Health and safety is often portrayed in a negative light, bearing the brunt of pedantic jokes. However, when it goes wrong, the impact on businesses can be catastrophic and all good humour is quickly forgotten. For this reason alone, ensuring health and safety is at the top of a company’s agenda is imperative. Larger firms are often considered to be better equipped to ensure all regulations are being met as they are likely to have the financial resources to do so, leaving smaller companies feeling like they’ve fallen short.
The work of compliance is a minefield, with new and updated regulations constantly coming into effect and regularly causing a headache for businesses, especially smaller firms that don’t have the capacity or budget to employ a dedicated employee to manage health and safety. With this in mind the benefits to be gained from outsourcing to experts are immense.
The cost of employing a qualified expert in the health and safety field is prohibitive for small businesses, what’s more there is unlikely to be enough work to occupy or justify the employment of such an experienced professional on a full-time basis until the business expands. These are commonly the reasons why SMEs tend to place health and safety on the back burner.
To add further difficulty, there are numerous legal requirements that businesses have to meet in order to employ an in- house expert to manage a company’s health and safety, such as the need for sufficient training, experience and knowledge of the industry. The cost of sending an existing employee on a suitable training course to reach this level of expertise is unlikely to appeal to a small business as the expenditures would be both costly and timely.
A viable option
Outsourcing health and safety, therefore, quickly becomes a more viable option, helping SMEs to diminish the financial issues of hiring an in-house expert, and greatly reducing operating expenses by providing instant, 24/7 advice on all health and safety regulations. A competent consultancy can also offer full access to a collective pool of expertise from a team of qualified professionals at a touch of a button. Other services that should be expected include routine visits and the completion of policies and other important documents that would otherwise have to be written in-house.
What’s more, in order to maintain legal compliance, employers are required to ensure all employees are equipped with the appropriate level of knowledge and skills to carry out their roles safely and responsibly. A health and safety specialist consultancy will be able to offer bespoke training courses, guaranteed to be hosted by experts covering a selection of specific topics to ensure legal requirements are met.
As health and safety should be interwoven through a company’s everyday work activities instead of being seen as a separate commodity, it’s vital the consultants hired for the job tailor their programme specifically to the business at hand. Services including risk assessments, policy and procedures, strategic reviews and liability assessment all need to be created with an immense understanding of the company and the services it offers: a ‘one size fits all’ solution just won’t work.
The right time to outsource health and safety
One of the key challenges for SMEs is recognising when the time is right to outsource, or even whether their business would actually benefit from a consultancy. However, there are five key questions that will help determine whether outsourcing is valuable. These include:
- Do you employ a competent person who enables you to meet the current health and safety requirements?
- Do you have a written health and safety policy statement setting out your company’s approach to ensure the safety of your employees and others who may be affected by your business? (Applies to companies with five employees or more)
- Has your company carried out suitable and sufficient risk assessments in relation to all significant sources of harm (hazards) arising from its activities, and recorded the results where more than five persons are employed?
- Does your company have arrangements in place to report accidental injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) and keep records?
- Has your company assessed the capabilities and training needs of all employees with regard to health and safety and provided adequate health and safety training?
- If a company answers no to any of the above, it indicates that they may not be fully legally compliant and outsourcing could be hugely beneficial and the next logical step.
It’s paramount that health and safety is considered a key area within a company and isn’t taken lightly or seen as an optional expenditure. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places general health and safety duties on the employer and the consequences of not complying with regulations can be devastating, so it’s crucial businesses, including SMEs, cover themselves.
Zoe Evans is HSE director at Alcumus.
Further reading on health and safety
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