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The Dangers of not having ‘Competent’ Health and Safety Advice!

Powerhand in operation
Have you got access to ‘competent’ health and safety advice?
Regulation 7 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that all businesses must have access to ‘competent’ health and safety advice - many companies are still unaware of this.

Any reputable safety consultant will add to this that the legislation states that your own ‘in house’ advice is preferable to using external consultants but for your internal competent adviser to be ‘fit for purpose’ then this person should be qualified to at least a Nebosh National General Certificate level or equivalent (i.e. level 3).

Without access to such advice how would any company know what up to date safety legislation requires of them?

Well, I came across a perfect example of how this can all go horribly wrong just a few weeks ago. I drove past a company I know well and noticed an extension to their showroom was in progress.

I went in and enquired from my contact exactly what was being done and how long the works had been ongoing to which he replied since December 2014 (by then approx. 10 weeks) and that a senior manager was running this project and he had not been included in any aspect of it to date himself.

Phil Wass
Phil Wass is a Chartered Safety and Health practitioner and has a Masters Degree in Occupational Health and Safety. He is Managing Director of Wass Management Limited who specialise in all aspects of health and safety training, advice and guidance. Phil is an advisor to the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers' Association and understands the needs of the industry. He regularly carries out work for MVDA members.

If you have any health and safety issues, visit Wass Management Limited, email Phil or you can contact him on 01773 541441
I asked to be introduced to this manager involved who turned out to be the company accountant. I enquired as to whether this job had been notified to the HSE – he replied ‘its all being done properly so it must have been’.

I asked to see the confirmation of notification and the health and safety paperwork for the project (The Construction Safety Plan) – he stated that he did not have access to these but they ‘must be in place’ and referred me to the contractor they had engaged. I contacted the contractor and guess what…

I advised the job be stopped as it was technically ‘illegal’. I hate doing this. Safety is not about stopping anybody doing anything but ensuring that it is done without harm to people (‘so far as is reasonably practicable’). However I had no choice on this occasion. If a factory inspector had dropped by or if a reportable accident had occurred on that site (RIDDOR) then quite a few parties could have ended up in court?

Why is that you ask? This project was in contravention of The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 – CDM. CDM states that any such commercial project lasting for more than 30 days must have the following in place:

  • A formal notification of the project to the HSE (form F10)
  • The appointment of a CDM co-ordinator
  • The appointment of a competent Designer (who should advise the client of their CDM duties)
  • The passing of pre-construction safety information to the tendering contractors
  • The preparation by the successful contractor of a construction phase health and safety plan (which must be in place before any works commence)
  • The origination of site safety rules
  • The induction of all parties to the site
  • The formal selection of sub contractors (including their safety credentials)
  • The preparation of a health and safety file for the project

Please bear in mind that this is a simplified version of the actual requirements, but none of this was in place.

This company had two choices – continue ‘keeping everything crossed’ and hope that no-one found out they were breaking the law or stop work until the project was aligned with the appropriate legal requirements. Thankfully they chose the latter option as per my advice.

These Regulations are not in place to slow things down or hamper things but simply because construction is the highest risk industrial sector in this country and because it is known that poor planning and poor communication have been a key factor in many serious construction incidents on construction sites in the recent past.

At the time of going to press (I am writing this article on 23/03/2015) CDM only applies to commercial projects however, by the time you are actually reading this, the revised Regulations will be in place (effective 06/04/2015) and this revision will see domestic projects included as well.

So, what price to not have access to competent health and safety advice? You draw your own conclusions.

January 2016

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