Last week we took an enquiry from a scaffolding contractor asking if we could provide competent person support to their business. The company were looking for someone they could refer to as being their ‘competent person’ and had indicated that they may require the very occasional site visit on their behalf. What they wanted was a price for this service.
At MESH we don’t sell our name as competent persons and instead we prefer to work with businesses to understand what they are about and how they apply health & safety to their business. We suggested this to the person making contact and indicated we would need to meet with their contracts manager to enable us to build up this understanding. The first response was “is this really necessary as he is unlikely to spare you more than 5 minutes of his time.” Our response was “yes it is otherwise we would rather not quote for the service.”
The problem is that there are many other health & safety professionals out there, selling competent person services often at a fixed monthly fee (sometimes for as much as £75 – £100 per month). Please see an example of this type of service below:
You can see how the ad above, for as little as £100, would appear to be attractive to many. However, you must ask yourself what will we get for that and does it really constitute competent advice as required by health & safety law? The answer to the second part is “No”.
No outside party can represent you properly and therefore ensure you are doing the right things for your business unless they fully understand what your business is about.
As the HSE points out, 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. They suggest the things to consider when using external help are:
- 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.
- Check for evidence of relevant training/knowledge, such as formal qualifications or practical experience of providing advice in your industry/area of work. Can they explain why they are competent to advise you on your particular problem? Are they a member of OSHCR?
- 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.
- Check that the person you choose is adequately insured.
After this you should consider whether you have received the help you needed. Do you have a practical, sensible solution to your problem? Or have you ended up with something completely ‘over the top’ or a mountain of useless paperwork? If you are not happy with the solution, ask for an explanation and whether there may be a simpler alternative.
What appears to be a cheap option probably won`t add value to your business and you will be paying someone for doing very little in return.