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Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH)

ALCL 178
Alternate Definition
  • Environment. Air, water, land, living things, built infrastructure, cultural resources, and the interrelationships that exist among them. (Reference: DoDD 4715.1E Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH), Para E1.1.2.). Alternate definition: The aggregate of all external and internal conditions (such as temperature, humidity, radiation, magnetic and electrical fields, shock, vibration, etc.), whether natural, manmade, or self-induced, that influences the form, fit, or function of an item. (Reference MIL-HDBK-338B Electronic Reliability Design Handbook)
  • Safety. The programs, risk management activities, and organizational and cultural values dedicated to preventing injuries and accidental loss of human and material resources, and to protecting the environment from the damaging effects of DoD mishaps. (Reference: DoDD 4715.1E Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH), Para E1.1.14.)
  • Occupational Health. Activities directed toward anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of potential occupational and environmental health hazards; preventing injuries and illness of personnel during operations; and accomplishment of mission at acceptable levels of risk. (Reference: DoDD 4715.1E Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH), Para E1.1.12.)
  • ESOH Management. Sustaining the readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces by cost effectively maintaining all installation assets through promotion of safety, protection of human health, and protection and restoration of the environment. (Reference: DoDD 4715.1E Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH), Para E1.1.6.)
General Information

The Environmental Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) framework embedded throughout DoD today was a response to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (also known as Public Law 91-596), that was signed into law December, 1970. This Act is referred to as the Williams-Steiger or Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. It established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a part of the Department of Labor, which is responsible for administering the OSH Act. OSHA’s responsibilities are to ensure safe and healthy working conditions by establishing standards and providing helpful services, including training, outreach, education, and compliance assistance. Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace by:

  • Encouraging employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards
  • Implementing or improving existing safety and health programs
  • Establishing rights of employers and employees regarding improvement of workplace safety and health
  • Monitoring job-related illnesses and injuries through a system of reporting and recordkeeping
  • Establishing training programs to increase the number of safety and health professionals and to continually improve their competence
  • Establishing and enforcing workplace safety and health standards

These are all familiar themes within the ESOH framework.

Section 19 (Federal Agency Safety Programs and Responsibilities) of the OSH Act broadens the mandate application to all federal government agencies; however, OSHA’s authority and jurisdiction over the U.S. military is limited. Presidential Executive Order (EO) 12196, Occupational Safety and Health Programs for Federal Agencies, issued in February 1980, applies to all agencies of the executive branch, except military personnel and uniquely military equipment, systems, and operations. The term “uniquely military equipment, systems and operations" excludes from the scope of the order the design of Department of Defense (DoD) equipment and systems that are unique to the national defense mission, such as military aircraft, ships, submarines, missiles and missile sites, early warning systems, military space systems, artillery, tanks and tactical vehicles, and also excludes operations that are uniquely military such as field maneuvers, naval operations, military flight operations, associated research test and development activities, and actions required under emergency conditions.

Simply put, OSHA does not automatically govern the health and safety of uniformed personnel working on uniquely military operations and activities; however, OSHA’s regulations do apply when military activities are not uniquely military, i.e., when those workplaces and operations are comparable to those of private sector industries such as vessel, aircraft and vehicle repair, overhaul, and modification (except for equipment trials); construction; supply services; civil engineering or public works; medical services; and office work.

EO 12196 specifically charges the head of each federal agency to establish and maintain an effective and comprehensive occupational safety and health program which is consistent (or better) with the standards promulgated in Chapter 6 of the OSH Act of 1970 (the standards set by OSHA for private sector employees); hence the existence of the ESOH framework within DoD.  Additionally, DoD has established policies and procedures for occupational safety and health that incorporate OSHA and other Federal Agency requirements and include DoD-specific Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) requirements in cases where DoD has determined that Federal Agency standards are insufficient to manage risk, and included those in the ESOH framework. Finally, DoD Components develop and conduct employee training to ensure the workforce understands roles and responsibilities in protecting themselves and fellow workers in the workplace.

Army Regulation 385-10, The Army Safety Program, spells out policy and procedures to safeguard and preserve Army resources.

Air Force Instruction 91-202, The US Air Force Mishap Prevention Program The US Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, explains that “the purpose of the Air Force Mishap Prevention Program is to minimize the loss of Air Force resources and protect Air Force personnel from death, injuries or occupational illnesses by managing risks on and off-duty.”

The Navy uses OPNAV M-5100.23, Navy Safety and Occupational Health Manual, for this purpose, and MCO 5100.29C, Marine Corps Safety Management System, addresses the Marine Corps approach.

For additional information, consult the DoD Environment, Safety & Occupational Health Network and Information Exchange (DENIX) website. DENIX is a collaborative cloud platform used to share and report ESOH information with the public and DoD communities, serving as DoD's platform for Installations, Energy, Environment, Safety & Occupational Health Information.

Additional resources include the "Sustainable Procurement" webinar in the Summer Law Series; the "Operational Energy" webinar in the Aware Acquisitions Culture series; and the "ESOH Plan" Data Item Description to understand required elements of an ESOH plan if included in a contract.

From a Life Cycle Logistics perspective, Safety and Occupational Health Plan Development and Management are activities in the Design Interface Integrated Product Support (IPS) Element listed in Appendix A of the DoD Product Support Manager's Guidebook and section 2 of the Integrated Product Support Elements Guidebook. Additionally, “evaluate results of Environmental, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH) analyses to influence product support package development” is one of the Design Interface IPS Element-based competencies identified in the DoD Life Cycle Logistics (LCL) Tier 2 Technical Competency Model.