As a responsible employer you want to keep on the right side of the law. But the Health & Safety Executive believes some consultants are conducting unnecessary assessments which can cost a fortune in additional insurance etc. What’s the situation?
Many firms hire experts to conduct an assessment and provide recommendations. This can be costly but worth it for peace of mind. However, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has suggested that some consultancy firms are preying on businesses which don’t know their obligations and have fears about civil liability by unnecessarily charging for work and recommending guidance.
Blue tape is the term used to describe the additional burdens placed on businesses when health and safety obligations are “disproportionate or lead to ineffective risk control and ownership”. For example overspending on insurance, procurements and accreditation to several schemes when only one is needed. In one case a care home was advised to carry out assessments for fork lift trucks!
At a meeting of the HSE board in 2018 the problem was said to be “wide-ranging and large-scale” with third party advisors a “symptom and driver” of blue tape. SMEs were disproportionately affected.
It was found that businesses believe health and safety is too complex to tackle themselves so they turn to third parties. Few businesses ask questions because they believe that taking advice from a health and safety consultant guarantees compliance with the law.
However, the sector has “low barriers to entry” and there is little comeback if you are targeted by cowboys. For example, the HSE found food safety consultants advising on the chemicals used in swimming pools.
In addition, some consultancies are scaring firms into signing up to multi-year contracts, with messages along the lines of: “There’s a word for businesses that don’t take health and safety seriously – liable.” For example, one SME with 20 staff was paying £37,000 over three years.
Whether you’re an employer or self-employed, you are responsible for health and safety in your business. However, what you need to do will depend on the size of your business and the risks. An accountancy firm with ten people will have a lot less to do than a 100-strong manufacturing firm that works with hazardous chemicals.
At spectra, our advisors will never advise that unnecessary work be carried out especially if it doesn’t apply to your industry or sector.
If you have any concerns regarding advice you have been given, please do not hesitate to call our offices to speak to one of our Consultants on 0161 926 8519.