Selecting a Health and Safety Consultant

Many small businesses reach a point in their growth when the need for health and safety advice becomes important. The reasons vary – it may be the company reaches certain critical points that trigger legislative requirements, the owner/manager simply no longer has the time due to the general growth of the business or simply because as the company grows health and safety questions become more complex. Another factor that I’ve noticed in recent years is large companies requiring more in depth safety management systems from even the smallest supplier as part of an attempt to minimise their own liabilities as part of their contractor vetting programme.

Within the UK – companies with 5 employees need to start recording risk assessments and require health and safety policies but even without legislation most companies reach a point where they accept a need for professional safety advice. Now that point may simply be when they reach a point of needing safety documents or it may come a few years later as the company grows and safety needs become more complex than the management are immediately comfortable with.

As we travel around the globe we find different laws, different levels of professionalism and varying qualifications are linked to health and safety. For small companies attempting to locate their first health and safety consultant it can be an expensive mistake if the wrong Consultancy is employed. So how do you get the decision right first time?

Competence and Qualifications – Whilst exams and certificates aren’t the only factor they tend to be a good starting point. In recent years “safety consultants” have grown like mould – unfortunately many are seriously lacking in any formal qualification and others have the paper but little real world experience. The term health and safety consultant is not “protected” in any of the industrial nations thus too many people with a new business card and website appear as experts – but all too often they have little by way of qualifications and/or experience. Every country has its own qualifications but do check and find out what those qualifications are. In the UK – IOSH is the largest professional body and there is a national register of safety consultants run in partnership with the government and HSE; www.oshcr.org. This requires the consultants to be fully qualified (the register has an equivalency scheme between the main safety institutes so regardless of where they became qualified you can rest assured they are qualified).

Experience: Alongside qualification it’s another must have. Fresh faced 20 somethings fresh out of college with a degree in safety may have a bright future but with little experience their value as a consultant can be limited. Traditionally good consultants learnt their trade somewhere in a full time role – how to find the right compromise, how to make safety work in the real world – and received support from more experienced colleagues whilst they made their own mistakes.

Sector Knowledge – It’s always helpful when the consultant can speak about your industry from the beginning – but equally a good consultant has seen a wide variety of workplaces over the years and can quickly apply the basic principles to any company. More important than immediate experience of your industry is whether they grasp the basic principles of your business quickly. To me whilst you always learn things in new business and sectors a lot of knowledge is transferable – machine guarding is common regardless of whats being processed.

Fear – the moment a consultant uses fear to sell walk away. Anyone who talks about jail, fines as the only justification for using them is struggling. Yes we all know the law is part of the reason you’re looking for a safety professional but any body can quote law – a good safety advisor will lead you through a broader set of reasons that include law but not in isolation – people not getting hurt being the principle factor to start from.

Cost: Don’t be misled by low day rates, cheap initial safety audits – it’s not what you pay per hour that matters it’s what you get for your money that matters. The old sales technique of getting your foot in the door with an offer and then upselling is just as common in safety as elsewhere.

Two Way Conversations – a good consultant will talk to you before starting or even quoting. I like to know what a client thinks they need, how they view where they’re at and how much budget there is as typical starting points. Every client is different – every client has unique challenges and solutions. Whilst budgets need to be flexible; a good consultant will look to find a way to maximise your spend in terms of outputs and solutions for your business.

Like – it’s a weird word for business – but “do I like or at least respect the consultant?” is key. If you understand what they say – they understand you and attempt to make any advice fit into your business then it’s a good beginning. You need to work with them so make sure thats possible before making your selection.

Initial Documents – this is where you really can tell if you’ve made the right choice – it may not be ideal but if you’re unhappy now then things will only get worse as time passes. Things to be wary of – if documents look like they’ve been cut and paste they probably have (safety reports and safety policies are the worst offenders); if you don’t really understand the work because its written in legalese (or just endless warnings of jail and fines) then it’s time to re consider because the chances are that it will end up destined to be unread; equally if there’s no attempt to understand business pressures and needs then again it may be time to get a second opinion. A quick test I always use is to simply do a word search in Word or whatever software you use. Think of typical words that are key to your business and see if they exist (for example working for a car repair workshop – check words like vehicle repair, ramp, oil – dumb I know but when none show up bar the most general sense than its a generic policy).

If you find the right safety consultant they’ll work with you to make your workplace safer and it should feel like everyone’s got the same goals – get the right consultant and it can be a relationship that grows with your business. Nothing lasts forever and everything has its own lifespan – but long relations mean they remember the past, remember where you came from and best of all develop relationships with you and your staff – and relationships are key to most things at the end of the day.

But in summary ensure they are competent, will deliver and you feel you can develop a “relationship” with – or at the very least they can solve you immediate needs.

Eight Ways to Measure the Financial Health of Your Small Business

Time and again small businesses advisors say their clients don’t pay enough attention to their financial metrics. So, how is this a problem and what can you, a business owner or senior manager, do about it?

Financial health can be tracked by paying attention to the following:

• Assets – Tracking your equipment, furniture, real estate and other holdings should be easy. But to have a true idea of the value of your business, you also have to track changes in the value of those assets. More than one small business has found itself loaded with assets (such as computers and office furniture) worth more than the business itself.

• Liabilities – On the face of it, this is easy – liabilities are what you owe but what you owe isn’t always as obvious as totaling your monthly bills. Liabilities include payroll taxes and all that go along with them like state taxes, social security, Medicare and unemployment taxes.

• Costs of Goods Sold – If you’re buying finished items for resale, calculating the cost of goods sold is relatively easy. However, advertising, marketing, labor, storage and all the overhead and indirect costs not strictly allocated to production. In a manufacturing environment where labor and inventory become major factors.

• Gross Profit Margin – Calculated by dividing gross profit by total sales. If your gross profit is staying consistent or trending upward, you’re probably on track. On the other hand, a declining margin is an indication that you must either increase prices or reduce costs. If both gross profit and profit margin disappear altogether, you’ll be like the dot com, while loosing money on every sale, figured he could make it up in volume.

• Debt-to-Asset Ratio? – This ratio lets you know how much of your company is actually owned by someone else like your lender or investors. It can happen as part of a major expansion, or it can also indicate that you’re getting in over your head.

• Value of Accounts Receivable – This is the money you are owed. A rise in accounts receivable may be a warning that your customers are starting to experience financial difficulties.

• Average Receivables Collection Time – This is probably one of the most aggravating pieces of information for cash-strapped businesses, because it tells you how many days you’re acting as ‘banker’ for the people who owe you money.

• Accounts Payable – The flip side of accounts receivable is the accounts payable, what you owe your creditors. An increase in your accounts payable may simply reflect a larger amount of purchases to accommodate a growing business. Unfortunately, an unplanned or unmanaged increase can be an internal warning that your financial strength is waning.

Summary

Monitoring financial indicators is essential to determining business health. Consult your accountant for additional information or help.

The Importance Of Safety Management Plans And Health Consultants

Owning a business can provide you with the benefits you need, from having better profit, making your future more stable and even improving your lifestyle. With this said, owning a business can be a dream come true. However, as an owner, you need to be knowledgeable about the essential needs of your business such as better facilities, improved services and more effective products. You also need to be sure that you can make your work area safer for your workers. In order to make your ventures better, you need to look for reliable health and safety consultants who can help you create better safety management plans.

How can these management plans and consultants help you?

Help secure your work area

Health and safety consultants are experts in safety. Therefore, you can be sure that your work areas are safer. For instance, workers can reduce unwanted accidents in their work area during their work. This will allow them to perform properly without thinking about risks that can affect their lifestyle. By making work areas more secured, you can make your business more efficient and productive.

Promote safety for your workers

These consultants can also help workers learn more about safety in the work areas. By improving their knowledge, they can improve their tasks and make it safer. Workers can also have better work habits and behaviour, which can help businesses to make their ventures easier. This can also benefit your business since you can get rid of problems like compensations and lawsuits.

Get rid of hazards and other business problems

Other than accidents caused by machine and equipment failure or accidents due to negligence and improper work habits, there are other problems that you may encounter in the future such as natural catastrophes. With the help of consultants, business owners can make better decisions with regard to improving equipment or renovating the work area to make it sturdier and better.

Help deal with legal documentations

Lastly, health and safety consultants can help you with regard to your legal documentations. This is needed by all businesses since government properties present laws and regulations about businesses. With these consultants, you can be sure that you can abide by the rules and regulations that can make your business more reputable.

With all these advantages, business owners can make sure that their investments are safe. They are also sure that their work areas and workers are far from danger in order to make their business functions more efficient. Click here for more.