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  • Why your business should take health & safety seriously Feb 11, 2019

    It’s 2019, and it might surprise you to learn that we still have to convince some people to take health & safety seriously. Some businesses think they are simply too small to have to worry about it, or think that their workplace doesn’t harbour any risks just because they aren’t working with power tools. Others feel that the whole thing is unnecessary or burdensome, wheeling out familiar catchphrases about health & safety gone mad or the ‘PC police’.

    A quick look at the statistics for work related injuries and deaths will tell you a different story. Health & safety rules are there to keep us safe, and they work really well - but there are always improvements to be made. What many people still don’t realise is just how easy these improvements are to make, and the real benefits they can have on your culture and your bottom line.

    It makes financial sense

    Things like training, equipment and routine maintenance can sometimes be seen as a financial burden. If you believe that people can keep themselves safe, then these investments can seem more like sunk costs, which some would rather spend on improving their business. There’s also a frustration that spending money on health & safety doesn’t seem to bring tangible benefits, as the outcome is that nothing bad happens, rather than something good.

    This is a misunderstanding of how health & safety works. While it should be fairly easy to argue that the greatest benefit is the safety of your employees - something that well implemented health & safety does provide - many business owners fail to appreciate that it’s also an investment for the future. The money you spend on implementing safety policies and practices is an investment in the future of your business and your workers, keeping both safe from harm.

    Keeping ahead of safety legislation will instil confidence in your workforce, improving their morale and impetus to work. It can also make your business more attractive to prospective employees, as well as reducing the chance of illness and injury, and therefore absences. Training can also give you a deeper insight into your workforce and their needs, build a rapport and understanding between them, and improve their skill sets and job satisfaction.

    Of course, it will also protect you from the financial penalties when things go slightly awry. While we don’t like to deploy scare tactics here at SAMS, keeping people safe will prevent the HSE from bringing its hammer down on you, and imposing penalties of thousands or even millions for serious breaches of safety guidelines. And remember: every other business is held to the same standards. You either join the club and reap the rewards, or risk losing it all for your oversight.

    You have a moral responsibility

    Many people’s rationale when they choose to overlook health & safety concerns - or not implement policies to prevent them - is simply that nothing bad will ever happen. They rely on their past experience doing the same job and not getting injured, or on the ‘common sense’ of their employees to avoid risks. Yet accidents can and do happen all the time, in all sorts of different settings, and they can both cost and ruin lives.

    If you fail to take health & safety seriously, then you aren’t taking the lives and livelihoods of your employees seriously. This thoughtlessness reflects poorly on your business from inside and out. Employees who notice these oversights will be less inclined to work hard for you, and less inclined to stay. They may even have to impair their ability to do the job by taking things more slowly, and improvising a method that keeps them safer.

    Of course, we shouldn’t have to tell you that human lives have value; we hope you’re perfectly aware of that already! Most business owners wouldn’t deliberately risk the lives of their employees. But if you fail to not just consider health & safety but to prioritise, you’ve failed in your moral responsibilities. If you don’t do your absolute utmost to prevent injuries and accidents from occurring, it will be on your record and your conscience.

    It’s a legal requirement

    If all else fails in our attempts to win people over to health & safety, the reminder that this is all required by law tends to do the trick. This can cause the more contentious types to moan and grumble, but the fact is that the laws are there for a reason, and they do what they say on the tin. Compliance is not as difficult or as costly as some people think, and the benefits go beyond keeping the inspectors off your back.

    In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes straightforward guidelines on health & safety compliance. While following these isn’t necessarily enough to cover all the bases, it will give you a solid overview of your responsibilities in various areas. It won’t tell you every step you need to take in a risk assessment, for example, but it will tell you when you need to undertake one, and a rough outline of the process.

    Fail to apply these guidelines and you risk falling foul of the law. In the event of any accident, you must be able to demonstrate a formal process for identifying, addressing and eliminating risk factors, such that you couldn’t have done anything more to stop the accident from happening. Any oversight that’s considered as unreasonable - in other words, anything that happens and is judged to be preventable - could lead to a significant fine.

    In short, the idea that ignoring health & safety is fine as long as you get away with it is no different to any other kind of lawbreaking. Not looking after the safety of your employees is not legal, and not excusable under any circumstances. If you haven’t taken pains to provide safety equipment, training and guidelines in your workplace and something happens, you will rightly be penalised for it. Do things the right way, and you can set the standard for others to follow.


    Lee Sadd is the Operations & Training Director at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
  • 5 Simple Tips to Improve Vehicle Safety in the Workplace Aug 13, 2018


    We often think of the work we undertake on site as being the most safety critical part of the job. Yet the tasks carried out by individuals are also often the easiest and most predictable to control, and the ones we have the most experience dealing with. A lesser appreciated but equally tangible risk comes through vehicles, and the interactions between drivers and workers in and around worksites.

    While mandatory site safety training covers the basic tenets of vehicle safety, it can often underwhelm when it comes to the prevention of risks, which must be delegated from above. The following tips should not be used in lieu of training, but offer a bit of additional insight into the risks posed by vehicles, and some of the most effective ways to prevent them.

    Effective training

    Having an instructor conduct vehicle safety training on your site, or a similar mock test site, is an excellent way to ingrain key safety principles in workers. People can actively engage in things like traffic management, and get a better sense of how the environment, vehicles and individuals coalesce to create potential safety hazards. Better yet, training conducted on your own site will familiarise them with specific blind spots, and reiterate the findings of your own risk assessments.

    An interesting concept that can complement or even replace on-site training is virtual and augmented reality training. More familiar as the preserve of video games and science fiction movies, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have already been applied in the training space to great effect. VR creates an entire world for your to inhabit and explore in a realistic fashion, while AR ‘overlays’ digital images on the real world through the use of special glasses.

    The benefits of these technologies are easy to intuit. With virtual reality, you could potentially import designs from CAD tools to perfectly recreate your site, and populate it with safety hazards for players to spot and avoid. With AR, you could physically stand on the site, and see digital recreations of these hazards. In both cases, this allows for the feeling of genuine danger - such as having a truck hurtling towards you - without any genuine potential for harm.

    Of course, none of this should replace classroom training options such as the NEBOSH course, which offer a more comprehensive rundown of the various facets of vehicle safety. It’s widely appreciated that many people learn better by doing than reading, however, and any practical experience you can give yourself or your employees can only help with your preparation.

    Frequent risk assessments

    Risk assessments can be seen as burdensome, and there is a reluctance to reappraise them when it seems like every risk is already accommodated for. Yet something as simple as a new type of vehicle, or even a new model of the same vehicle, can bring with it entirely different safety requirements. Crossing points seen as safe may be blind spots on other vehicles, while stopping distances are easily overestimated.

    The size of the vehicle, safety provisions, visibility and numerous other factors can make it a very different threat that may not have been accounted for, or communicated to workers. Frequent and comprehensive risk assessments are an obvious and necessary antidote to this, and site managers and supervisors should ensure that any lessons are communicated widely and implemented in time to make a difference, not as a reaction to something that’s already happened.

    Vehicle technology

    Trucks and other heavy vehicles pose an obvious danger when travelling at high speeds, hence the rigorous training and frequent refreshers required to drive one. At slower speeds however, the issue is often one of awareness more than recklessness or decision making. A large vehicle in a small space with multiple blind spots puts the onus on pedestrians to act intelligently, with the driver somewhat powerless if they aren’t paying full attention.

    The advent of effective vehicle safety technology (VST) has been a particular boon to truck drivers, massively improving their awareness of what’s around the vehicle. Sensors can now provide comprehensive blind spot detection with radar technology, while cameras can provide a visual feed of the sides and rear of a truck. Active braking meanwhile uses a combination of visual and sensor data to prevent collisions, something that’s much easier and more reliable at low speeds.

    These cameras and sensors can also be used to monitor the driver, with driver drowsiness detection systems becoming commonplace. These alert the driver if they are suffering from drowsiness and potentially deadly ‘microsleeps’, and can even send a signal to a supervisor or other member of the business, to ensure the person gets off the road. Other features such as lane departure warnings and anti-jackknifing technology complete the modern HGV driver’s armoury.

    All of this comes with an obvious caveat, and it’s the same one that could affect driverless cars: you still need an attentive driver. Like proper usage of PPE, safety systems should only be deployed in an emergency, and not relied upon on a regular basis to correct lapses of driver attention. CPC driver training should already drill this home, but you can expect to see VST and driverless features mentioned with even more prominence in future courses.

    Environmental changes

    Oftentimes drivers are not best helped by the state the site is in. Gaping blind spots, tight turns, clutter and poor signage can confuse those who are not already familiar with the site, leading to mistakes and misunderstandings. They also often don’t help pedestrians and personnel, who may lack important visual cues on when and where to cross, or the direction that traffic is coming from.

    Where possible, you should consider making changes to the topography of the site in order to better accommodate large vehicles. If there are objects obstructing a driver’s visibility or which might force them to drive differently, move them if this is an option. If they are static, you should consider placing mirrors and warning signs to highlight the risks, and at the very least should inform the driver ahead of time.

    You may also want to look at changing gradients and improving grip where this is possible and necessary, as well as ensuring that loose earth or bracken doesn’t create a risk for vehicles. Awareness of vehicle schedules and locations is also important for workers, who should be briefed ahead of time. You could even look to create a ‘crosswalk’ for people crossing frequent lanes of traffic on a site, such as in the spaces between structures.

    Encourage a safety culture

    Conducting risk assessments and training up drivers and workers is all well and good, but if your site culture doesn’t encourage safe working practices, it might all be for nothing. Employees who end up working overtime or long periods without breaks could end up fatigued, making them less likely to notice an oncoming vehicle. The same can be said of drivers, who may be under pressure to make multiple deliveries.

    Oversights can happen at even the most rigorous businesses, and small issues going under the radar can quickly snowball, with hazards ignored or employees feeling more free to take small risks. This failure to stick to regimented safety advice can lead to poor decision making, and a lack of readiness if an emergency situation does arise. When it comes to large and heavy vehicles, such mistakes can lead to serious injury and even death.

    The importance of safety should be reiterated at every opportunity, with regular refresher training and actively evolving protocols for managers and supervisors. This also needs to be impressed upon employees and any external contractors, who should have well-worn routines to ensure the consistent application of safety rules and protocols.

    Safety is often characterised as being ‘nannying’ and over-cautious. Look at the steadily falling statistics for injuries and accidents, and it becomes evident that it’s actually about saving lives and limbs in the most efficient and effective way possible. Instilling a disciplined approach to safety on your site will reflect the broader discipline of your business, and the reliability of your employees in their daily work.


    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
  • Does my business need a health & safety representative? Apr 13, 2018


    Most businesses are aware of the obligation to carry out health & safety risk assessments, and to train staff who might be undertaking dangerous tasks. Fewer employers however appreciate the full scope of the role employees should have in forming health & safety policy, or go to great enough lengths to source feedback and engage with employees on their own safety.

    It is likely that employees see more risks and potential near misses than are ever catalogued or reported, and tapping into their first-hand knowledge can radically improve your approach to workplace safety. If you haven’t already, then the best avenue to receive this feedback may be to hire a health & safety representative. But what do they do, and when should you consider appointing one?

    Legal obligations

    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has placed more prominence on the role of employees in recent years, and the unique insights they bring to identifying and preventing risks.

    All employers are now legally obligated to consult with every employee on workplace health & safety, in both a reactive and proactive manner. Areas requiring consultation include:

    • Any new measures, systems or equipment which may ‘substantially affect’ their safety at work

    • The acquisition of ‘competent people’ to ensure health & safety compliance

    • The provision of information on risks, how to deal with them and what to do if you are affected by them

    • Planning and organising safety training

    • Health and safety concerns surrounding the introduction of any new technologies

    Employees must be given all information that allows them to participate effectively in the consultation, including current risks and the measures to protect against and deal with them. If you already have a health & safety management system, such as the recently implemented ISO 45001, then this information (e.g. risk assessments) should be structured and readily available.

    Consultation should involve the sharing of all available knowledge on workplace health & safety, with dialogue and input from both sides. Consulting doesn’t just mean getting answers to predetermined questions - it should be an open discussion, with the freedom of employees to each be heard, suggest improvements and highlight unappreciated risks.

    For some businesses, however, direct consultation with employees is either physically difficult or otherwise undesirable. In these situations, you may wish to employ a health and safety representative - and one may even be appointed for you by a union.

    Elected health & safety reps

    If you opt to appoint a health and safety representative, they must be elected by the workforce, to ensure that they fully represent their interests. Elected health & safety reps have fewer responsibilities than union appointed reps, and act as more of a sounding board for health & safety consultation, or large-scale changes to working practices and equipment.

    An elected representative will voice the concerns of employees to the employer on a regular basis, and in the event of specific changes to working practices. They will also represent employees where required by visiting health and safety inspectors, in order to assess whether their needs and concerns are being addressed.

    The elected representative will collate and report any dangerous incidents, near misses, and potential or existing hazards reported by employees. While these should be voiced immediately, the representative will also give voice to more general or less pressing concerns around health & safety, and will play a key role in consultation around changes to working practices.

    Union health & safety reps

    It may also be the case that a health & safety rep is appointed on the workers’ behalf by a trade union, as part of a collective bargaining agreement. The two kinds of representatives are governed by two different legal regulations, and fulfil slightly different functions.

    A union appointed health & safety rep serves as both a mouthpiece for employee concerns and a safety inspector. They will take a proactive role in safety enforcement and hazard prevention, and will investigate the concerns of employees as they arrive. They will also act as a liaison with the HSE and other safety inspectors, and will be expected to attend any health & safety committee meetings.

    As an employer, you are required to provide assistance to union safety reps in order to help them carry out thorough inspections. These will occur at least once every three months, with additional inspections with any substantial changes to work practices. Union reps must be paid for the time taken to carry out their role and for any training time, although the training will usually be provided by the union.

    Why should I appoint one?

    If your employees are represented by a union, you may find that a health & safety representative is appointed for you. Otherwise, there are a number of reasons why you might opt to appoint one instead of talking directly with your workers.

    The most common reason is the scale of the business - if you are operating across a large site or multiple sites, it may be logistically difficult to consult with everyone on an individual basis. There are solutions to this - you might send out email questionnaires for example, or messages on Slack. But these ad-hoc solutions can be unreliable, and should be seen as complementary to policy decisions, rather than as a replacement for proper consultation.

    It may also be the case that your hierarchy makes it difficult to attribute the consultation. You may for instance have a wide variety of positions in the business, each with very different responsibilities and health & safety concerns. Giving each piece of feedback due weight, as well as correlating it with the conditions of that role, may be better organised by a dedicated representative.

    It may also be the case that you simply prefer, for organisational reasons, to delegate the responsibility for health & safety compliance and other matters. You may be busy and worrying that you can’t attend to everything, see everyone and make sure you’re staying compliant. This may even be true for a small business, where the business owner is already the ‘responsible person’ for health & safety compliance, and may feel weighed down by other duties.


    While a health & safety representative isn’t always a requirement for your business - particularly if you’re a small business owner - they do provide an invaluable service. As well as alleviating the burden of responsibility for health & safety consultation, representatives ensure that your employees’ voices are being heard - keeping them happier as well as safer in the workplace.

    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
  • How to improve first aid in the workplace Mar 7, 2018


    While none of us like to think about it, we are constantly at risk from any number of maladies. While most won’t come to pass, it is worth catering for every possible eventuality, and having a first aid policy that can tackle illness and injuries as they arise.

    Despite this, many small and even large businesses fail to cater adequately for first aid. Regardless of how risky your daily operations are, there are a number of steps you should and could be taking to guarantee your safety, and potentially even save lives.

    Mandatory minimums

    ‘Adequate and appropriate’ provisions, including first aid equipment, rooms and trained personnel. There are very few specific legislative requirements in regards to what you should have or in what quantity, Instead it falls to the business owner to decide what is proportionate, and to fall broadly in line with the HSE’s guidelines.

    For low hazard businesses with fewer than 25 employees, this usually takes the form of a single ‘appointed person’ to take charge in emergency situations. This person should ideally have accredited first aid training, but again, this is not a necessity.

    In addition, the HSE expects that you maintain a ‘well stocked’ first aid kit, with items including bandages, plasters, dressings, gloves and eye patches. These guidelines also apply to higher hazard businesses (e.g. engineering, food processing or manufacturing) with five or fewer employees.

    Low risk businesses with 25-50 employees should have at least one Emergency First Aid At Work (EFAW) trained first aider. High risk businesses with 5-50 employees should have a first aider trained in either First Aid At Work (FAW) or EFAW, depending on the nature of the work being carried out.

    Businesses with more than 50 employees should have a FAW trained first aider for every 100 or 50 employees, respectively. Depending on the nature and size of your business, you may be expected to have a dedicated first aid room with relevant supplies.

    You are not strictly required to accomodate members of the public, even if they regularly visit your facility. That said, the HSE does strongly advise that you factor them into your health & safety policy. This may also depend on footfall, as well as the nature of your clientele.

    First aid training

    While there is not necessarily an obligation to have a trained first aider, we strongly recommend it. Emergencies can occur regardless of the size of your workplace, or the kinds of work you engage in. Better too to overprovide with no serious injuries or illness than to have underprovided, and suddenly find that you are unequipped for an emergency.

    Having an employee on hand who can not just control the situation but also administer treatment ahead of the emergency services could be the difference between life and death. This is particularly pertinent given that ambulances are currently stretched, as well as the merging of some hospital services, meaning longer trips to A&E.

    There are a number of ways to obtain first aid training. The most common is to receive nationally recognised training from an accredited training provider. These will commonly bear the mark of Ofqual (England), the SQA (Scotland) or the Welsh Government.

    The most common forms of first aid training are the L3 QA Awards in Emergency First Aid At Work and First Aid At Work, respectively. The recommended level of training for first aid providers is Level 3, with the course depending on the nature of work in your business. Applicants are not generally required to have completed another first aid qualification before taking Level 3 training.

    Changes by the HSE in 2013 were designed to offer more flexibility for first aid training to employers. You may now also receive valid training from voluntary aid societies, individuals or enterprises acting under voluntary accreditation, and independent training providers. However, you are also now responsible for carrying out due diligence to ensure the legitimacy of their training.

    Accredited training providers avoid this process of due diligence on the part of the employer. You can choose an Ofqual or equivalent qualification safe in the knowledge that the training is valid, quality assured, and offered by qualified and competent trainers.

    Other ways to improve first aid

    While it is not a requirement, it’s strongly recommended that you designate a first aid room if you have space within your facility. This should be a first aid room only, too - we’ve seen more than a few supposed ‘first aid rooms’ that have actually been repurposed for storage, left in a poor condition, or left inaccessible when they’re needed most.

    The ideal first aid room is easily accessible from the most trafficked areas of the facility, and within relatively easy reach of the exits. The space should be bright with natural light if possible, while ensuring that the contents are well protected from the elements.

    It should be well stocked with relevant provisions, too - if you don’t know what these would be, conduct a risk assessment. Consider all of the things that could feasibly happen to employees, and look at how you could mitigate the risks. Then, in planning for the worst case scenario, include provisions to help treat resultant injuries and illness.

    One substantial provision that’s of benefit to any workplace is a defibrillator. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) are now available for under £1000, and represent a potentially life saving investment. At present, just 8% of cardiac arrest victims outside of a hospital survive in the UK. Statistics show that the effective use of a defibrillator and CPR in the event of cardiac arrest can increase survival chances to as much as 74%.

    For this reason, first aid training to at least a basic level is highly beneficial for all employees, or at least a substantive proportion. One of the benefits of an AED however is that it is extremely simple to operate. While most defibrillators will offer instructions as to how to use them, AEDs operate largely automatically, administering treatment at the right time for the victim.


    Ultimately, the best thing you can do to improve safety in your workplace is to be aware of the HSE’s recommendations, and to agitate for change. Securing first aid training and a well equipped first aid room represent the ideal scenario - but the most important step is to ensure that first aid awareness permeates your organisation, and influences decision making at the highest levels.

    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
  • What you need to know about ISO 45001 Feb 28, 2018


    After five years of deliberation involving members from hundreds of countries, the latest occupational health & safety (OHS) framework, ISO 45001, has finally been approved. A three-year transition period will be enacted from March, allowing for businesses with and without older frameworks to register and migrate to the new standard.

    For those businesses currently using the British OHSAS 18001 standard - or those who have less understanding of the ISO standards and certification process - this may all be a bit baffling. Here then is a simple breakdown of the changes implemented by the switch to ISO 45001.

    What are ISO standards?

    ISO 45001 has been drafted by the International Organisation For Standardisation (ISO). ISO standards are designed to provide shared policy frameworks to organisations, helping them improve their own operational efficiency and efficacy in a number of different areas.

    Businesses around the globe use ISO standards to implement frameworks for quality control, information security, safety, energy efficiency and more. They are often implemented to satisfy tenders and acquire new supply chains, and are a requisite of many contracts.

    To be fully compliant with ISO standards, you have to gain certification. Gaining ISO certification ensures that your business is operating to certain well defined, globally relevant and extensively researched standards, helping you to succeed and to build trust with other businesses.

    What is ISO 45001?

    ISO 45001 is the first global OHS standard for organisations, drafted and implemented by the ISO after five years of discussion. It provides a universal framework - in other words, a set of rules and instructions - for all businesses concerned with their own occupational health & safety.

    As with most ISO standards, ISO 45001 can be implemented by businesses of any size, and ISO encourages all businesses to do so. It lays out a modern, responsive set of health & safety policies and approaches, designed to integrate into the core of the business’ objectives and meld with other standards.

    ISO 45001 is the first ever global safety standard, and has been specifically to supplant a number of local standards. For UK businesses, this means that it will replace the popular current standard, OHSAS 18001. Businesses currently applying this standard may require assistance to migrate to the new standard and to retrain employees.

    What does ISO 45001 change?

    ISO 45001 is designed to modernise a business’ approach to occupational health & safety, putting it at the core of overarching policy decisions. It utilises the Annex SL guideline to help integrate OHS with other standards, including quality and environmental management.

    ISO 45001 is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model, simplifying risk planning and accentuating the importance of reporting and minimising risks. It also shifts focus slightly to grant more importance to long term health issues, rather than more evident short term injuries.

    Worker wellness and wellbeing are given much more prominence as a key element of health & safety management. The delegation of OHS is also disincentivised, with C-suite and managers encouraged to take on responsibility for health & safety and integrate it into their business plans.

    Workers are also more involved with health & safety under ISO 45001. Workers and their representatives are actively involved in consultation and reporting, are engaged in controlling risks, and are given a more substantial role in dictating company policy on health & safety.

    The rights of workers have also been enhanced in the new framework. This includes the right of workers to identify risks and remove themselves from the situation without penalty, before reporting said risk to the organisation. The obligations of organisations to provide a safe working environment have also been enhanced.

    Finally, the burden of responsibility when it comes to breaches of H&S laws and guidelines has been clarified. This comes into particular focus with outsourcing, procurement and contractors, where the organisation should now be expected to demonstrate the control of risk.


    ISO 45001 is a rigorous but sensible standard, and its application has been hard fought. It is also a momentous occasion, however, marking the first time any such OHS standard has been accepted and applied globally. Safer businesses tend to be happier and more effective businesses, and the worldwide uptake of ISO 45001 should ultimately be good news for everyone.

    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.