HSE ‘Blue tape’​ initiative – Part 3

In two earlier posts, Part 1 and Part 2, I discussed the work that the HSE initiated on the business burdens introduced by consultants et al to UK PLC, particularly small businesses.
Businesses have had the small matters of Covid lockdowns, a war in Europe and financial chaos to deal with since the meetings began in 2019 and I recently attended a small group looking at closing down our joint work in this area. Individuals and groups will continue to do their thing to look to manage the business burden.
Have we succeeded in reducing business burdens? The jury is out but the answer for me is ‘probably not’. We still have multiple contractor accreditation schemes (such as CHAS, Constructionline, Achilles BuildingConfidence, Safety Schemes in Procurement etc.). They sit alongside occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) standard certification (such as to ISO 45001) (both accredited and unaccredited). All of these are means available to organisations to demonstrate to potential customers that they will be able to take on work and deliver it safely.
We also still have a range of consultants of different ability offering to implement safety schemes that they assure will keep the business owners out of jail and and their employees safe (Not necessarily in order of emphasis).  Many of the HSE’s target organisations  buy in this external competence to develop safe systems when the internal expertise may provide more effective and efficient controls to keep themselves and their colleagues safe. The consultant will also offer to front up the assessment from the scheme manager (in the paragraph above) to ensure they ‘get through’ and can get onto the customer’s chosen supplier list. We end up with one expert debating with another while the affected parties are left completely out of the loop.
Potential downsides from my Part 2 article still exist:
  •  perfectly documented systems sitting alongside unsafe practices
  • documentation left on a shelf to gather dust – not maintained ‘live’
  • consultants that never visit the organisation but who send through ‘their’ OHSMS by return of post following receipt of the payment
  • procuring organisations throwing the kitchen sink at their supplier approval process through a grotesque fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • procurement professionals applying blanket supplier requirements that are inappropriate to target suppliers

As our organisations operate in more and more complex environments we can expect to see more and more of this. The latest addition of climate change to all ISO management systems standards is one example of where boundaries are being blurred. It, conflict minerals and exploitation of child labour are real issues in some sections of the supply network. On the other hand, asking that question in an inappropriate setting is a burden to the potential supplier and to the procuring organisation. They must spend time in developing the question set (or paying for one) and then evaluating the responses.

There is a word that has come up often in our discussions, both face to face and virtual. That is ‘Proportionate’. We all have to bear this in mind in health & safety and any other area of expectation (or burden).


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