Raising the reputation of health & safety
23 January 2013
With experience of adminstering a similar scheme for electrical contractors, Emma Mcarthy welcomes the introduction of the Occupational Safety Consultants Register (OSCR) and discusses the implications for health and safety
"For too long, health and safety has been allowed to become a joke in the media and among the public. It's about time it was taken seriously." So said Lord Young when he presented the Health and Safety review, Common Sense, Common Safety in October 2010. Whether or not you agree with the diagnosis, Lord Young's recommendations are here and mark a sea change in Health and Safety practice.
Much of what was contained within Lord Young's Health and Safety review presented a common sense view. The report reflected the political attitude of the coalition; that government has been meddling into people's affairs for too long, increasing the red tape on business and promoting a damaging compensation culture within society.
An interesting recommendation from Lord Young was the need for a register of health and safety consultants. In his view, this would professionalise the industry, with a qualification requirement that all consultants are recognised by professional bodies.
I am a great believer in verification. It is a cost effective way of ensuring a supply chain is up to scratch. My own organisation has a rich history of verifying individuals and companies; our NICEIC brand is the largest verifier of electrical contractors in the UK. Another of our companies, NQA, assesses and certifies many businesses including Pepsico and Jaguar/Land Rover against the rigours of OHSAS 18001- the internationally recognised standard for health and safety management systems.
The constant tinkering of Health and Safety legislation, can often lead businesses to fear the ever increasing compensation culture and, in recent years, has become the butt of media jokes highlighting ridiculous health and safety procedures.
The reality though is often very different and IOSH - the chartered body for health and safety professionals -publicises its myth buster to set the record straight about people's fears over health and safety law.
However, this fear factor often lingers and demonstrates the need to professionalise the sector to raise its reputation within the wider business community.
NQA's mission is to enable organisations to improve performance, achieve best practice and manage risk.
Organisations are increasingly implementing health and safety management systems to ensure they manage risk accordingly and behave responsibly. Consultants work with organisations to achieve change and implement the systems. Certification bodies, such as NQA, then independently assess the system against the national or international standard such as OHSAS 18001.
With many organisations choosing to use consultants when implementing these management systems it makes perfect sense to suggest that a formal, national directory is kept of qualified, specialist, independent health and safety consultants. Similar to the NICEIC register we maintain of approved electrical contractors - their competencies are assessed and only qualified, approved contractors are registered and listed on the NICEIC directory. An industry recognised UK register also offers the capability to ensure those registered are reputable and fully competent by being reassessed on a regular basis and would allow businesses to search for reputable health and safety consultants.
A register of health and safety professionals would ensure health and safety consultations are carried out by someone competent and qualified. Better stakeholder relationships would be formed and customer satisfaction improved. This gives peace of mind to an organisation that may otherwise fall foul of health and safety legislation through bad advice from unqualified consultants. By having a formal and professionally run register of health and safety, best practice would be achieved.