The Importance of EHS in Data Centers: Why It Matters More Than Ever

Importance of EHS in Data Centers
  • What are data centers?
  • How do they make such a significant impact on humans and the environment?
  • How is EHS managed in data centers?
  • Do they have different regulations when it comes to EHS?
  • And more.

With everyone talking so much about data centers, these questions are bound to occur and must be answered. 

So let us dig deeper!

Precisely speaking, data centers are essential to the modern world. They house the servers that power our internet, email, and cloud computing services. But data centers also have a significant environmental impact. They consume much energy, generate heat, and use substantial water.

In addition to the environmental impact, data centers pose several health and safety risks to their employees. The high density of equipment in data centers can create a fire hazard, and using hazardous materials, such as lead-acid batteries, can pose a risk to workers’ health.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for data centers to focus on environmental, health, and safety (EHS) issues. Data centers can help protect the planet and those working in them by reducing their environmental impact and improving their health and safety.

In this blog, we will learn more about the environmental impact of data centers and what solutions they must implement to have fool-proof EHS management.

Environmental Impact of Data Centers

Data centers

Data centers are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the global data center industry is responsible for about 2% of all global electricity consumption. This is a significant amount, and it will only grow as more and more people and businesses rely on the internet.

Although data centers are necessary for businesses and the global economy, the electricity they consume is atrociously affecting the environment. These heat-generating data servers need continuous cooling systems. And these cooling systems take up more energy than powering the servers. So burning fossil fuels is a high-time demand for constant energy supply to these data centers.

Data centers require batteries and other minerals that need to be mined. These mines are continuously excavated as the demand and supply chain needs to be balanced. And we all know how tremendously mining activities impact the environment and those working in them. Mining activities in moderation is okay, but when they start exploiting resources, the imbalance and bitter results begin.

Some data centers require diesel generators. This is common in the areas where there is no continuous electricity supply. Again this leads to noise and air pollution and is a cause of depleting sources.

Data centers generate massive amounts of electronic waste. Be it in the form of wires, batteries, and more. If not disposed of correctly, this electronic waste reaches water sources, available dumps, or empty spaces. And this causes tremendous problems for humans and the environment to thrive.

So what are the solutions to the EHS challenges of these data centers? Is there a possibility of greener data centers?

Let us see.

What Can Data Centers Do To Reduce Their Environmental Impact?

Thanks to the awareness brought in by media and humanitarian works, the most prominent companies have and are trying to adopt cleaner and greener ways of running their data centers.

So, basically, there are several things that data centers can do to reduce their environmental impact.

1. Use Efficient Equipment

Data centers can use more efficient equipment to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. From more efficient servers, power supplies, and cooling systems to lighting, everything must work towards reducing the carbon footprint. 

2. Implementing Energy-Saving Measures

Fossil fuels must be substituted for renewable energy. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power do not produce greenhouse gas emissions. By using renewable energy, data centers can offset their greenhouse gas emissions and help to reduce their environmental impact. For example, data centers are trying to use liquid immersion cooling methods instead of electric ones. This can significantly reduce the power consumed by data centers.

3. Implement Data Infrastructure Management Tools

As the world advances toward crypto and AI, data centers will only grow, and so will the consumption of resources. Therefore, data centers must incorporate infrastructure and EHS management tools to measure performance. These tangible results will help to strictly manage the carbon footprint, emissions, and consumptions. 

The EHS management tool will ensure that the safety of the data center is taken care of comprehensively, thus reducing its negative impact on the environment and the employees.

Additionally, data centers can also offset their emissions by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as planting trees.

Now that we have the challenges and solutions to the environmental impact of data centers let us look briefly at how data centers impact the safety of the employees working there. 

Health and Safety Risks in Data Centers

Data centers are not easy places to work. They pose several health and safety risks to their employees. One of the most significant risks is fire. The high-density equipment in data centers can create a fire hazard, and using hazardous materials, such as lead-acid batteries, can pose a risk to workers’ health.

The tremendous heat generated by data centers and the effective power system to cool them off pose many health and safety risks in data centers. Some of them are;

  • Electrical hazards
  • Confined spaces
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Noise pollution
  • Stress

Data Centers and Worker Safety Management

Employee safety is no rocket science. The tiniest safety implementations lead to noticeable results. For example, a digital near-miss management system ensures that no harmful activity or inefficiency takes the form of a damaging accident. 

Similarly, data centers can reduce safety risks by implementing many safety measures, such as:

  • EHS Management Software
  • Fire prevention and suppression systems
  • Hazardous materials management programs
  • Confined space entry procedures
  • Ergonomic design of workstations
  • Noise control measures
  • Stress management programs

We understand that writing the solutions and challenges is far easier than implementing them. Plus, in theory, everything is managed. So is there an example that supports the idea of green data centers? Surprisingly, we have one!

Classic Examples

Case Study: Google’s Data Center in Hamina, Finland

Google’s company’s data center in Hamina, Finland, is a prime example of how data centers can be designed and operated in an environmentally sustainable way.

The Hamina data center is powered by 100% renewable energy. It uses several energy-saving measures, such as heat recovery and water-side economizers. The data center also has a green roof, which helps to insulate the building and reduce its energy consumption.

In addition to its environmental sustainability, the Hamina data center is also a model for health and safety. The data center has several safety features, such as fire prevention and suppression systems, hazardous materials management programs, and confined space entry procedures.

Google’s Hamina data center is a shining example of how data centers can be designed and operated in an environmentally sustainable and safe way. 

Case Study: Digital Edge

Digital Edge builds and operates state-of-the-art, energy-efficient data centers with connectivity options. With offices spread across Jakarta, Osaka, Tokyo, Busan, Seoul, and Manila, and looking forward to extending its wings in India, Digital Edge truly bridges the digital divide in the Asia Pacific region.

Digital Edge automated many time-consuming and manual processes for their EHS programs through ASK EHS’s digital safety system. Some modules included Observation, Near Miss, EHS Reporting, HRA Audits, Inspections, etc. This enabled the safety officers to focus on more strategic initiatives, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Additionally, the safety system provided real-time access to critical safety data, enabling them to identify safety trends, make data-driven decisions, and take proactive measures to prevent incidents before they occur. By identifying safety trends and taking proactive steps to prevent incidents, Digital Edge could reduce the financial impact of safety incidents on its bottom line.

The EHS digital system helped Digital Edge to stay compliant with relevant safety regulations and standards by providing access to required documentation and streamlining compliance processes.

And last but not least, there is minimum or no use of papers to carry out any safety procedures. Thus, Digital Edge effortlessly paves the way for a more effective safety program and a safer workplace.

Conclusion

The above case studies give us confidence that nothing is impossible. We do not have to give up on data centers due to their power consumption or environmental negligence. All we must do is thrive to make them greener and more sustainable. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the worst safety hazards in a data center?

Fire, electrical hazards, extreme cold, and noise create the most safety hazards at a data center.

2. Can we digitalize safety at a data center?

Yes, you can efficiently incorporate a digital EHS management system at a data center for escalated safety.

3. How do data centers impact the environment?

The excessive heat generated by the data centers and the need to keep the data centers cool both increase the carbon footprint significantly.

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