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Health & Safety Management Systems – Why Bother?

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When someone uses the phrase “management system” it conjures up an image of an office full of clerks, busy filling in endless reams of paper, without anyone actually knowing what the end result is. This does not need to be the way, especially when it comes to health and safety, the object of the exercise is to have a system that works for your needs, one that not only gives you results but also achieves its objectives of keeping you and everyone else safe. 

A health and safety management system can be as simple as a one page set of tick boxes, to make sure you haven’t forgotten something important, right up to an OHSAS 18001 system which not only controls everything you do with health and safety, but can be audited to an international standard as well as demonstrating that you are working to best practice. The important thing is that the system should do what you want or need it to do, it should not create procedures for the sake of it and should be clear in its results and observations.  

Given that a health and safety management system can be simple, certainly shouldn’t be excessive and will produce clear results, what will we gain from having one and how much is it going to cost? There are some very simple answers to these questions:

 What will we gain? 

A safer working environment, Less absenteeism, Increased production, Happier workforce,  Customer recognition, Peer recognition, Mitigation against legal costs, Defence against legislation breeches, Lower insurance costs &  Access to additional work opportunities.  

How much will it cost? 

Debit:  

Producing the system, Necessary capital expenditure (guarding etc), Training costs of personnel,  Monitoring & auditing

  Credit: 

Less absenteeism, Increased production, Lower legal costs, Lower insurance costs, Mitigation against fines and claims, Maintenance of company reputation, Increased tendering opportunity

 

Taking all of the above, together with many more benefits, it can be seen that the reasons we bother are simple, a well produced health and safety management system will help you keep all around you safe thus avoiding absenteeism, lost production and legal claims against you, it will help you comply with current legislation avoiding legal costs, it will demonstrate to customers and your peers, that you are a company they would like to do business with, it can help keep your insurance costs down, maybe even reducing them and it could provide the conditions that will allow you to access many other tendering opportunities.

 So, why bother? 

Increased profitability

 Increased reputation and profile 

 Happier, more productive workforce

Increased work opportunities

Legal compliance

Because it’s the right thing to do!

 If you would like to know more about how effective a health and safety management system can be or to discuss any other matters relating to health and safety, then please contact us via our website at www.anchorhands.co.uk

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Risk and your business

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Here we will be looking at the physical risks that need to be accounted for within any business planning, but hopefully will cover the general areas necessary to give you an idea of what to look out for.

Before we move on let’s be clear what we are talking about.

   What is Risk?                                           

“Risk is the likelihood of a body or event to cause harm.”

This should not be  confused with Hazard.         

 What is Hazard?            

“Hazard is the ability of a body or event to cause harm.”

From this we can see that in order to reduce the risks to our businesses we need to remove, reduce or protect against the hazards we come across. The way we do this is by carrying out a Risk Assessment

 There are five steps to carrying out any risk assessment.

 Step 1: Identify and record the hazards that are present, these fall broadly into five categories

Physical: such as pressure, heat, damp, noise, radiation and electricity

Chemical: such as dusts, fumes, chemicals, toxic materials and gases

Biological: such as infections, viruses and contagions

Ergonomic: work conditions, stress, RSI and man-machine interaction

The fifth one we’ll come back to as it’s covered under specific legislation

 Step 2: Identify the people that may be affected by the hazard

Paying particular attention to those groups that may be especially vulnerable such as the elderly, blind, young and disabled.

At this point it is possible to rank the severity of the risk, giving it a more tangible identity

 Step 3: Remove, reduce the severity or Protect against, the Hazard.

The preference here is always to remove the hazard completely (rearrange items to avoid trips and impacts), if this cannot be done then reduce the severity of the hazard (use low voltage equipment or less aggressive chemicals) and as a last resort protect against the hazard (provide warnings or personal protective equipment).

Once again assuming that all the measures have been put into place, it will be possible to rank the severity of the residual risks. You can then establish whether the remaining risks are acceptable or if they need further action.

 Step 4: Record, Plan, Inform and Train            

Record the significant findings from steps 1 to 3 and what actions have or need to be taken as a result.

Prepare any plans or procedures that may be required in order to facilitate the actions

Inform and instruct all relevant people, co-operate with all concerned.

Provide any necessary training that may be required as a result of the assessment.

 Step 5: Review

Having carried out the assessments they must be kept relevant, which means that they should be reviewed on a regular basis or when conditions change (such as work practices, new technology, legislation or results of monitoring)

Remember any revisions to the assessments must be communicated to those that need to know the results of those revisions.

 Why have we gone to the trouble of doing these risk assessments and putting whatever precautions in place, is it because of our genuine concern for our fellow workers safety, is it because it makes financial sense to do it or is it our legal duty?

 The answer is all of the above!

 From a humanitarian and moral point of view, we do not want to cause or allow to be caused, harm to anybody

  1. Research shows that investing in risk reduction leads to better company performance.
  2. A good working environment is good business.
  3. Staff feel that they are valued.
  4. Your customers see a company that does it right and cares.
  5. You avoid costs associated with disruption, sickness, investigation, down time, compensation claims, increased insurance premiums and loss of goodwill
  6. And for those companies that cannot see the benefit, there are legal requirements, with quite hefty penalties for non compliance

 Remember under step 1 of the risk assessment we said there was a fifth hazard, which was covered under its own legislation, this is Fire!

 Potentially this one can be the most destructive, obviously to your staff, the public and visitors, but also to a business and as such should be carried out by a competent person.

 If your stock and premises are all destroyed, how are you going to trade?

 This is why in March 2006 the “Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005” came into force, making it the responsibility of all owners or occupiers of commercial properties, to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment of those premises and put into action any necessary precautions and planning, specific to those risks.

 For the purpose of the legislation “Commercial” means anything non-domestic, so that includes churches, schools, libraries etc. In fact only military and some government buildings are exempt.

 When we carry out our Fire Risk Assessment it’s worth remembering how fire works, for this we use the fire triangle.

  Fire needs 3 elements to exist firstly Fuel (flammable gases, flammable liquids or flammable solids. Secondly Oxygen (The air around us, oxidizing agents and stored oxygen) and finally Ignition (Naked flame, faulty electrical appliances, hot processes and hot machinery)… Remove any one of these and the fire goes out.

 We have seen that there are many types of hazards and therefore risks, surrounding our businesses, it is essential then that we Eliminate these risks, if we cannot do this, then we should Reduce the effect of them, and finally Protect against any residual risk.

 Remember none of this will work if we do not communicate your findings and plans to those who may be affected.

 This way our businesses should be safe environments in which to work, be protected from the disruption and costs that incidents can bring and demonstrate to others that we are responsible and considerate business people.

All of this has to be a cost effective  benefit to all of our businesses, a benefit which you can take to the bank!

 

If you would like more information, then please contact us via www.anchorhands.co.uk

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Beware the small print – or do you even read it?

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Blog articles are usually representative of what is currently on the radar with our clients and this one is no different – How many people actually read the small print?

The issue seems to be more prevalent at the moment as the relationships between lenders and their borrowers seem to turn sour faster than ever.  Realistically however the relationship has probably been going the wrong way for quite a while, and it is like your car, ignore those niggling sounds and one day something will let go and it’s the AA to the rescue.

It is when things don’t work with lending arrangements that lenders are relying even more on some of the things they were less concerned with in the past.  Three principle areas come to mind:

  • Financial covenants associated with a loan
  • Personal guarantees
  • All Monies clauses

Let’s look at the first one – Many commercial (as opposed to Buy to Let – B2L) mortgages and borrowing facilities have covenants relating to loan serviceability, tenancies, loan to value and the production of timely Management Information (MI) lost in the pages of conditions associated with the facility.  When times are good lenders often overlook these, with markets tighter than they were and a lot of valuations being lower than when the money was taken in the first place, these are now being vigorously enforced.

We are getting new clients coming to us because their own bank want them to reduce their borrowing because the property has down valued, but I hear some say, how do they know, well the concept of desktop valuations have always been there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ask the original valuer for their comments on your property even though you think they have never been back.

Others are now finding that MI they haven’t been providing is now being chased, and if a business is on top of things it should have them anyway, so sometimes a blessing in disguise, but the retained profits (or lack of) in your business could worry some lenders.

Changed the tenancy? Maybe your borrower should have been told, some B2L lenders are now insisting they are advised at every change of tenancy, and that could be every 6 months in some cases.

What about the second area – Personal Guarantees (PG’s) – If you run a limited company expect to give them, it is rare unless the directors of the company don’t own enough shares to control the business, that you will get away without providing them, and to be fair it is an acknowledgement on the director’s part that they are prepared to support the borrowing in the first place because it is usually the lender who has put more into the project than the borrower.  In the runaway ‘noughties’ PG’s were rarely considered as a risk indeed a lot of folk signed them without getting the independent advice that they should have done prior to giving them.

When the facility goes wrong, the lender can and do call their money in, so be wary of facilities that have an end date on them (how many developers do we know who have built their developments out and can’t sell or refinance them?), or covenants that could cause the dreaded ‘Event of Default’ and allow them to repossess or appoint a Law of Property Act receiver to collect the rents, because when they do and ultimately crystallise the amount of the debt, they will be coming to the Guarantors for the inevitable shortfall.

Finally, what’s an ‘All Monies Clause’ – simply put somewhere in the depths of the mortgage small print most lenders include this short bit of wording linking ALL debts and liabilities across the lenders various arms in the event of a default, and it can collapse a perfectly well functioning facility if another part of the associated facilities go wrong.  So whilst this is just an example, if you have your mortgage with a bank on your business or commercial premises, a series of B2L loans with that bank’s subsidiaries, and overdraft and maybe even a credit card with the same group and one goes wrong, it can cause an event of default with them all.  As we say avoid as much as you can putting all your eggs, both personal and business, into one basket because the chances are you will never fully be in control of that basket’s handles.

So, all I would say is look at the small print, it may not go away if it is a condition of a loan, just understand what you are signing up for and what will be the implications if you can’t adhere to them – You might lose the lot!

If your business is in this situation or you know of one to which this applies, do get in touch and we will do our best to help them

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