Outsourcing health & safety compliance can save time and money - but only if the consultant suits your needs, says Adam Gomes.
09 October 2018 | Adam Gomes
All employers must appoint a skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and highly competent person to help them meet their health and safety duties.
The three main options include assigning this to a current staff member, hiring a new employee specifically for compliance, or outsourcing it to a consultant.
As I am a compliance consultant, you may presume what my suggestion is. But there are many benefits in following this advice.
Outsourcing frees up time for employees saddled with the extra duties and it is cheaper than hiring a full-timer, who will need to complete expensive courses to keep up to date.
However, when choosing your consultant, you need to ensure that he or she is experienced, qualified, and offers specialist services such as fire-risk assessments.
This sounds obvious, but I've taken over from consultants that haven't had the necessary qualifications or experience.
On one occasion, a company I visited had used the same consultant for 10 years. I noticed that some of the work was poor and incomplete and asked the manager about the qualifications of the previous consultant - the manager wasn't even sure.
I found out the consultant had none. He had said he was 'self-taught' at the 'school of life', which is not an institution that formalises compliance qualifications.
On another job, I took over from a consultant who had been in the industry for 30 years but again had no qualifications or CPD. I am sure that he had bags of experience, but how can you know if they are up to date with current regulations?
A mechanic who learned how to service a car 30 years ago may not be able to do the same with today's vehicles because of changes in technology and laws. It's the same in health and safety. Laws and regulations change, and if you don't keep up to date then what you are implementing may not meet today's requirements.
Keeping staff and your business safe and compliant with regulations is essential, so here is my five-point checklist to tick off when hiring a compliance consultant.
1) Check their qualifications
The consultant should have health and safety qualifications that should also be relevant to your industry. Obtain the certificate numbers and check these with the issuer. It may sound extreme, but it's worth it. This will provide you with certainty that the consultant has trained with an accredited provider.
2) Tally up their experience
Ask the consultant for a current CV and ask questions about their work experience to make sure they have worked in your industry before. They could be a chartered health and safety professional, but if they lack experience of radiation, for example, and you want them to risk-assess certain equipment that emits it, then they are most likely not the right consultant.
3) Query their insurance
Check they are adequately insured and ask for a copy of their insurance certificate. Keep this safe and secure. Take note of the renewal date and ensure that you have the most recent certificate.
4) Find out about their previous clients
Ask to see the references from a few of the consultant's previous clients and get permission to contact them. This way you should be able to get a clear picture of the work they did for the client and the manager's opinion of its quality.
5) Ask about the consultant's member institution
This is always a bone of contention with health and safety professionals, but it's a good indicator of the consultant's up-to-date skills. Most health and safety professionals (not all of them, as it's not mandatory) will be members of a health and safety institution such as IOSH, IIRSM or ROSPA.
If they are, they will have to complete a continuous professional development (CPD) programme, so you will know they've updated their skills.
Outsourcing is a great alternative to expensive internal recruitment and can save a lot of time and stress. However, always check that your chosen consultant is competent and will suit your business needs.
Adam Gomes is senior compliance consultant at Omegas Enterprises Ltd