AnchorHandS – Severn Valley Business Group
 

Author: AnchorHandS

AnchorHandS

I have spent over 30 years of my working life in the fire protection industry, where I qualified as a Health & Safety practitioner, and was integral in the company achieving one of the first accreditations to the international health and safety quality standard OHSAS 18001. During this period I also qualified as an Electrical Appliance Tester. In 2007 I decided to go it alone, in order to provide my skills, knowledge and experience to smaller businesses who cannot afford to employ their own Health & Safety personnel. Accordingly I now provide health & safety services to many types of organisations, specialising in carrying out Fire Risk Assessments, Portable Appliance Testing, installation of Health & Safety Management Systems and providing general Health & Safety Advice. For more information about what services we provide please see our website at www.anchorhands.co.uk Thank you for looking at my profile and please remember our heartfelt tag line: Your Safety in Secure Hands

Fireworks Season Approaches

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Firework Display & Safety
Firework displays should be enjoyable and spectacular occasions – but they obviously need some responsible planning. The good news is that there is straightforward guidance to help you.
If you are organising a major public event, you will clearly need a robust and detailed approach to planning as well as professional involvement. If you are holding a local firework display, such as those organised by many sports clubs, schools or parish councils, you still need to plan responsibly, but the same level of detail is not necessary or expected. Below are some tips and guidance to help you.

Before the event:
• Think about who will operate the display. There is no reason why you should not light a display yourselves provided it only contains fireworks in categories 1, 2 and 3. but remember, category 4 fireworks may only be used by professional firework display operators. In untrained hands they can be lethal.
• Consider whether the site is suitable and large enough for your display, including a bonfire if you are having one. Is there space for the fireworks to land well away from spectators? Remember to check in daylight for overhead power lines and other obstructions. What is the direction of the prevailing wind? What would happen if it changed?
• Think about what you would do if things go wrong. Make sure there is someone who will be responsible for calling the emergency services
• Make sure you obtain the fireworks from a reputable supplier.
• If the display is to be provided by a professional firework display operator make sure that you are clear on who does what especially in the event of an emergency
• Ensure you have a suitable place to store the fireworks. Your firework supplier or local authority should be able to advise
• If you plan on selling alcohol the bar should be well away from the display site
On the day of the event:
• Recheck the site, weather conditions and wind direction
• Don’t let anyone into the zone where the fireworks will fall – or let anyone other than the display operator or firing team into the firing zone or the safety zone around it
• Discourage spectators from bringing drink onto the site
• Don’t let spectators bring their own fireworks onto the site
• If you will also have a bonfire at the display then you should:
o Check the structure is sound and does not have small children or animals inside it before lighting it
o Not use petrol or paraffin to light the fire
o Have only one person responsible for lighting the fire. That person, and any helpers, should wear suitable clothing e.g. a substantial outer garment made of wool or other low-flammable material.
o Make sure that the person lighting the fire and any helpers know what to do in the event of a burn injury or clothing catching fire
• Never attempt to relight fireworks. Keep well clear of fireworks that have failed to go off

The morning after:
• Carefully check and clear the site. Dispose of fireworks safely. They should never be burnt in a confined space (eg a boiler)
Additional points to consider if you are organising a major public display
For major displays, particularly those involving category 4 ‘professional’ fireworks or very large number of spectators, a more robust approach is obviously needed.
• Plan and mark out the areas for spectators, firing fireworks (and a safety zone around it) as well as an area where the fireworks will fall
• Think about how people will get into and out of the site. Keep pedestrian and vehicle routes apart if possible. Mark exit routes clearly and ensure they are well lit. Ensure emergency vehicles can get access to the site
• Appoint enough stewards/marshals. Make sure they understand what they are to do on the night and what they should do in the event of an emergency
• Contact the emergency services and local authority. If your site is near an airport you may need to contact them
• Signpost the first aid facilities

Insurance
Although it is not required by health and safety law, if you are holding a public firework display, it’s a good idea to have public liability insurance. Bear in mind that not all companies are used to dealing with this type of event, and as with any other type of insurance, it’s worth shopping around: look for a company that’s used to insuring firework and other public events – you are likely to get much better deal and avoid unsuitable terms and conditions. If you have difficulty with the standard insurance terms, TALK to your insurer and find a way forward; they can be very helpful.

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The following is the Elf ‘n’ Safety take on some of our favourite seasonal songs:
Please note that the following is meant as a bit of seasonal fun, no Health & Safety practitioner would ever act like this and the HSE itself do go to extreme lengths to bust these Elf ‘n’ Safety myths. (Courtesy of Tony)

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir
We will lend a coat of fur
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
We will rock you, rock you, rock you

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to the risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative. Please note; only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh can be considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note; permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year, they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note; the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his/her glory all around she/he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey
Little donkey
Little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards
With your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry. Also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear facemasks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The RSPCA has also expressed discomfort at donkeys being labelled ‘little’ and would prefer they just be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable – as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as ‘cash for gold’ etc., gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipient’s name or perhaps give a gift voucher. We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and recommend the use of the RAC route finder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr. Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels’ hooves.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer?
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw him
You would even say it glows

You are advised that under the ‘Equal Opportunities for All’ policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R. Reindeer from the Reindeer Games shall be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions – including suspension on full pay – will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

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Business Risk

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Business risk comes in five basic parts; however, they are very rarely independent of each other with an event creating risk in more than one category. The point is to identify what the risk is to your business then follow the risk management process, of firstly eliminating the risk, then reducing the effects of the risk and finally protecting yourself against any residual risk.

Below are listed the five elements, which should help to identify those risks that may apply to your business, from there you should be able to Eliminate, Reduce or Protect against that risk. It may help to talk to peers or other business owners, that may have already come across these risks and whose advice may save you time and may also be a source of future work or co-operation.

  1. Strategic Risk

It’s the risk that your company’s strategy becomes less effective and your company struggles to reach its goals as a result. It could be due to technological changes, a powerful new competitor entering the market, shifts in customer demand, spikes in the costs of raw materials, or any number of other large-scale changes.

Failure to adapt to a strategic risk can lead to bankruptcy, facing a strategic risk doesn’t have to be disastrous, however, if you are able to adapt to the new conditions and change your business model, the company can survive the strategic risk.

  1. Compliance Risk

Are you complying with all the necessary laws and regulations that apply to your business?

Of course you are (I hope!). But laws change all the time, and there’s always a risk that you’ll face additional regulations in the future. As your own business expands, you might find yourself needing to comply with new rules that didn’t apply to you before.

Finally, even if your business remains unchanged, you could get hit with new rules at any time. Perhaps a new data protection rule requires you to beef up your website’s security, for example, or employee safety regulations mean you need to invest in new, safer equipment in your factory, or perhaps you’ve unwittingly been breaking a rule, and have to pay a fine. All of these things involve costs, and present a compliance risk to your business.

  1. Operational Risk

Operational risk refers to an unexpected failure in your company’s day-to-day operations. It could be a technical failure, like a server outage, or it could be caused by your people or processes.

In some cases, operational risk has more than one cause. For example, consider the risk that one of your employees writes the wrong amount on a check, paying out £100,000 instead of £10,000 from your account.

That’s a “people” failure, but also a “process” failure. It could have been prevented by having a more secure payment process, for example having a second member of staff authorize every major payment, or using an electronic system that would flag unusual amounts for review.

In some cases, operational risk can also stem from events outside your control, such as a natural disaster, or a power cut, or a problem with your website host.  Anything that interrupts your company’s core operations comes under the category of operational risk.

While the events themselves can seem quite small compared with the large strategic risks we talked about earlier, operational risks can still have a big impact on your company. Not only is there the cost of fixing the problem, but operational issues can also prevent customer orders from being delivered or make it impossible to contact you, resulting in a loss of revenue and damage to your reputation.

  1. Financial Risk

Most categories of risk have a financial impact, in terms of extra costs or lost revenue, but the category of financial risk refers specifically to the money flowing in and out of your business, and the possibility of a sudden financial loss.

For example, let’s say that a large proportion of your revenue comes from a single large client, and you extend 60 days’ credit to that client, in that case, you have a significant financial risk. If that customer is unable to pay, or delays payment for whatever reason, then your business is in big trouble.

Having a lot of debt also increases your financial risk, particularly if a lot of it is short-term debt that’s due in the near future and what if interest rates suddenly go up, and instead of paying 8% on the loan, you’re now paying 15%? That’s a big extra cost for your business, and so it’s counted as a financial risk.

Financial risk is increased when you do business internationally, exchange rates are always fluctuating, meaning that the amount the company receives in GBP will change. The company could make more sales next month, for example, but receive less money. That’s a big financial risk to take into account.

  1. Reputational Risk

There are many different kinds of business, but they all have one thing in common: no matter which industry you’re in, your reputation is everything.

If your reputation is damaged, you’ll see an immediate loss of revenue, as customers become wary of doing business with you, but there are other effects as well. Your employees may get demoralised and even decide to leave. You may find it hard to hire good replacements, as potential candidates have heard about your bad reputation and don’t want to join your firm. Suppliers may start to offer you less favourable terms. Advertisers, sponsors or other partners may decide that they no longer want to be associated with you.

Reputational risk can take the form of a major lawsuit, an embarrassing product recall, negative publicity about you or your staff, or high-profile criticism of your products or services and these days, it doesn’t even take a major event to cause reputational damage; it could be a slow death by a thousand negative tweets and online product reviews.

Conclusion

In conclusion it’s important to identify the risk, however it manifests itself, at which point you need to adapt your process or systems to enhance your risk protection, by adapting or diversifying you should be able to keep major risk at arm’s length, but don’t be complacent, you must keep your eyes open at all times for anything that may cause harm to your business and be ready to react as soon as possible, not all risks exist at this moment in time, they may appear tomorrow.

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Getting Paid (My View)

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We’re all in business to help others, provide services or goods, be the best in our field and for many other reasons, but at the end of the day we still have to pay our bills, thus we need to make a profit and to help us do this, we need to get paid.

There is no one solution to getting paid that fits all kind of businesses, however some of the points below, may in part or in combination, create a scenario where we at least have a fighting chance.

Firstly let’s be clear on the mechanics of getting paid, there are four basic ways of receiving monetary remuneration (i.e. we’ll exclude all forms of bartering):

The Cheque: This requires either a leap of faith from the customer or the vendor, in as much as goods / services are handed over in exchange for a cheque that then needs to clear, or the goods / services are withheld until funds are cleared, then the customer has to have the faith that the vendor will fulfil his commitment.

Plastic (including the likes of PayPal): Here payment is instant and the customer has an array of guarantees on top of their statutory rights, however there may be charges associated with this transaction, which can either be passed on to the customer or absorbed by the vendor.

Bank Transfer: With this system the customer can arrange to transfer money directly from their accounts into yours, this is clean and quick, usually doesn’t take long to clear those funds and doesn’t usually attract any charges.

Cash: We all know about cash and is usually used where goods are exchanged directly to the customer, assuming that you haven’t been paid with forged currency, then you know that you have been paid, the only downside is the vendor now needs to make a trip to the bank or buy a bigger mattress.

For most businesses one of the above will be more suitable than the others, or a combination of them (i.e. cash and credit card is common amongst retailers) but this is where the solution of the mechanics of getting paid is down to the business you are running.

Secondly there are three ways of being paid, which again depending on the business you run, will have a preference as to how you make this happen:

Payment in advance: This is where the customers pay for the goods or services prior to getting them, we touched on the cheque earlier, this would be cleared prior to the goods being dispatched, but could also cover services in as much as a retainer could be charged for future events (servicing, professional services etc.)

Payment at point of sale: No matter what the mechanics of payment are, there is an exchange of funds for goods or services at that specific event (mainly used by retail outlets, but can equally be applied to services if required)

Credit: This is where the goods or services are supplied in advance, then payment should follow according to the conditions that have been laid down for payment (this is mainly used where a credit facility is offered to the customer, in order to allow for deferral of the payment and is mainly used in the service industry)

No matter what method of payment you adopt, payment in advance or at point of sale will not give any problems with getting paid, however the main issue is with credit, in that the vendor will always have to trust that the customer will fulfil his part of the agreement and make payment when due.

It’s apparent that the main problem to getting paid is where we allow credit facilities, accordingly this is where we need to put certain processes in place in order to limit our exposure to this problem and prevent the reasons for non-payment.

Let’s be absolutely clear as to what the transaction is and what are the goods or services on offer?

We must make it clear as to what is being offered, a vague reference to “widgets” is not good enough; how big are they, what colour, which model, what is the end product. In other words there can be no argument as to what ends up being supplied, make sure that this is written down and that both parties have access to this.

How much will the goods or service on offer actually be? Saying it’ll cost about £XXX will not do, give a price for the complete service, or break it down into its components or give a price per item (whether this be product or time) whichever way you split the costs, make them clear, including the currency in which you want to be paid.

Make clear as to whether or not there may be discounts available, for additional services or for supplying larger quantities, but be specific as to how these discounts will be applied.

Are there any optional extras to be had? This is the point that can be used to upsell, if the products or services can come with “bells and whistles” then say so and how much these variations will cost. By giving this information in advance it will avoid confusion later on, especially when it comes to the value of the final value.

What are the terms of payment for this arrangement, 7 days, 14 days, 28 days or nett monthly, whichever you chose to give your customer make it clear, never say from receipt of invoice as you do not have control on when this is recognised (unless you use registered post etc.) but better from date of invoice. Avoid nett monthly as this could lead to 60 days of credit, which is not good for cash flow.

Make it clear as to how you want to get paid, Cash. Cheque, Plastic or Bank transfer, for example a bank transfer is instant, a cheque will delay payment for a few more days depending on when it is issued and the working arrangements of your bank

The above constitutes an offer or quotation, this does not mean that you proceed, but you should await an instruction of some form that refers directly to this, at this point confirm the instruction giving any additional information, such as confirming attendance dates, delivery dates or specifications.

Once the goods or services have been supplied, then issue your invoice, which must reflect exactly what was in the accepted quotation or any agreed variations to this, make sure it is dated (tax point), when payment is due (payment terms), detailed value of the transaction, how payment should be paid, any references that the customer has asked for (order number) in other words don’t allow any confusion or space for questions.

The problem arises when the above is still not adhered to and payment is not received on time, in which case you should follow these steps:

Chase your payment at a fixed time after the due date (this may depend upon you relationship with the customer) make sure that this is polite, as they may be having problems and an offer of help will be received better than a threat.

If payment is still not received, then chase again at a set time after the first chase, include a copy of the first one, still be polite but request that payment be made without any further delay

At a set point after the second chase, a third chase will be required, again include a copy of the previous two, but insist that as the previous ones have not been actioned, that immediate settlement of the account be made.

If these chases do not have the desired effect, then it’s time to bring in the solicitors, start by getting them to issue a “7 day letter”, receiving a letter from a solicitor usually has the effect of getting a result and is not costly.

If this fails then you will have the right to seek judgement against the debtor, the costs of which will be added to the debt as well as interest on the debt, failure to meet any judgement will allow you to take one of the following actions:

Seek a warrant of execution: whereby you can get bailiffs or the sheriff to seize goods to cover the debt

Get an attachment of earnings: where you can get a sum of money taken from the debtors pay at regular intervals until the debt is cleared

Take out a third party debt order: this will allow the debtors accounts to be frozen until the debt is cleared

Take out a charging order: whereby you are allowed to register a legal charge against any properties owned by the debtor

All of this assumes that the debtor is able to pay, should you believe that this may not be the case, then a judgement call needs to be made as to whether to pursue any action or cut your losses. In addition to the above you could apply for a statutory demand (this really should only be pursued when you know the debtor has sufficient funds, but is deliberately withholding them) whereby after 21 days you could start winding up proceedings, but don’t forget our friends at HMRC and the banks will get first dip into any pot.

The main point of the above is you must have a procedure in place to deal with debtors and stick to it, there is no room for sentiment when you have a mortgage to pay, but the most important thing is make sure that everything is in “black and white”.

 

 

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Accidents & Ill Health; It pays to know the facts

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Man system 2

Each year employee accidents and ill-health cost British employers an estimated £3.9 billion to £7.8 billion, of which £910 million to £3,710 million comes from accidental damage to property and equipment.

It’s often assumed that insurance will cover any financial losses. But policies generally fall short when it comes to costs involved in the general day to day running of a business. The shortfall can be startling:
• Uninsured losses are ten times the cost of insurance premiums paid. (Source: HSE)
• Uninsured losses from accidents in smaller firms add up to £315 per employee, per year. (Source: Norwich Union Risk Services)

Other cost implications that are often overlooked include:
• Dealing with the incident – Immediate action means downtime for the injured person and anyone assisting. Time spent administering first aid treatment, a hospital referral or home rest, all result in downtime. Making the area safe and making machinery serviceable are more costs for which the business is accountable.
• Investigation of the incident – Time spent reporting the incident, holding meetings to discuss it and investigating it internally are the first step. Then time spent with an HSE, or Local Authority inspector and external consultants’ fees to assist with the investigation can rapidly accumulate into hidden costs.
• Getting back to business – Rescheduling work, recovering production, repairing damage and cleaning the site are inconveniences which slow production and reduce efficiency. Hiring replacement tools, people and equipment might also be required.
• Business costs – Absentee costs are deceptive. Besides the salary of the injured worker, a combination of replacement staff salaries, lost time, reduced productivity and quality add to escalating costs. Training new or temporary staff, overtime and contract.
• Increased insurance costs – higher premiums following an incident, cost associated with conditions being applied in order to gain cover.

It pays to fulfill your legal obligations with regard to Health & Safety, this way you reduce the chances of having a claim refused and all the additional costs listed above, which will probably include the cost of fulfilling those obligations in the first place. So why pay twice?

For assistance contact us at www.anchorhands.co.uk

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