Many businesses use consultants of all kinds – marketing, I.T., taxation, financial etc. and many of them are very careful about who they hire.  They correctly check out their track record, their expertise work done for other clients etc.  Ultimately they will try to find the best fit for their organisation and select a consultant who can solve problems, bring solutions and generally add value. Price comes into it but it is rarely the only criteria and should never be the only selection tool.

Scenario 1: Marketing

You hire a marketing consultant to plan the launch of your new product. It takes months of planning, resources, time, advertising, media advertising etc. and then the whole thing flops. The product bombs out and the company looks a bit stupid.

Scenario 2: Tax

You hire a taxation consultant to advise you on how to legally minimise your tax liabilities under income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.  They work with you for months, offer all sorts of advice which you act on and 6 months later you discover their advice was factually incorrect and that you have now fallen foul of the Revenue Commissioners who decide to pursue you for outstanding taxes.

In both cases the advice falls short of what you thought you were buying, you end up having wasted time, money and other opportunities and you have a residual problem to sort out – in one case you still have to successfully launch your product and in the second you have to settle things with the Revenue.

Nobody Dies

So what is my point – my point is even with problems and costs as bad as these NOBODY ENDS UP INJURED OR DEAD! But if you choose your health and safety consultant similarly and they prove to be incompetent then you can have injuries and/or deaths on your hand and no amount of money or problem solving can reverse them.  Yes money can be used to compensate victims or to pay Court fines but there is nothing you or anyone else can do to undo the injuries or the fatalities.

So don’t you agree that taking the time to carefully select a suitably qualified, competent health and safety consultant is time well spent?  The reality is that many organisations spend more time mulling over buying a piece of equipment or a company vehicle than they do when selecting their health and safety advisor.

If you cannot manage health and safety yourself, and you cannot be an expert in everything, then bite the bullet and call in a professional to advise you.  Sadly we are still having deaths at work in Ireland as well as serious injuries in 2014.  All the knowledge is there, the expertise is available – please consider using it.

Profound words from Anders Ferbe

In October 2013 two people died in a work related accident at the Luleå plant of SSAB, a leading producer of high strength steel, in the north of Sweden. The two men were employed by a subcontractor, and on site to empty a cistern of tar as part of maintenance work carried out every six years. The men tragically fell into the cistern of tar and were later found dead.

The president of Swedish union IF Metall, Anders Ferbe said in response to this tragedy:

“In the wake of yet another terrible accident, we feel for the families of the deceased. We cannot tolerate a situation where people are risking their lives at work.”

Read Anders Ferbe full speech here

Many organisations simply do not value the expertise and advice that competent health and safety professionals can deliver.  To put is simply we assist employers to solve health and safety problems and protect people at work in a fully cost effective way.

So what is competence? Since the passing of Safety Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 we have a legal definition of competence which is:

“For the purposes of the relevant statutory provisions, a person is deemed to be a competent person where, having regard to the task he or she is required to perform, and taking account of the size or hazards (or both of them) of the undertaking or establishment in which he or she undertakes work, the person possesses sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work to be undertaken”.

(The text in bold type is my own for emphasis purposes)

One badge of competence that you can check for is membership of IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) which is the professional body for health and safety practitioners around the world.  In Ireland there are approximately 2000 members at various levels of membership.   A consultant who is either a Chartered Member or better still a Chartered Fellow is someone who has demonstrated their competence and experience to this membership body so that should reassure you that they are professional and up to date.

As with all business decisions you get what you pay for.  Sadly some health and safety consultants offering services in Ireland are (a) not properly qualified, (b) are not members of IOSH at any level and (c) do not hold professional indemnity insurance.  So buyer beware. Check out who you are dealing with.  Verify that they are who they say they are, seek references (as you would for a prospective new employee) and then make an informed decision.

Mary Darlington is a Chartered Fellow of IOSH with over 25 years’ experience both in industry and in consultancy.  See: www.darlington.ie for more information.