Feeling The Pressure Running Your SME?

HOWS Group is running a Health, Safety & Welfare seminar aimed at Owners, Directors and Managers of SMEs, on Tuesday 13th November 2012 from 8.15-09.45am, at The Core Business Centre, Milton Hill, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX13 6AB.

The Health, Occupational, Welfare & Safety Group (HOWS Group) is a result of the collaboration of three complementary Oxfordshire businesses, bringing together the collective experience of three directors and other industry experts, to provide SMEs with up-to-date health, safety and safety legislation, together with best practices, advice and resources to benefit the health and welfare of their teams and business.

For all businesses to grow they need to pay attention to the Health, Welfare and Safety of staff, and for a busy owner this is yet another area that requires time which is in short supply.  Ignoring it can be an expensive mistake both financially and in team performance, with an estimated cost to industry of £7 billion a year being attributed to getting Health, Welfare and Safety wrong.

For the cost of a coffee and croissant (£5), keep up to date with changes in legislation and topical issues affecting you and your business. Can your business afford to be left in the dark?

If you want to know HOW, join us 4 times a year for a breakfast session with a mix of serious and fun advice, information and guidance for the world of Health, Welfare and Safety all delivered with a practical common sense approach.

The November seminar will cover:

  • Information regarding recent changes to health and safety legislation
  • Advice and resources for people running a business, and the impact on their health
  • Initiatives and developments within the sectors
  • Health screening advice for SME owners
  • A forum for group members to debate any key issues and their impact on the workplace
  • Networking opportunity

For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Russell, Stepping Stones for Business Ltd, 0333 321 0131
Sarah Seaman, Whiteleaf Training Ltd, 01235 828 294
Alyson Fennemore, Manage Health Ltd, 0845 2222 208

About Manage Health Ltd
As independent health advisers backed by over 25 years’ healthcare experience, Manage Health delivers a host of solutions including Occupational Health services and Employee Assistance Programmes.

About Stepping Stones For Business Ltd
Stepping Stones for Business (SSFB) provides quality management and safety consultancy and training. With their head office in rural Oxfordshire, SSFB is a growing company with highly qualified and respected franchisees setting up regional offices throughout the UK.

About Whiteleaf Training Ltd
Whiteleaf Training are an HSE Approved First Aid training provider based in South Oxfordshire, offering a wide range of First Aid training courses including Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approved First Aid at Work courses.

Coping In A Heatwave

I remember the year of 1976 very well. It was the year I did my O levels. Air conditioning units were almost unheard of in this country, even in businesses. The air was so still that windows and doors were thrown open to try and create a draught; a national hosepipe ban was introduced; gardens turned brown and domestic water was rationed. Some of us still tut and reminisce, “phew do you remember the year of “76” almost 40 years on!

2012 will be a year to remember too. Monsoon weather with severe flooding; numerous events cancelled; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrated in torrential rain and the year that Great Britain hosted the Olympics. As I write, the weather is still looking unsettled for the first part of the Olympics, but I live in hope that it will improve.

Heat affects many different types of work activities. The obvious ones are construction and gardening, but indoor occupations, such as kitchen staff and production workers can be affected too.

When I first started work, I was a production manager with Courtaulds. If my memory serves me right (and I have photographs to confirm it), we had blissfully hot summers and winters of heavy snow with arching drifts that you could drive your car under. As a production manager in a clothing factory the summer temperatures were an issue. The machinists sat in long rows with heat-generating sewing machines in front of them, behind them and to either side too. They were surrounded by bundles of fabric and the still air glistened with the fabric dust. Industrial fans helped to circulate the air and the warehouse doors were propped open. The roofs didn’t provide insulation; there was no air-conditioning so the heat was stifling. They would get heat blisters from sweating and the risk of falling asleep at the machine in the afternoon was high; but they were on piece rate, so if they didn’t keep up production, they didn’t ‘earn their money’, (their expected wages). And if they couldn’t work because of injury or ill health, they didn’t get paid.

The only way to keep things going was to allow regular breaks every hour. We provided them with cold drinks and occasionally, ice-lollies.

Although many manufacturing places have now closed and those types of working conditions are less common, they still exist. Increased awareness of the effect of heat and cold on working conditions, good management practice, and better facilities to be able to deal with temperatures has reduced the risks.

For more information, click on our factsheet, health and safety in a heatwave.

Sweating Over SWOT

There’s something quite satisfying about taking a blank piece of paper and listing what you (or your company) are good at. But we won’t get far at just looking at the positives. Competitors are always hard on our heels and in some cases doing better, so a SWOT analysis is a great way of bringing the team together and looking objectively at how well we are really doing and what could be improved.

I always find it very rewarding when I’m facilitating groups for process improvement, particularly when I bring together two teams, with similar jobs and they share thoughts on issues that are causing problems and ideas on what works for them.

When I was working at the Met Office, I remember bringing together a group of meteorologists from the Edinburgh Office with a group from Bracknell, in the months before the office was moved to Exeter. We were looking at how to improve communication between the departments – now that’s an interesting subject for any company to SWOT! At first the conversation was quite guarded, but it soon became clear as discussions developed, that there was quite a lot of duplication going on in the transfer of information. By the end of the session, the procedure and the communication process had been streamlined.

If you want to find out more about SWOT and how it can help you and your business click on our factsheet, SWOT Analysis for continuous improvement.

PAT On The Back Burner

The outcome of the Lofstedt Report is gradually starting to take effect. The HSE has recently updated INDG236 – Maintaining portable electric equipment in low-risk environments, which makes some changes, but things still aren’t clear.

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) has always been a bit of an issue in low risk environments, and the HSE has stated that over £30 million is wasted each year by businesses paying for unnecessary portable appliance testing (PAT). But INDG236 doesn’t advocate stopping the tests. In fact, quite the opposite. Plus, it doesn’t give a definitive answer on how often a test should be undertaken. It simply states: “The person carrying out the test should not assess when the next test will be due as this decision should be made by you on a risk assessment basis”.

It is still open to debate, but in simple terms, the guidance rules out having a policy of testing everything annually. In fact, the HSE states that this isn’t the correct approach. Instead, you should:

  1. Instruct staff to complete user checks to identify any obvious signs of damage, e.g. cuts in cables, loose/exposed wires etc. routinely.
  2. Arrange for a formal visual inspection to be completed: the HSE has included a table in its guidance, which suggests how often this should be done. It doesn’t need to be carried out by an electrician. Someone who has been trained or instructed on how to spot signs of damage, whether the fuse is correct etc. can do it.
  3. If there is any doubt about the safety of a piece of equipment, or if it’s been damaged, a PAT should be completed.
  4. If there are no problems identified by the user checks or visual inspections, the time between tests can be extended to up to five years.

To find out more about the changes email us or phone 0333 321 0131.

Celebrating Quality

As the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee gets under way, it seemed like a good time to look back on how quality management has changed over the past 60 years too.

Quality standards have their roots in past errors which occurred during World War I, when under severe pressure to produce uniform products, a high percentage of shells failed to explode. The error was traced back to the different definitions of an inch by the two major armaments manufacturers, and eventually led to calibration standards.

Serious problems in weapons factories during World War II led to the introduction of inspectors in the factories and the requirement for written procedures. Whilst the quality of products in the UK were improving, by the 1950’s Japanese culture for conformance and discipline was beginning to reap rewards as they emerged as a major exporter. Based on a reputation of quality, they earned a reputation for cheaper, better products than their Western Counterparts.

Meanwhile, by the late fifties, the United States Department of Defense was looking for a way to increase the reliability of the products and munitions it was purchasing. This led to the first national quality standards MIL-Q-9858 – in 1959. The standard was adopted by NATO and revised a few times before emerging as British Standard BS7570 in 1979.

At that time the then Department of Trade and Industry in the UK was becoming concerned about the decline in Britain’s share of world trade. Global competition was becoming intense and quality was central to competitiveness.

The International Standards body, ISO, used BS5750 as a basis for the ISO9000 series of quality management standards, which were first published in 1987. Since then the ISO9000 has become established as the world’s most well-recognised quality system.

ISO reviews standards at regular intervals and the ISO9001 standard has been revised in 1994, 2000 and 2008. In 2000, a significant change in emphasis, moving away from the traditional inspection system to being customer focused, making it far more effective at delivering a competitive advantage for all types of organisations, rather than focusing on manufacturing.

The changes in emphasis boosted the standard’s popularity. It has now been adopted by over 1 million organisations in 176 countries.

Quality systems today may be more sophisticated than they were 60 years ago, but the value of quality to a business hasn’t really changed.

To find out more about how quality management systems can help your business, drop us an email or call us on 0333 321 0131.

Changes to the accident reporting rules

A change to the procedure for accident reporting came into effect on 6th April 2012 following the recommendations in the Lofstedt Report on safety last year. From April 6, employers will no longer have to report injuries that keep workers off work for seven days or less. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have said that the changes will save British companies thousands of hours completing official paperwork.

The change to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 is expected to see a fall of around 30 per cent in the number of incidents that must be reported by law – an average of around 30,000 fewer reports a year.

Employers will also be given a longer period in which to report incidents, increasing the time from three to seven days following the date of incident.

By increasing the reporting threshold from three to seven days, the change will align with the ‘fit note’ system which ensures that someone who is off work because they suffered a reportable injury has a professional medical assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have said that the changes will save British companies thousands of hours completing official paperwork.

Employers and others with responsibilities under RIDDOR must still keep a record of all over three day injuries, through the company accident book.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt says, “The change to the RIDDOR regulations will cut paperwork, help employers managing sickness absence and ensure that the reporting system is focused on risks which have resulted in more serious injury.”

“This is just one of many changes we are making to the health and safety system to make it simpler, clearer and more easily understood – stripping unnecessary paperwork out of the system without compromising essential protections for workers.”

Jubilee Fever

Following our article last month, we have had several enquiries from people hosting their own street parties,  so we’ve produced a fact sheet ‘Street Party FAQs’ to help make the day a safe and successful event. Click here for a copy. And follow us on Twitter for more hints and tips.

On Track With ISO9004

ISO9004:2009 is the guidance document for ISO9001. It explains the paragraphs of the standard in reasonably plain English and takes the implementation of the standard beyond compliance. It’s not only an important standard for anyone implementing the ISO9001 quality standard, it also provides some really useful guidance for anyone who just wants to look at their business with fresh eyes and improve performance.

The standard defines eight key quality management principles that are fundamental to the success of any business:

  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Involvement of people
  • Process approach
  • System approach to management
  • Continual improvement
  • Decision making based on facts
  • Mutually beneficial supplier relationships

Each month we take one of the principles and look at the key benefits and how they can be applied in any business.

Principle 7 – Factual approach to decision making

Last month we looked at continual improvement, and in order to demonstrate tangible improvement, data is an essential ingredient. It helps to define ‘where we are now’ and the goals for the future. Data can be used to identify weak areas and track progress too.

Key benefits:

  • Informed decisions.
  • An increased ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of past decisions through reference to factual records.
  • Increased ability to review, challenge and change opinions and decisions.

Applying the ISO9004 principles of continual improvement should lead to:

  • Ensuring that data and information are sufficiently accurate and reliable.
  • Making data accessible to those who need it.
  • Analysing data and information using valid methods.
  • Making decisions and taking action based on factual analysis, balanced with experience and intuition.

To find out more about the principles of good quality management and how it can help your business, drop us an email or call us on 0333 321 0131.

Getting Some Experience

Over the next few months many organisations will offer school children the opportunity of work experience. Spending sometime outside the classroom learning about a particular job or area of work provides a wonderful opportunity for youngsters to learn a little bit about what it really is like to work and what sort of skills employers are looking for.

The experience can vary considerably in terms of the preparation that employers invest in the placement. Those who take the time, hope that it will be a positive experience for their student. Having been involved in work placements over many years I have found it can be a very rewarding experience.

Accidents involving work experience students are rare. Companies are usually required to provide evidence of their risk assessments, particularly in relation to the young person, and part of student’s project will always include an overview of the health and safety policy and procedures. But providing good work experience and getting the safety message right can sometimes prove tricky. It should always be part of the whole experience and highlight the genuine hazards and risks relevant to that workplace, not an excuse to either belittle health and safety or turn safety warnings into a mantra to be trotted out at every opportunity.

As an employer, when you offer work experience placements to students you have the same responsibilities for health and safety and welfare as for the entire workforce. Under health and safety law, the students are regarded as employees for the duration of their placement. The HSE have published a booklet entitled The Right Start – HSE guide for work experience. It provides good advice for employers.

 

At Stepping Stones for Business we can help to ensure that your work experience risk assessment is appropriate and relevant. Phone 0333 321 0131 or email info@ssfb.co.uk for more information.

Every day, in every way ….

ISO9004:2009 is the guidance document for ISO9001. It explains the paragraphs of the standard in reasonably plain English and takes the implementation of the standard beyond compliance. It’s not only an important standard for anyone implementing the ISO9001 quality standard, it also provides some really useful guidance for anyone who just wants to look at their business with fresh eyes and improve performance.

The standard defines eight key quality management principles that are fundamental to the success of any business:

  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Involvement of people
  • Process approach
  • System approach to management
  • Continual improvement
  • Decision making based on facts
  • Mutually beneficial supplier relationships

Each month we take one of the principles and look at the key benefits and how they can be applied in any business.

Principle 6 – Continual Improvement

We are all familiar with the mantra ‘Every day, in every way I am getting better and better’. Attributed to the French pharmacist, Emile Coue in the 1920’s. the saying can be applied equally well to work. Continual improvement of an organisation’s overall performance should be a permanently objective for any company.

Applying the ISO9004 principles of continual improvement should lead to:

  • Employing a consistent organisation-wide approach to continual improvement of the organisation’s performance.
  • Providing people with training in the methods and tools of continual improvement.
  • Making continual improvement of products, processes and systems an objective for every individual in the organisation.
  • Establishing goals to guide, and measures to track, continual improvement.
  • Recognizing and acknowledging improvements.

Key benefits:

  • Performance advantage through improved organisational capabilities.
  • Alignment of improvement activities at all levels to an organisation’s strategic intent.
  • Flexibility to react quickly to opportunities.

To find out more about the principles of good quality management and how it can help your business drop us an email or call us on 0333 321 0131.