Author Archives: Safety Delivery

About Safety Delivery

I am the Director of Safety Delivery Limited, which offers the full range of health and safety consultancy services and on-site health and safety training courses for managers and employees. Consultancy services include legal compliance, risk assessments and audits, fire safety reviews and packages, construction site safety and on-site partnerships. Training services include IOSH licensed and accredited Working Safely and Managing Safely courses and fire marshal training supported by the Fire Protection Association (FPA). Further training includes Safety Delivery's own Managing Safety Compliance course as well as an exclusive stress management course for health and wellbeing. All services are tailored towards the special and distinctive requirements of each employer and organisation.

Fire Safety Compliance

Compliance is still the key to fire safety

Reform may be on the way – but current legislation needs to be respected and enforced

fire-fighters

TRAGEDY often brings about change, both in material ways and also in perception and outlook. Recent terrible events in the UK are serving to provide a catalyst for material change in fire safety, but it will require an upheaval of truly seismic proportions to transform the mindset of so many people who still see safety rules generally either as an encumbrance or simply ‘not their problem’.

What can businesses and organisations learn from tragic incidents? And how can owners, directors and organisational leaders be persuaded to meet their responsibility for implementing vital safety measures necessary to prevent the serious spread of fire? While there is much debate at the moment about building regulations and systemic failures, it is important for us to consider our existing laws and, in particular, the key current fire regulation set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The Fire Safety Order lays down the requirements clearly. It also tells you who is responsible for fire safety on premises and what they must do to ensure the safety of staff, occupants and members of the public. The ‘responsible person’ in legal terms is clearly defined. The Order states: “Any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.”

Responsibility defined in law

Anyone who has control of premises or some level of control is a ‘responsible person’. This includes:
• The employer for those parts of premises staff may enter;
• The owner, landlord or managing agent for common or shared parts of premises or shared fire alarm systems and fire safety equipment;
• The occupier or tenant or any other person who has some level of control over a part of the premises.

You are responsible for fire safety in business or other non-domestic premises if you are:
• An employer
• The owner
• The landlord
• A managing agent
• An occupier or tenant
• Anyone else with control (eg facilities / building / site manager)
• A person with paying guests (eg running a bed and breakfast / guesthouse or letting a self-catering property)
• If there is more than one ‘responsible person’, you have to work together to meet your responsibilities

As the responsible person you must:
• Carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly
• Tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified
• Put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures
• Plan for an emergency
• Provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training

Respect and enforcement

While tragedy makes us review everything that has gone before and is currently in place, we must take into account the possibility that we may well have fair, intelligent and robustly designed legislation – but it is not being respected, monitored or enforced. It is this gross failure that makes the law ineffective and encourages endemic ignorance and avoidance of safety measures which ultimately costs lives.

This is something that everyone should consider carefully. Safety law must be respected by those responsible and enforced by those who are given the critical task. The solution is most often in our own hands.

Compliance is still the key.

 

 

Steve Bennett is the Director of Safety Delivery. Give him a call on 0208 408 1560 or email info@safetydelivery.co.uk to find out how your business or organisation can manage safety compliance.

 

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Fire Marshals Save You Money and Prevent Tragedy

Failure to provide fire safety training has a lethal cost

fire safetyThe humble fire marshal is often perceived as the figure in the hi-vis vest who escorts staff and visitors off the premises and takes the headcount on the street during one of those unwelcome fire drills, or, even more annoyingly, when there is a ‘false’ alarm. But, wait… there is far more to this greatly understated role than many workers or errant employers and owners might imagine.

The fact is that having properly trained fire marshals saves money and can prevent tragedy. They are the eyes that focus daily on hazards and potential risk; they offer solutions before fire occurs and they provide the vital skills and required action in case of the real thing.

Effective fire safety training within your company or organisation is invaluable. And the price to pay in its absence is there for all to see in terms of financial and human cost. The very recent tragedy at a shopping and leisure centre in Kemerovo, Russia which resulted in the deaths of at least 64 people, many of them children, has inevitably captured the world’s headlines. Fire escape routes were blocked, the fire alarm was inoperable, and no instructions or directions were given to any of those trapped inside the centre. But there are many more stark examples of similar failures in recent years, such as the tragic fire at the Kentex slipper manufacturing factory in Valenzuela, Philippines in 2015 which killed 74 people.

It was reported that the factory’s workers had received no safety training; in the event, nearly all those who died ended up inexplicably on the second floor of the building and were trapped fatally by barred windows. A survivor stated: “We were running not knowing exactly where to go .. if people had known what to do, it would have been different.”

Training is an integral part of fire safety law

fire-fightersFire safety law in the UK is set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This makes it clear that you must have risk assessments and that training is an integral part of implementing fire safety. Article 21 states that the responsible person “must ensure that his employees are provided with adequate safety training” and that the training “must include suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other relevant persons on the premises.”

Now, before you fall too easily into the comfortable notion that what happens internationally cannot happen at home, think again. For an indication of how a disaster may be waiting to happen near you tomorrow, simply view on line your local public notices board to see who has been issued in recent times with Enforcement or Prohibition/Restriction Notices.

The London Fire Brigade’s public notices summary information site http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/boro_summary_info.asp?id=1 provides a fascinating insight, naming names, businesses and establishments. The breaches of the law are not only embarrassing for those concerned but also hugely alarming in the nature and level of the compliance failures. In many cases, Article 21 is one of those areas breached. Fire marshals are not being trained and staff are not being informed about fire safety.

Endangering lives and having a huge financial impact

As well as endangering lives, the failure to provide adequate fire safety training for staff can have a huge financial impact on business. An Oxford Street store operated by the prominent fashion retailer New Look was destroyed by fire in 2007 with massive resulting disruption to trade in the country’s most famous shopping high street. An estimated 35 fire engines and 150 fire fighters were needed to tackle the blaze; crews remained at the scene for three days. More than 50 stores in Oxford Street suffered severe disruption to trade throughout the period.

The court case which followed heard that fire alarms had been turned off after sounding, staff did not know evacuation procedures and that the first phone call alerting the fire brigade came not from the store but from an office worker in an adjacent building. Consequently, New Look pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The breaches were insufficient staff training and storage blocking escape routes. The company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £136,000 costs.

Penalties are increasing dramatically

Penalties are now increasing dramatically. Recent legislation means that the punishment is more likely to fit the crime (please refer to my February 2016 blog). Mandatory sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences in England and Wales have been introduced. The definitive guide produced by the Sentencing Council has had a major bearing on the level of fines and prison sentences imposed for offences as well as putting far greater emphasis on culpability and the level of exposure to risk of injury or death.

The Guide states: “Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks to health and safety and do not require proof that the offence caused any actual harm. The offence is in creating a risk of harm.”

Failure to provide fire safety training will create a risk of harm

fire-extinguisherAlthough the guidelines are not concerned directly with breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or refer specifically to ‘fire’, it is clear that, in practice, the courts have the ability to apply similar criteria and mirror the health and safety guidelines in sentencing for offences under the Order. This is reflected in the fact that there is no limit on fines for sentencing in the Crown Court under the Order and there is already plenty of case law where companies and individuals have been punished heavily for creating the fire risk alone.

A failure to provide fire safety training is most certainly regarded as creating a risk of harm. Therefore, companies, establishments and responsible persons such as directors could also face punishment for simply creating the risk, even without incident. Step forward the humble fire marshals who are now well and truly elevated to their correct status!

Give Steve a call on 0208 408 1560 or email him  to find out how to ensure your business is compliant with fire safety training and what Safety Delivery can do to help.

Stress Management

Stress at Work Comes to the Fore

Management Standards are vital in dealing with the ‘hidden’ workplace crisis

Safety Delivery - Stress Delivery

Stress in the workplace is a major issue that still too often remains hidden under a twin-layered cloak of stigma and denial.  However, its huge impact upon individuals and importance as a key factor in productivity is being recognised progressively both in Britain and globally.

Modern day methods of working and the growing demands placed upon people on an endless basis thanks to mobile and internet communications mean that stress is as much a factor in health and safety in the workplace as any visible hazard. Unless we pay close attention to job design, work organisation and overall management, there is always a real danger that workers are going to suffer from the excessive levels of stress which lead to mistakes, illness and long-term absence or departure from employment.

It was highly significant that the recent World Day for Safety and Health at Work, promoted by the International Labour Organisation, highlighted workplace stress as its central theme. Marking the day, the ILO published a study, Workplace Stress – A Collective Challengewhich clearly illustrates the magnitude of the problem worldwide; it also evaluates strategies for prevention and effective management, concluding: “The building of a preventive culture is a shared responsibility of governments, employers and workers, health professionals and societies as a whole.”

Cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety

Work-related stress in Britain is quantified in statistics published annually by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These make for alarming reading and arguably represent only the tip of the iceberg. The latest figures for 2014/15 show that:

  • The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety was 440,000, representing 1,380 out of every 100,000 workers.
  • The total number of days lost as a consequence was 9.9 million, representing an average of 23 days per case.
  • Stress accounted for 35% of all work-related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
  • The main factors cited as causes of stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.

HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” It also points out crucially: “Stress can hit anyone at any level of the business. Recent research shows that work-related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries. That is why a population-wide approach is necessary to tackle it.”

One in six workers suffer from mental health issues

The true underlying extent is undoubtedly more substantial, given an embarrassed reluctance on the part of some individuals to admit suffering from stress or depression and either overt or covert denial by some employers that such problems could even exist within their organisation.

Speaking to MPs recently at a parliamentary reception, the president of IOSH, Dr Karen McDonnell, stated that one in six workers in the UK suffered from mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. She re-iterated that organisations must ensure work is safe, healthy and supportive. The one-in-six figure reflects the introductory passage to the Mental Health Toolkit for Employers which has just been published by Business in the Community in association with Public Health England. This toolkit is a valuable and timely reference for businesses who recognise the challenges and want to adopt a positive approach which, among other things, will encourage line managers to acquire sufficient knowledge and training so that they can better understand their roles in this highly sensitive area of management.

Management Standards for Work-Related Stress

Clearly, there is a requirement for a framework within which wellbeing policies and procedures relating to stress can be implemented. And in the UK, it exists in the robust form of the HSE’s Management Standards for Work-Related Stress. These exacting standards represent what HSE describes as “a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of health, wellbeing and organisational performance.”

The management standards define “the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation where the risks from work-related stress are being effectively managed and controlled.” The standards cover “six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and wellbeing, lower productivity and increased sickness absence.” They represent the “primary sources” of stress at work.

The six management standards therefore come under the distinctive headings of Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change. Each of these standards requires that systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns. According to HSE, the management standards “demonstrate good practice through a step-by-step risk assessment approach” and allow up-to-date assessment using surveys and other techniques as well as “promoting active discussion and working in partnership with employees.”

HSE concludes that the standards help to simplify risk assessment for work-related stress by identifying the main risk factors, helping employers focus on underlying causes and prevention, and “providing a yardstick by which organisations can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress.”

Management standards at the core of mental wellbeing

Current recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) put the management standards at the core of its philosophy for mental wellbeing at work. NICE also makes it clear in its recommendations that companies and organisations should “ensure line managers are aware that supporting employee health and wellbeing is a central part of their role, for example by including it in line managers’ job descriptions and emphasising it during recruitment.”

Further initiatives such as the national Workplace Wellbeing Charter and the London Healthy Workplace Charter provide an opportunity for employers and organisations to show their intent and commitment towards health and wellbeing in the workplace. Both schemes embrace the need for commitment, planning, strategy and structure with achievements recognised through the acquisition of charter status. There are currently around 1,000 organisations with national charter status in England and almost 100 accredited in the London scheme.

In all cases, the management standards provide employers and organisations with a ready-made framework for workplace stress management.  They are at the core of mental wellbeing policy and the evidence is clear that they can have a huge commensurate benefit to the business ‘bottom line’.

Steve Bennett is the Director of Safety Delivery. Give him a call on 0208 408 1560 or email info@safetydelivery.co.uk to find out how your business or organisation can manage work-related stress, implement the management standards, and achieve recognition and accreditation.

 

Fire Wardens Save You Money and Prevent Tragedy

Failure to provide fire safety training has a lethal cost

fire safetyThe humble fire warden is often perceived as the figure in the hi-vis vest who escorts staff and visitors off the premises and takes the headcount on the street during one of those unwelcome fire drills, or, even more annoyingly, when there is a ‘false’ alarm. But, wait… there is far more to this greatly understated role than many workers or errant employers and owners might imagine.

The fact is that having properly trained fire wardens saves money and can prevent tragedy. They are the eyes that focus daily on hazards and potential risk; they offer solutions before fire occurs and they provide the vital skills and required action in case of the real thing.

Effective fire safety training within your company or organisation is invaluable. And the price to pay in its absence is there for all to see in terms of financial and human cost. The most stark example of this during the past year has been the tragic fire at the Kentex slipper manufacturing factory in Valenzuela, Philippines which killed 74 people.

It was reported that the factory’s workers had received no safety training; in the event, nearly all those who died ended up inexplicably on the second floor of the building and were trapped fatally by barred windows. A survivor stated: “We were running not knowing exactly where to go .. if people had known what to do, it would have been different.”

Training is an integral part of fire safety law

fire-fightersFire safety law in the UK is set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This makes it clear that you must have risk assessments and that training is an integral part of implementing fire safety. Article 21 states that the responsible person “must ensure that his employees are provided with adequate safety training” and that the training “must include suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other relevant persons on the premises.”

Now, before you fall too easily into the comfortable notion that what happens internationally cannot happen at home, think again. For an indication of how a disaster may be waiting to happen near you tomorrow, simply view on line your local public notices board to see who has been issued in recent times with Enforcement or Prohibition/Restriction Notices.

The London Fire Brigade’s public notices summary information site http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/boro_summary_info.asp?id=1 provides a fascinating insight, naming names, businesses and establishments. The breaches of the law are not only embarrassing for those concerned but also hugely alarming in the nature and level of the compliance failures. In many cases, Article 21 is one of those areas breached. Fire wardens are not being trained and staff are not being informed about fire safety.

Endangering lives and having a huge financial impact

As well as endangering lives, the failure to provide adequate fire safety training for staff can have a huge financial impact on business. An Oxford Street store operated by the prominent fashion retailer New Look was destroyed by fire in 2007 with massive resulting disruption to trade in the country’s most famous shopping high street. An estimated 35 fire engines and 150 fire fighters were needed to tackle the blaze; crews remained at the scene for three days. More than 50 stores in Oxford Street suffered severe disruption to trade throughout the period.

The court case which followed heard that fire alarms had been turned off after sounding, staff did not know evacuation procedures and that the first phone call alerting the fire brigade came not from the store but from an office worker in an adjacent building. Consequently, New Look pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The breaches were insufficient staff training and storage blocking escape routes. The company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £136,000 costs.

Penalties are going to increase dramatically

Penalties are now going to increase dramatically. New legislation means that the punishment is more likely to fit the crime in future (please refer to my February 2016 blog). New sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences in England and Wales have been introduced. The definitive guide produced by the Sentencing Council will have a major bearing on the level of fines and prison sentences imposed for offences as well as putting far greater emphasis on culpability and the level of exposure to risk of injury or death.

The Guide states: “Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks to health and safety and do not require proof that the offence caused any actual harm. The offence is in creating a risk of harm.”

Failure to provide fire safety training will create a risk of harm

fire-extinguisherThere has been some speculation that because the new guidelines do not cover breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or refer specifically to ‘fire’, there may be major discrepancies in sentencing as the guidelines do not apply directly. However, I believe that in practice it is most likely that courts will apply similar criteria and mirror the health and safety guidelines in sentencing for offences under the Order. After all, there is no limit on fines sentencing in the Crown Court under the Order and there is already plenty of case law where companies and individuals have been punished heavily for creating the fire risk alone.

A failure to provide fire safety training would certainly be regarded as creating a risk of harm. Therefore, companies, establishments and responsible persons such as directors could also face punishment for simply creating the risk, even without incident. Step forward the humble fire wardens who are now well and truly elevated to their correct status!

Give Steve a call on 0208 408 1560 or email him  to find out how to ensure your business is compliant with fire safety training and what Safety Delivery can do to help.

Radical sentencing reforms change the game in health and safety

The punishment is more likely to fit the crime

The magnificent Lady Justice statue ontop of the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court of England and Wales) in London. New legislation is impacting upon health and safety in a way that is fluid and unpredictable at present. But the most likely outcome of recent crucial changes in law and judicial approach is that the punishment is more likely to fit the crime in future; and that is bad news indeed for those employers and organisations who continue to ignore the need for proper risk assessments or believe they simply don’t have to conform to “elf ‘n safety” rules as long as the job gets done.

The headline change that has taken place from the beginning of February is the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences in England and Wales. The definitive guide produced by the Sentencing Council will have a major bearing on the level of fines and prison sentences imposed for offences as well as putting far greater emphasis on culpability and the level of exposure to risk of injury or death.

The full guide can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website at www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/publications and it is well worth reading through to understand the full implications for companies, organisations and individuals. In an era where safety at work seems to be regarded in some political quarters as a source of ‘red tape’ which threatens to bring the wheels of industry grinding to a halt, it is refreshing in its precise summary of where responsibility lies and its acknowledgement of the prime importance of risk prevention and management.

Sentencing guidelines are not optional

In case the term ‘guidelines’ sounds rather similar to those guidelines sometimes associated with Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs), which are so often pushed to the wayside in working practice, potential offenders should beware: sentencing guidelines must be applied under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and they are not optional. These particular health and safety guidelines categorise both culpability and risk, and they are also prescriptive in setting the margins for fines and sentences.

Fines for companies will take account of turnover and could amount to £10 million for health and safety offences under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 or £20 million for manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Further, companies in the ‘very large’ category of turnover (significantly above £50 million per annum) will face much higher penalties to reflect the size of their business.  Individuals face a prescribed range of punishments, too, which could see prison sentences of up to two years being handed down to some of the worst offenders under either HSWA 1974 or food safety and hygiene regulations.

SMEs must take a more serious approach to health and safety

Vitally, this does not represent only a punishment charter for the rich. Those small and medium businesses who have been either indifferent or plainly dismissive of their responsibilities and duties must now take a much more serious approach to health and safety.  For example, ‘micro’ companies with turnover below £2 million could still pay a fine of up to £450,000 for health and safety offences or up to £800,000 for corporate manslaughter.

Courts must also now look at the degree of culpability and the level of exposure to risk. This is a radical shift and it is no surprise that some experts in the health and safety industry agree that the Sentencing Council’s guide signifies “the most dramatic change in health and safety enforcement since 1974.” (*See SHP Online at www.shponline.co.uk/the-most-dramatic-change-in-health-and-safety-enforcement-since-1974).

The so-called ‘category ranges’ consider culpability and harm. Culpability ranges from low to very high. The ‘very high’ category is described as “deliberate breach of or flagrant disregard for the law”, while the ‘high’ category is described as “serious and/or systemic failure within the organisation to address risks to health and safety”.

I believe it is fair to assume that many offences will fall into either of these higher categories. For example, if you haven’t put suitable risk assessments in place or if you haven’t put risk controls in place, there is a good chance that you will have a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ level of culpability.

Similarly, harm is divided into high, medium or low likelihood in a risk assessment-style matrix which incorporates three levels of seriousness ranging from death or major lifelong impairment (level A) to major impairment (level B) and all other cases (level C).

You can now be prosecuted simply on the basis of what might happen

However, the potential game changer in this category range is found in its description. The Guide states: “Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risks to health and safety and do not require proof that the offence caused any actual harm. The offence is in creating a risk of harm.”

In short, you can now be prosecuted on the basis of what might happen as well as what actually does happen as a result of your failure to manage risks to health and safety. The punishment will be quantified under the matrix and the guide states further that the court must consider “whether the offence exposed a number of workers or members of the public to the risk of harm .. the greater the number of people, the greater the risk of harm.”

Where harm does occur, the court must consider “whether the offence was a significant cause of actual harm” and consider “whether the offender’s breach was a significant cause of actual harm and the extent to which other factors contributed to the harm caused. Actions of victims are unlikely to be considered contributory events for sentencing purposes.”

This provides a fascinating contrast to the thrust of government policy in recent years which has seen among other things a huge reduction in financial support for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the downgrading of status of most workplaces and industries from ‘hazardous’ to ‘low risk’, scrapping of many ACoPs, and, of course, legislative measures such as the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and the Deregulation Act 2015 (Health and Safety at Work) which were designed to slash the ‘red tape’ and remove responsibilities from employers and the self-employed.

Giving the courts power of enforcement

Cynics might well suggest that the new sentencing guidelines are a hammer that will not be used to crack the proverbial nut because there is neither the will nor the resources to wield it. But I would argue that this guide gives courts the power of enforcement that will positively encourage intervention not only by the HSE, who, after all, can now apply a charge for investigation on site through the Fee For Intervention (FFI) scheme, but local authorities and all others involved in promoting and bringing about safer practices in the workplace.

Act now before it is too late

This is an opportunity for review. Every employer, organisation and working individual should give it serious thought. Do you or those you work with have suitable and sufficient risk assessments covering all your activities? Do you have proper controls in place? If not, by failing to act, can you combine the clear risk of accident or ill health occurring with the additional risk that a new legislative force will punish you more heavily than ever before?

The dynamics of health and safety enforcement are irreversibly set for change in the dramatic fashion depicted by industry experts. So my advice is that you should now take a fresh and objective look at your compliance and, if you are in any doubt, seek advice.

Give Steve a call on 0208 408 1560 or email him at info@safetydelivery.co.uk to find out how these guidelines will affect your business and what Safety Delivery can do to help.

 

 

Health and Wellbeing – management standards are vital for your business

home pic

Health and Wellbeing Week is underway in London to great fanfare from many major businesses as well as luminaries such as the Mayor of London who declares in characteristically robust fashion that he wants the capital to be “the healthiest city in the world”. Indeed, this initiative has been launched to coincide with the European Week for Safety and Health at Work with the outgoing mayor emphasising the need to “spread the important message that healthier workplaces can also benefit the bottom line”.

The story behind the health and wellbeing initiative and its purpose is explained in an excellent article from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) on its website which can be found at http://www.iosh.co.uk/News/Boris-Johnson-backs-London-Health-and-Wellbeing-Week.aspx and it provides greater detail which includes the four key themes (4Ws) for the week.

Among these ‘W’ themes is the workplace and, specifically, the need to prevent workers from becoming ill through workplace hazards. This is the key theme that I address here – and arguably it is the most important of them all. In particular, stress in the workplace is something that should now come to the forefront and be tackled head-on through these initiatives both at home and abroad.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveals in its most recent statistics that the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain in 2013/14 was 487,000 (39%) out of a total of 1.24 million cases for all work-related illnesses. The number of new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 244,000, while the total number of working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 11.3 million.

Clearly, these figures have a commensurate impact on the “bottom line”. So how can they be properly confronted? HSE already offers the framework for employers to cope better with an issue which is too often ignored or quietly sidelined because of the perceived stigma in recognising in the first instance that such a problem may even exist within any organisation.

HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” Its Management Standards for Work-Related Stress represent what it describes as “a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of health, wellbeing and organisational performance.” I concur. In my view, the standards offer an opportunity to develop a systematic approach, free of blame or stigma. As HSE rightly points out: “Stress can hit anyone at any level of the business. Recent research shows that work related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries. That is why a population-wide approach is necessary to tackle it”.

The management standards define “the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation where the risks from work-related stress are being effectively managed and controlled.” These standards cover “six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence.” They represent the “primary sources” of stress at work.

The six management standards therefore come under the distinctive headings of Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change. Each of these standards requires that systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns. According to HSE, the management standards “demonstrate good practice through a step-by-step risk assessment approach” and allow up-to-date assessment using surveys and other techniques as well as “promoting active discussion and working in partnership with employees.” It concludes that the standards help to simplify risk assessment for work-related stress by identifying the main risk factors for work-related stress, helping employers focus on underlying causes and prevention, and “providing a yardstick by which organisations can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress.”

You can read everything you need to know about the management standards at http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm … it could possibly change your entire business ethos.

And it might very well benefit your bottom line!

Local community and business – the vital links

October: This is an article appearing locally in the London press – I comment on the link between community support and business growth:

Local community support is becoming more key to business growth in the UK than for many decades, according to one of the newest ‘kids on the block’ in our rapidly developing commercial sector in south and west London.

Steve Bennett, the director of Safety Delivery, a burgeoning health and safety consultancy and training provider, believes that the way forward in the coming years is already being shown by the progressive partnerships which are now being forged on a local level. His company has benefited from the backing of Merton Business Support Service, which brings together local enterprises and aims in particular to help start-up companies to achieve success.

“I believe that local relationships are crucial on a business and community level and provide real social value, ” said Mr Bennett. He explained: “We have been given excellent start-up support, but, more importantly, the business service continues to give us all the contact we need with everyone in local chambers of commerce and other networking groups. This is becoming the lifeblood of business and communities, and there can be no greater recognition of its importance than the attention currently being paid to local communities by some of the largest supermarket retail sellers in the country who are opening their shops at an incredibly fast rate on our street corners.”

Safety Delivery is one of many new enterprises mushrooming in the region. Its director feels that there is room for fresh optimism following recent years of recession. Mr Bennett added: “The difficulties since the mid-2000s have brought about a greater appreciation of social and community responsibility. This has permeated into business and the way in which we work with each other and interact with our communities. We should now concentrate on fostering our opportunities together and supporting all our community causes.”