Confusion over proposed changes to health and safety regulations could cost businesses dearly


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




(2000), "Confusion over proposed changes to health and safety regulations could cost businesses dearly", Facilities, Vol. 18 No. 3/4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Confusion over proposed changes to health and safety regulations could cost businesses dearly

Confusion over proposed changes to health and safety regulations could cost businesses dearly

Keywords: Health and safety, Costs

Standards of health and safety at work could deteriorate because new guidelines suggested by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) are being misinterpreted. The HSC appears to be recommending that companies appoint a "competent" employee to ensure they comply with their health and safety duties, but the cost implications of this could have a devastating effect on a company's bottom line.

The warning was issued today by National Britannia, one of the country's leading environmental risk management consultancies. The company believes that although the government seems to be suggesting that outside consultants should be replaced by a dedicated employee, this is in fact not the case and would be guiding businesses towards a false economy.

The consultancy argues that a "competent" person would cost a minimum of £60,000 a year. At the absolute outside, a single person working for a multi-site organisation may be able to carry out risk assessments and then devise and deploy management systems for 100 sites. However, they would be unlikely to be able to maintain each site on an ongoing basis or provide anything beyond the most basic control system. For a similar cost an external consultancy would be able to provide ongoing assessment and support of at least 100 sites as well as the entire administrative backup, the latest training and techniques, legal advice and representation and insurance indemnity.

Adrian Walker, managing director, National Britannia, said: "It's important that there is someone internally who has an understanding and champions the cause of health and safety. However, sidelining outsourced health and safety expertise in favour of in-house staff, as the new regulations on face value seem to suggest, would be a step backwards for many companies and would most likely result in a drop in standards.

"Businesses have for a long time recognised the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of outsourcing non-core activities, of which health and safety is one. We've seen it happen with IT and distribution and the reasons for doing it in the health and safety arena are just as, if not more, critical. No one can afford to take chances with health and safety and keeping a member of staff up to scratch with all the latest developments while expecting them to carry out the complete management of a system is simply not feasible once a business reaches a certain size."

National Britannia says that many of its clients (it works with most of the UK's shopping centres for instance) have opted for an outsourced consultancy because the cost of assessing and implementing health and safety themselves would be prohibitive. This is bearing in mind that modern environmental risk management includes: systems development; ongoing audit and review of arrangements; approval and control of contractors; investigating accidents and incidents; training management and staff; technical and legal assistance; and insurance indemnity.

Closing date for responses to the government's consultative document containing proposals for modifications to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Approved Code of Practice was on 30 June 1999.

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