HEALTH AND SAFETY IN YOUR WORKPLACE
What does an organisation do to ensure compliance with Health and Safety in the workplace?
- Have a go at certain H&S requirements?
- Train up staff?
- Do nothing?
- Employ someone?
- Instruct a specialist H&S consultant?
As a H&S and HR practitioner every day I come across organisations that are petrified of H&S. Some choose to do something about it, others choose to ignore it which, from my experience is a very foolish thing to do.
There is a lot of scaremongering within the H&S professional and sometimes I find it difficult to tell people what I do without them sighing or raising an eyebrow. That is until I explain that the way I approach Health and Safety ensures that businesses are compliant with the required legislation BUT I also ensure they have complete input and their views are relevant to ensure the business can continue to be run commercially.
In many areas of health and safety common sense prevails and a ‘competent person’ within the organisation could probably deal with the basics. Such examples include organising relevant insurance is in place; basic risk assessments; health and safety inductions for new staff; allocating a Fire Assembly Point and undertaking regular fire drills. Therefore, having a go is a good start but I would always recommend speaking to an “expert” or reading up on the HSE website.
Training up staff is a good option but please ensure that your employment contracts are watertight as if you spend lots of money on training up your staff and they leave without anything in place to protect your investment, this could be a very costly exercise.
To do nothing would be a very foolish thing to do. You only have to read the latest story in the local rag about a company who faces prosecution to realise that this option really is business suicide and very silly.
Employing somebody to undertake Health and Safety is not a bad option although you would have to be able to justify that:
- there was enough work?
- could they assist in other areas such as HR in the organisation?
This worked for me in my last employment where I was responsible for H&S; HR and the Estate Management of the site but I couldn’t have justified spending 37.5 hours a week on H&S alone (this greatly depends on the size of the organisation and the company resources).
Unless you have an in house H&S expert, it is very probable that you would need to instruct external specialist help for matters such as PAT inspections; fire extinguishers; writing policies and procedures; Method Statements; undertaking Fire Risk Assessments /complex Risk Assessments and COSHH Assessments.
If you choose to go down this route then some of the key things to consider are:-
- Do they have practical experience within the industry?
- Are they a member of a professional body?
- Do they have relevant insurance to carry out such advice?
- Do they have formal qualifications?
- Can they explain to you why they are competent to advise on such matters?
- Ensure you shop around to get the best price and expertise?
- Are they able to give references from other clients?
Whichever way you choose to deal with H&S in your organisation, I would strongly recommend that you do something instead of nothing. See what skills you have in house and only then if you do not have the skills to hand, either outsource or employ someone to assist in H&S.
Putting such measure in place could also benefit your organisation and reduce your yearly insurance premiums. However, if you do not put anything in place this may revoke any insurance policy you have.
Be smart, be safe and make sure the decision you make is cost effective and ensures your company is compliant with current H&S requirements.
Karen Owen-Smith, H&S/HR Consultant with OSM Consultants Limited. Karen@osmconsultants.co.uk / 0844 811 7050