How to choose a good Health & Safety Consultant
In the UK employers have a legal duty to appoint one or more competent persons to help with their health and safety arrangements (Regulation 7 management of Health & safety at Work Regulations 1999). Unfortunately, the term “competent” has not been clearly defined in law and this makes it very difficult to determine whether the health & safety advisor is suitable, and this uncertainty is even more complex when the employer is looking to outsource the activity to a specialist consultant.
Having been a health and safety tutor and certification auditor for many years I have observed both good and bad (even terrible) consultants, and whilst most consultants provide a good level of service, there are the few who are inadequate in their risk assessment and risk control practice. This leaves the employer vulnerable to unsafe situations which could result in injury, ill health or prosecution, and in recent years there have been prosecutions of both the employer and the errant consultant.
These simple questions are designed to help select a suitable health and safety consultant and hopefully also identify the unsuitable ones.
Is this consultant competent?
Do they have the right blend of experience, skills, knowledge and qualifications? This question really is as simple as it looks, just ask, and request copies of their qualifications and accreditations. Ask about previous clients who may be willing to provide references and if a consultant cannot provide evidence of necessary accreditation or qualifications ask for further evidence of their competence.
IOSH recommends that consultants should be chartered with CMIOSH, CFIOSH or equivalent qualifications and the HSE recommends that businesses should use consultants registered on the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSCHR). Specific qualifications may also be necessary for certain activities.
Is the consultant adequately insured?
Ask for their certificate of insurance which should include their Professional Indemnity which provides cover for civil liability arising out of their professional conduct.
Does the consultant have adequate resources to meet your needs regarding location, time and duration of the work?
It may be useful to determine the resilience of your consultant regarding their availability, staffing numbers and ability to cover the relevant locations.
Does the consultant understand your needs, and have a rational proposal?
Ensure that the consultant if offering a service that will address your requirements, be wary of generic products, unless you are sure that they are compatible with your circumstances.
Does the consultant have a suitable system of work?
Ask to see their risk assessments and method statements for their consulting activities. Request details regarding any sub-contracted services and establish timeframes regarding investigations and reports. It would also be beneficial if they can show evidence of a quality management system or demonstrate that any investigation methodology is consistent with validated techniques.
Is their cost reasonable?
There is price comparison data available on the web, but costs will vary according to the specific health and safety issues. There is often a compromise to be made with costs, however ensure that the costs still allow for an appropriate level of service.
It is worth noting that in 2017 (to date) three consultants have been prosecuted by the HSE and received either fines or community service, and in previous years there have been prosecutions for failures so severe, that they have resulted in jail terms.
It may be difficult to choose between the good health and safety consultant and the good salesperson, but these few basic questions may help you identify the consultant to avoid.
The consultant can provide certification to show relevant qualifications and accreditations, and has CMIOSH, CFIOSH or OSCHR registration or equivalent.
They have experience of the activity and can provide references.
The consultant can demonstrate sufficient resource to service your business regarding the time, duration and location of the activity.
The consultant can provide evidence of insurance including professional indemnity and liability.
System of Work
The consultant can provide necessary risk assessments and method statements for their activities, and can demonstrate that their methodology is consistent with validated techniques.
The quotation indicates activities which will address your needs, and reflects your understanding of the issue.