A recent has has again highlighted the importance of ensuring the need to ensure competent health and safety advice is sought.
The case in Northern Ireland has seen Miskelly Brothers Ltd. and its health and safety consultant Steven Jones fined a total of £54,000 plus costs, after both pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety legislation.
The case arose out of an incident on 7th September 2009 at Miskelly Brothers Ltd block making yard at Moss Road, Ballygowan, when an employee of the company, was fatally crushed when making adjustments to a block strapping machine.
Miskelly Brothers Ltd, the owner of the block making yard, was fined a total of £50,000. Steven Jones, trading as Hazron Safety Services, was acting as a health and safety consultant for Miskellys and had been engaged to carry out risk assessments on the equipment involved in the incident. He was fined a total of £4,000.
The HSE has stressed this case sends out a clear message to all employers who use health and safety consultants to ensure that they are competent and accredited to undertake the work required.
Over the past few years we have come across a number of situations where we have been asked to review the health and safety systems of new clients and have been concerned with what we have found. In some of these cases the client has been previously advised by other health and safety consultants and often it appears not very well advised.
Only recently have we worked for a company based in the West Midlands who over a number of years had regular monthly consultants support; but very little appears to have been achieved. Of course some of this could be down to the client not implementing the advice given but if the consultants were providing value for money we would have expected to find reasonably established systems and controls in place. However this was not the case.
It is important that the client understands that simply employing an external consultancy does not absolve the company of responsibility and accountability for managing its health and safety. The HSE has made it clear that it requires the employer to ensure the advice they are getting is to the correct standard. To do this requires them to source competent advice which is more than qualifications and scheme registrations (OHSCR) but needs them to determine that the consultants are suitably experienced and able to provide the right advice to their business.
At MESH we believe that it is of primary importance to build trust with our clients and this can only be achieved through providing consistent proportionate advice that both assists in achieving legislative compliance but also makes the workplace safer in a manner that is sensitive to the individual business needs.
Of course the provision of the OHSCR should provide the employer with a good starting place to look for a suitably qualified consultant but this must be supported by taking suitable references of similar work.