Until recently enforcement officers (particularly local authority environmental health inspectors) would expect any business to have someone who provides competent advice on health and safety issues. Ideally, this would be someone in-house, but for smaller businesses that’s often not practical and an external consultant would provide that service. In fact, I’ve had clients that have had improvement notices issued because they haven’t had adequate access to a competent advisor.
However, things are changing and there seems to be a change of policy. My guess is that it has been brought about by the Better Regulations Office who are trying to reduce bureaucracy and paperwork for smaller companies. Unfortunately, this can leave smaller clients vulnerable to prosecution.
I suspect that this may have something to do with the Government’s plans to provide free advice using retired safety practitioners, e.g. ex-local authority environmental health inspectors. As these people tend to be well-trained clipboard wielding bureaucrats they will do everything by the book!
They tend to be risk averse and are likely to cost smaller organisations much more than necessary in instituting processes and purchasing equipment that may not be necessary. They will apply guidelines to the letter and are unlikely to be creative and flexible in how they approach the particular issues that face smaller businesses.
A one size fits all approach will cost most small businesses much more than a good external consultant who understands their situation and assesses what is really needed.
These two conflicting demands of needing competent advice, but then suggesting that everyone can do this in-house, can only create confusion for smaller organisations – and health and safety will, again, get the blame!