Qualified to help?

The register of consultants (not those employed as safety advisors within companies) who qualify to deliver advice on health and safety has now been established. This was a point raised in Lord Young’s report (common Sense Common Safety www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk) which has been accepted by the government in full.

To be listed on the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) you must belong to one half a dozen bodies and be at a designated level.

So far, so good – but – and it’s a big ‘but’ niche skills don’t give someone the qualifications to deliver all aspects of health and safety. For instance – a Registered Member of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors has a very specific specialism and may not know a lot about handling hazardous substances.

When it comes to fire – a huge risk element – there are no fire bodies listed at all on this register.

As I’m a Chartered member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (CMIOSH) I represent Risk and Safety Plus on OSHCR, but I’m not qualified to conduct medium to high risk fire assessments and wouldn’t put our clients at risk by attempting to carry one out – that’s why we’ve got a fire division with highly qualified fire engineers available to our clients.

There’s no differentiation on the OSHCR register – no specialisms listed so, for most people, it’s a case of working down a list. This was demonstrated recently when we received an enquirer looking for a Health and Safety advisor. They’d consulted the register and entered their postcode, which created a list of registered advisors in their area. They just started at the top of the list and worked down alphabetically!

We were at number 6 – but nobody else answered their phone! Sole practitioners have this challenge, but you would expect a professional business person to at least have an answering machine or an answering service rather than miss out on potential business.

It says a lot about specialists having an awareness of business as a whole – or not.

Risk and Safety Plus have an edge as we can offer our clients not only basic health and safety advice, but much more sophisticated offerings that integrate health and safety into business improvement to create an integrated management system and protect business continuity. We address the whole business not just one aspect of it.

Chris Hilder

Green workplaces

How green is your office?

Even if you are not planning an office move or refurbishment, there are many positive steps you can take immediately to reduce the footprint of your office, at little or no extra cost.

These are some strategies that will contribute to your environmental policy and create a greener workplace.

Keep the place clean and bright

Keeping windows, walls and all surfaces clean and bright helps daylight penetrate into the room, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Similarly, keeping light fittings clean gives a brighter light for the money spent on electricity.

Use non-toxic products

Improve indoor air quality by using environmentally friendly cleaning products that have no toxic chemicals or perfumes. Avoid chemical air fresheners. Relocate the printer away from desks to reduce the chance of fumes reaching any person over an extended period. This has the added bonus of giving people a reason to get away from their monitor and stretch their legs every now and then.

Use daylight to maximum benefit

A more comfortable working environment and reduced electricity bills for lighting can be achieved by optimising the use of natural light. Opening up the internal layout to allow daylight into all offices and putting desks where the occupant can look outside and use natural light both help. Fitting adjustable vertical blinds, which can be used to limit glare whilst impacting little on daylight are a better choice than horizontal blinds. Painting the walls and ceilings in light colours (and keeping them clean) also helps.

Reduce your energy use and overheads

• Replace any remaining tungsten filament light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. A compact fluorescent bulb uses less than a quarter of the electricity of a tungsten filament bulb of equivalent brightness and will last about ten times as long;

• Turn off all monitors and printers when leaving the office for lunch and in the evening, in addition to shutting down the computers;

• Don’t leave phone or laptop chargers plugged in when they aren’t charging as this still uses a substantial amount of electricity;

• Switch off lights when there is no-one using the room;

• Switch your electricity account to a supplier that supports renewable energy through a ‘green tariff’;

• You can reduce your footprint at work by encouraging everyone to turn off computers, monitors, lights, printers and copiers when not in use and setting all equipment to low-energy mode.

Don’t overuse heating and cooling

Too many people – at home and at work – leave their heating on 24/7. Ensure that the timer is always set to switch off sometime before the office is vacated in the evening. If your office is too small to have a formal ‘facilities management’ function, ensure that at least two people know how to adjust the timer. Turn the heating down before opening a window.

Are you too reliant on air conditioning? Some buildings can be cooled effectively at night through ventilation alone – making it easier to keep cool during the day. Other air conditioning systems are set to run at too high a level and end up fighting local heaters introduced by dissatisfied building users. This is hugely wasteful, as you end up using huge amounts of energy to achieve nothing!

Use recycled products and recycle yours

Make sure that your office paper is of the recycled variety and think about how you can recycle the office’s waste. There are thousands of recycling depots for cans, bottles and paper.

Also print double-sided documents with low quality settings, to reduce use of paper and toner.

Recycle your printer cartridges and all office paper. If you don’t have the option of organising a collection of office paper waste, can a run to the local recycling centre be organised weekly? Is there an opportunity for composting? Avoid using disposable cups for water dispensers or coffee – take a mug or glass instead.

Pot plants

Pot plants in the office will help occupants to connect with the natural world and have been shown to remove certain pollutants from the air, thereby improving indoor air quality.

Rethink your travel

Set up a lift sharing scheme for car-dependent commuters. For a large organisation this might require an intranet, but in a smaller office word of mouth should work very well.

Buy from sustainable sources

When selecting new furniture and fittings look for products manufactured from sustainable sources. Many furniture manufacturers can offer products made with timber sourced from sustainable forests under the Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody system. These products have an FSC ‘Tick Tree’ logo and reference number on the packaging. Most timber products can be sourced from FSC-certified suppliers.

Develop a reuse system

Look at all the products used in your organisation and devise a simple reuse plan for their end of life. This could include reuse by other parties that can make use of your old or unwanted items, from carpets and furniture to IT equipment.

6 Tips to help the Environment at work

Whether you run a home-based business or a retail business there are simple, easy things you can do to go green.

Operating a green business is not only good for the environment, but good for your business’ bottom line because conserving resources and cutting down on waste saves money.

Be an environmentally aware by:
1. Turning off equipment when it’s not being used. This can reduce the energy used by 25 percent; turning off the computers at the end of the day can save an additional 50 percent.

2. Encouraging communications by email, and reading email messages onscreen to determine whether it’s necessary to print them. If it’s not, don’t!

3. Choosing suppliers who take back packaging for reuse – and who use recycled materials wherever possible.

4. Producing double-sided documents whenever possible. This can save up to £4,000 plus a year!

5. Not leaving taps dripping; always close them tightly after use. One drop wasted per second wastes 10,000 litres per year.

6. Installing displacement toilet dams in toilet reservoirs. Placing one or two plastic containers filled with stones (not bricks) in the toilet’s reservoir will displace about 4 litres of water per flush – a huge reduction of water use over the course of a year.

Environmentally friendly actions don’t have to be large to have an impact.

Consistently reducing the amount of energy, water, and paper our businesses use can make a huge difference, both to the environment and to our balance sheet.