'We won't sit on the fence'
23 January 2013
Georgina Bisby speaks to Ken Smith, the founder of ARC Safety Services, about the
implications of its recent acquisition by ARCO and why he believes first hand
experience of a risk is the key to providing practical advice o
"The desire to work in health & safety was always in the background for me," explains Ken Smith who spent over twenty years working as a contractor dealing with confined spaces in the petro-chemical industries before becoming a health & safety consultant in 2000. But for Ken it was the fact that he didn't start out working life as a specialist in health & safety that shaped the way he approached the subject in the future.
Once Ken began practicing as a health and safety consultant he looked around for other consultants he admired with whom he went on to set up ARC Associates in 2007, offering a range of health, safety and environmental training, consultancy, project management and software services. At the core of ARC's offering was the desire to establish a network of health and safety specialists "who also do health & safety." Ken explains: "When we send a safety advisor into a company we want them to be able to say: 'When I did this,' rather than just: 'when I sat the exam on this,' " Ken uses his own experience as an example: "If I am on a site providing advice on working in confined spaces in the chemicals industry I know that at some point I have crawled through every one of the tanks there which means I can give real and practical advice rather than just sitting on the fence." According to Ken it's all about putting people together who speak the same language: "At the end of the day aerospace people want advice from aerospace people, he says, which is why as well as holding qualifications in health & safety all of ARC's safety staff have a specialism, whether that is in fire, confined space, respiratory, HAZOP, industrial hygiene and so on.
This approach is obviously working as ARC is now providing safety services to the likes of BAE Systems, Scottish and Southern Energy, Canary Wharf Contractors and Veolia Environmental Services to name a few.
ARCO acquisition Following ARC's acquisition by ARCO, involving the merger of ARCO's existing Safety Management offering with ARC Associates to form ARC Safety Services, Ken's team is now in a position to strengthen this offer. From ARC's point of view the acquisition by ARCO has given Ken the opportunity to realise some of ARC's ambitions much more quickly than he had originally anticipated.
From Arco's point of view the addition of the ARC Safety Services portfolio allows the safety specialist to strengthen its position as an expert in safety. Through ARC Safety Services, Arco is continuing to offer expert respiratory advice and training but with an added range of training products including IOSH and NEBOSH accredited courses. The merger also means that Arco customers now have access to health, safety and environmental support services, as well as software solutions for risk assessment, accident / incident reporting and investigation, CoSHH assessment, auditing and delegate management.
Recruitment drive ARCO's acquisition of ARC Associates comes at a time when there is a heightened focus on the importance of finding competent health and safety advice following the launch of the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR).
ARC Safety Services has recently been recruiting 10 new consultants to join the team and anticipates growing this number as the business develops; all of these consultants will be fully qualified and meet the criteria for the OSHCR.
ARC Safety Services's vision is to develop this further and to build a network of safety specialists across the UK according to the demands of individual regions.
Ken says they are also determined to ensure that between these specialists they cover the full range of health and safety disciplines from breathing to fire and water. This in turn will enable the organisations ARC works with to provide first class health and safety management programmes within their own businesses. Because as Ken points out, and it is an observation that was the springboard for his business, no matter how well qualified an individual health and safety consultant is: "Safety is a massive subject field which one individual simply can't know everything about."