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How a self-employed consultant was fined for breaching health and safety legislation.

Well let’s just say the world at the minute is changing at pace. One thing that is coming to the front of these changes is the way people are working.  You may have staff now working from home, shift sharing or social distancing. 

Whatever it is you are doing you will have had to have carried out a risk assessment to decide what is the safest way to work.  This change in behaviour may involve more machinery, more racking in a warehouse and maybe even more staff. 

This again will mean more health and safety and more risk assessments.  When it comes to health and safety the world is full of specialists!!  Or is it?

I have copied and pasted a case of a consultant being fined for incorrect information, from The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website:

A self-employed consultant was fined for breach of legislation for providing health and safety advice on technical and complex matters while not being qualified to advise his clients.

Luton Crown Court heard how a self-employed health and safety consultant provided inadequate and flawed advice to small and medium-sized enterprises on the management and control of risk in relation to hand-arm vibration, workplace noise and the control of substances hazardous to health.

A HSE investigation found that Clive Weal incorrectly identified risk from exposure to hand arm vibration as ‘low’ and advised to use ‘anti vibration gloves’ as an appropriate control measure. He also failed to identify that paints containing isocyanates can cause asthma. The poor and incompetent advice resulted in a lack of remedial action being implemented to prevent employees being exposed to levels of noise, hand arm vibration and chemical substances that may have a damaging impact on their health.

Clive Weal of Torksey, Lincolnshire, was found to be incompetent at advising his clients in the assessment and control of risks from workplace noise, hand arm vibration and substances hazardous to health. He pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £1,400.

After the hearing, HSE specialist inspector, Parmjit Gahir said: “Employers are more likely to use external consultants to provide assistance in complex situations where a higher level of competence is required.

How consultants achieve competence is up to them, however, they will have to be able to satisfy employers that they have a sufficient level of competence for the job in hand.

“Being a member of a relevant professional body, which sets competence standards for its members and operates continuing professional development schemes is one way of helping; as is presenting evidence of relevant experience such as references from previous clients; or obtaining qualifications.”

Where health and safety consultants are found to be in breach of legislation, HSE will hold persons to account for their failings.

How did this happen?

Let’s look at what was said in a bit more detail. First and foremost, the consultant was not qualified in the role that they claimed to be.  This is so easy to see why.  I have been training for over 15 years now and you could count on one hand the number of times I have been asked to prove my skill set.  If I have a yellow high-vis and a look of authority, I am good to train.  If I have a professional-looking website and a nice voice on the end of the phone, I could not possibly be anything other than honest. 

This is not just a mistake by small companies, we are also talking about national and international companies. This is what led to the HSE using words such as ‘inadequate’.

A certificate is great but the courses for health and safety such as NEBOSH and IOSH do not specifically apply to an industry.  They give a view of health and safety in general, and then you as an individual take that knowledge into your specialist field. 

That said NEBOSH do offer courses such as NEBOSH construction.  What I am trying to say here is do not be fooled by qualifications alone.  A good health and safety consultant should have qualifications, along with a knowledge/experience of the areas in which they are working.


A true story

One of my customers had a health and safety consultant come out on a job with him. The customer cleans drains and off he went to his job.  The safety consultant went with him to see how he worked so he could give help and support to the company on health and safety. 

When arriving on-site, the driver opened the drain cover and the health and safety consultant asked if he considered himself to be working on site.  The driver replied, “yes as I could fall in the hole”.  The consultant then said, “what will you do about this?” The driver then gave the answer of putting a half cover over the hole and a tube to do the sucking down the hole. These two items would prevent the driver or anyone else falling in. 

The consultant seemed happy with this and then added “I think you should also wear a harness” the driver seemed a little confused and said “where would I attach myself to?” the consultant replied “the bumper of the lorry”.  At this point, the driver began to laugh and the consultant was unsure why. 

The driver explained, for the lorry to do its job the engine has to run.  Should somebody get in the vehicle and steal it he would be water skiing behind the vehicle and up the high street.

Back to the blog!

That little story highlights the need to use people who know your industry and have the skills and experience to be able to advise on all matters of health and safety. 

I was working at a multinational company just this week and discovered they had the wrong fire extinguishers in the battery charging area for the forklift trucks.  When I explained that they only had foam or water to extinguish an electrical fire they seemed quite puzzled. 

I asked what was wrong and it turns out a few weeks ago they had a safety audit, and nothing was picked up with regards to the extinguishers.  This did not surprise me as forklifts are a specialised piece of equipment and a lot of qualified consultants do not understand them or their workings. 

Altta Group Limited specialises in the logistics sector. We have a multitude of qualifications which enables us to consult and advise and help those who need it comply with legislation. 

If you have used a consultant for a while and they know you well, then why not check them out and make sure they have not become complacent by trying somebody new. 

The real benefit of using Altta Group Limited is we have the practical experience, the health and safety qualifications, and the training qualifications. We will not only look at the health and safety within the business but also your training records and matrix to ensure you have the required certification to remain compliant.

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