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James Clayton, founder of EHS, the environment, health and safety marketplace gives some insider tips on how to unearth the most competent health and safety professionals.

All UK employers must have someone competent to help them meet their health and safety duties; it’s the law! In this article we are going to look at what this means in practice and the options available to you.

First, let’s consider competency, which is fundamental to managing risks sensibly.

In general, being competent is having:

• relevant knowledge, skills and experience

• the ability to apply these appropriately, while recognising the limits of your competence

• the necessary training

In deciding whether you, or your business, meet the legal requirements you must consider whether an employee, or employees, have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage all the health and safety issues that are relevant to your business.

If you are not confident of your ability to manage all aspects of health and safety in-house you may need some external help or advice, particularly on more detailed or technical issues. This is often referred to as specialist help.

There are a number of different sources of advice. These include:

• trade associations • safety groups • trade unions • consultants • local councils

• health and safety training providers

• health and safety equipment suppliers

Deciding what help you need is very important. Unless you are


clear about what you want, you probably won’t get the help you need. Consider the following issues:

• Am I ready to engage specific technical expertise: noise exposure monitoring or do I need more general support first, such as risk assessment?

• What information might I need to provide the specialist?

• What sort of output am I looking for: a formal report or perhaps a workshop with employees?




Make sure you clearly explain what you need and check that they understand you. Ask them to explain what they understand the work to be, and what they will do, when they will do it and what they will charge you.

Once you have decided what help you need, you will need to find a relevant specialist. Shop around to find the right help at the right price. If you were buying equipment or another service for your business, you wouldn’t always accept the first offer, so do the same with health and safety advice.

You may have heard of the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register, or OSHCR. This is a register of consultants who have met set standards within their professional body. All those on the register have a minimum of two years’ experience, a degree level

qualification, are committed to continuing professional development and are bound by their professional body/ bodies’ code of conduct. However, the challenge with OSHCR is that you can be faced with a huge list of specialists to trawl through and you don’t actually know whether they’re available or willing to help. You also can’t get a feel for the quality or reputation of the specialists, or give any feedback on those listed.

An alternative is EHSRated goes one step further by providing a more practical, interactive tool. Not only can businesses post their requirements on the website to receive quotes but also the health and safety specialists are rated by their customers on the quality of service so businesses can be confident about who they use.

Once you have identified a specialist you should check for evidence of relevant training, such as formal qualifications or practical experience of providing advice in your area of work. Can they explain why they are competent to advise you on your particular problem? Are they a member of any professional bodies? You should also check that the person you choose is adequately insured.

Regardless of where you find specialist help for health and safety ask yourself whether you have a practical, sensible solution to your problem. Or do you think you have ended up with something completely ‘over the top’, or a mountain of useless paperwork? If you’re not happy, ask the specialist help to explain, and to consider whether there may be a simpler alternative. Make sure you understand their recommendations and that they’ve dealt with any questions you had about implementing them.

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