklist.

Hazard Warning
A verbal or visual cue that a hazard is present. This includes things like signs, notifications, and posters.

Health Hazard
A toxic, irritative, corrosive, or harmful substance chemical that negatively affects a person’s physical wellbeing.

Health, Safety, & Environment (HSE)

The processes, systems, and resources that help businesses protect both their workers and the environment from workplace hazards.

Hearing Protection Device (HPD)
A type of PPE that covers ears, reducing the impact of loud noises on the ear canal. Examples include earplugs, earmuffs, and canal caps.

Hierarchy of Controls
An approach for eliminating workplace hazards. It includes five distinct levels (from most effective to least effective):

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • PPE

Reflective, often bright-colored clothing that workers wear to let drivers and equipment operators know they are in the area, especially at nighttime.

Hot work permit
A document confirming that a worker is qualified and allowed to perform hot work activities like welding, soldering, grinding, and cutting, which produce open flames, heat, or sparks. 

An organic chemical made from hydrogen and carbon. Examples include methane and propane gases (among others).


Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH)
Exposure to atmospheric contaminants that is likely to cause death, create instant or delayed permanent health effects, or prevent escape from the contaminated environment. 

Incident Management
The approach of an organization to deal with the fallout of a workplace accident, injury, or situation. It includes the steps that a business might take to mitigate the effect of an incident on daily operations, stakeholders, and critical functions.

Incident Investigation
A process for documenting the series of events leading to and following a workplace incident. It may include witness and victim interviews, collection of statements, scene audits, and root cause analysis.

Incident Report
A document that contains the details of workplace events such as near misses, injuries, deaths, or property damages.

Industrial Hygiene
The science of recognizing and controlling workplace variables that may negatively impact the health and wellbeing (both mental and physical) of workers and the surrounding environment or community. 

Inherently Safer Design (ISD)
The concept that it is more effective to eliminate hazards than it is to control them. ISD includes four primary ways to make processes safer:

  1.  Substitute hazardous materials for safer ones.
  2.  Minimize the use of hazardous materials/equipment.
  3.  Moderate hazards by implementing safer procedures.
  4.  Simplify the process as much as possible.

International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC)
A trade association that advocates for best practices among oil drilling companies.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
A nongovernmental organization (NGO) that sets international standards for things like technology, procedures, and processes. More than 150 countries are represented in this governing body which reviews and either approves or denies proposals for new standards.

A substance that causes inflammation when it comes into contact with the skin, eyes, mouth, etc.


Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)
A technique for identifying hazards related to specific job functions. This approach involves all of the variables within a given task, including things like the equipment, workstation setup, and ergonomics.


A Japanese term meaning “continuous improvement,” which is core tenet of modern manufacturing operations designed to focus on consistent dedication to advancement.

A visual task management system that businesses use to improve the efficiency of their operations and to organize their management approach.


Lagging Indicator
A measurable variable that shows how a current process or situation has performed in the past. Lagging indicators in EHS include fatality rates, OSHA citations, TRIR, and more.

The amount of time between when a customer places an order and when the seller ships it out.

Leading Indicator
A measurable variable that provides insight into the trajectory of a current process, situation, etc. Leading indicators of safety performance include things like exam scores, equipment upkeep, risk assessment outcomes, and more.

Learning Management System (LMS)
A software application that helps businesses create, administer, report, and track employee training and development.

Lithium-Ion Battery
A common type of battery that works by turning chemical energy into electricity. When these batteries are poorly manufactured or defective, they can cause fire hazards.

Lithium Polymer (LiPo) Battery
A lightweight type of battery that is rechargeable and often used for handheld devices. The electrolyte fluid in these batteries is toxic, and the entire unit can become a fire hazard if incorrectly handled.

Lockout Device
A mechanism that secures a hazardous energy source and prevents it from activating unexpectedly during maintenance or repair activities.

Lockout Tagout
A procedure for ensuring that hazardous energy sources from dangerous machinery and equipment are turned off when not in use. The lockout tagout procedure prevents energy sources from unexpectedly causing a severe injury.

Lost Time Incident
A serious injury that causes an employee to miss hours or days of work in order to recover.


Management of Change (MOC)
An element of process safety management (PSM) that controls how businesses make changes to workplace equipment, personnel, or processes. The goal of the MOC process is to prevent modifications from causing injuries, illnesses, or property damage.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
A document containing instructions for handling and using specific substances. The goal of this document is to prevent hazards associated with the improper use of products and materials.

Mechanical Integrity
An element of process safety management (PSM) compliance for ensuring the safe design, installation, operation, and maintenance of critical equipment.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
United States government agency which enforces the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 to prevent workplace health and safety incidents in the mining industry.


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
A government agency that creates and enforces standards for vehicle safety. It also publishes data and educational materials on both pedestrian and driver safety in the United States.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
A federal agency that oversees conducting research on workplace hazards and conditions and giving employers recommendations for preventing injuries and illnesses.

A substance that has a toxic effect on the body’s nervous system. 

Nip Point
A type of pinch point hazard which involves pieces of machinery rotating.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
A coding system that the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian governments use to identify specific economic sectors.


Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
A government agency which creates and enforces workplace safety standards across the United States.

Operating Procedures
An element of process safety management (PSM) compliance that requires companies to have written guidelines for each covered process. 

Out of the Box
Any product software that has not been customized or modified from its original state.


Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)
The legal limit for how much of a physical variable that employees can be subjected to in the workplace. These variables include things like chemicals, noises, and various substances. OSHA determines these limits.

Personal Exposure Monitoring
An assessment that tests an employee’s exposure to harmful respiratory hazards like asbestos, air debris/particulates, and toxic gases while on the job.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Clothing and accessories that workers wear to protect themselves from hazards. Examples of PPE include gloves, goggles, hard hats, and high-visibility vests.

A blend of hydrocarbons which comes in gas, liquid, and solid forms. In the oil and gas industry, this term refers almost exclusively to the liquid oil form.

Pinch Point
A mechanical hazard that causes injury when objects move towards one another crush or shear any object in between (typically a hand, finger, etc.).

Powered Industrial Truck (PIT)
A truck that is used to move materials around a worksite. The most common PIT is a forklift, but this term refers to those vehicles that pull, push, lift, and transfer things like inventory and other equipment.

Pre-Startup Safety Review (PSSR)
An element of process safety management (PSM) compliance that requires companies to complete a full safety review before opening a new facility, updating an existing facility, or introducing new process equipment. 

Process Hazard Analysis (PHA)
A method for finding and evaluating potential hazards in the workplace. Process hazard analysis involves looking at equipment and processes that contribute to these hazards and coming up with ways to improve them for worker safety.

Process Safety Information
An element of process safety management (PSM) compliance that requires companies to document chemical, technological, and equipment hazards for covered processes. 

Process Safety Management (PSM)
An OSHA standard that regulates the management of hazardous processes and chemical. It ensures that organizations properly handle these hazards so that they do not pose a threat to workers.


Qualitative Fit Test (QLFT)
A pass or fail test to determine whether a respirator fits appropriately for its intended use. This test involves verbal answers to fit checks.

Quality Control
A procedure for confirming that products and materials meet required standards of consumption and use. This process is designed to ensure the health and safety of workers and consumers.

Quantitative Fit Test (QNFT)
A test to determine whether a respirator fits appropriately for its intended use by measuring the amount of leakage. 


Ram Blowout Preventer
A type of BOP that seals an oil well—most commonly when pipes, tubing, etc. are inside.

Recommended Exposure Level (REL)
The official suggestion for how much of a substance, chemical, etc. that workers should be exposed to in the workplace. NIOSH sets these limits.

Recordable Injury
Any work-related fatality or injury or illness that:

  • Results in broken bones (including teeth), lost consciousness, punctured eardrums, cancer, or chronic diseases
  • Requires medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Results in work restrictions, days missed, or facility transfer

Replacement in Kind
The process of replacing a piece of equipment, procedure, material, etc., with an alternative that adheres to the design specifications of the original.

Restricted Area
Any area inaccessible to anyone without explicit permission. 

Risk Analysis
The process of finding potential problems in a system and estimating the impact that they would have on the operation.

Risk Assessment
A deep dive into workplace hazards and their potential impact on the health and safety of workers. During this process, a safety professional will define risks and offer likelihoods and scenarios that might occur.

Risk Register
A document that contains a scatterplot or table of the probability of an event happening the impact that it might have. It serves as a record of historical risk assessment.

Root Cause Analysis
A method for finding the cause of an incident, injury, or any problem a business might face. In safety, this analysis is most used to determine the variable(s) that contributed to a workplace injury or injury.


Safety Alert
A notification that a danger has been identified and needs immediate attention. These could include notifications concerning equipment, processes, products, and more. Safety alerts may come in different severity levels and may apply to a variety of stakeholders (both internal and external).

Safety Committee
A small group whose goal is to make the workplace safer and improve the overall safety culture within its organization. This committee is ideally comprised of workers, leaders, and safety professionals—making for a well-rounded collection of ideas and perspectives.

Safety Culture
An organization’s shared ideals, attitudes, and approaches towards workplace safety.

Safety Dashboard
A comprehensive overview of important safety metrics and KPIs that organizations need to track. It is found within an organization’s EHS software system which automatically tracks and reports these important data points.

Safety Officer
Someone who observes workplace behavior and enforces site safety regulations and policies.

An engine-powered piece of machinery with arms that can accommodate many types of attachments. These types of vehicles are used for tasks like dirt removal, sweeping, snow blowing, ripping up pavement, and more.

Sodium Hydroxide
A reactive and corrosive substance that is commonly used in household cleaners like soap and oven cleaners. OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for sodium hydroxide is 2 mg/m3. Because it can cause severe burns from inhalation or skin exposure, sodium hydroxide is considered a dangerous substance—especially in concentrated forms.

The concept that businesses and individuals should adopt practices and habits that protect the environment from avoidable harm.


Tagout Device
A visible warning attached to an energy source which indicates that the system should not be used unless properly unlocked.

Threshold Limit Value
The maximum amount of chemical exposure that a worker can experience in a single shift without feeling negative health effects.

Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR)
The frequency of incidents in a facility as a measurement of the total number of hours worked. It is calculated as follows:

TRIR = # of incidents * 200,000 / # of employee hours worked in a given year

Trade Secrets
An element of process safety management (PSM) compliance that requires companies to share all PSM-related documentation, regardless of whether it contains trade secrets, to employees and their representatives. 

Training Matrix
A detailed document that shows which employees are trained and qualified for specific processes, procedures, and tasks. It is an important document that floor managers, HR members, and safety professionals can use to deep dive incidents and run an operation.


Universal Precautions
The practice of treating all bodily fluids as if they were infected and taking measures to prevent contact with them.

Unrestricted Area
Any area that is freely accessible to workers or visitors. 



Waste Disposal
The proper removal of hazardous waste materials that pose a environmental and public health risk.

Workers’ Compensation
A type of insurance policy that covers expenses related to workplace injuries and illnesses. In most states, businesses are required to provide this type of coverage for their employees. Workers’ compensation covers expenses like medical bills, medications, and lost wages.