A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Needle, thread and button image

This old saying was around in my parents’ days and so I heard it when growing up.

In the days where mending your own clothes was more widespread it made sense to start on a repair early, because if you didn’t then it turned into a much bigger job (or worse, risk an embarrassing exposure).

There are more modern examples of this, of course. For example, if you spot a leak coming from your ceiling it’s a good idea to investigate early – generally speaking, these things don’t have a good record of solving themselves.

How does this relate to Health and Safety?

There’s been an increasing tendency for new enquiries to specify that ‘I need it done quickly as we want to bid for a big contract’.

Mostly, these enquiries are from businesses who have never put any effort previously to developing good health and safety compliance systems, and they simply don’t understand that these things take time to build.

In stitching terms, their garment is completely in pieces, the buttons have all come off and they haven’t been keeping an eye on things.

Our modern culture has taught us that ‘everything has a price’. So rushed Directors and Managers imagine that their lightning-fast timetable will be held as a top priority for Consultants eager to work with them. They might be right for some other consultancies, but what slips by in the rush….? Yes, Quality.

They’ve been caught out not managing what they should, and from there onwards they will be saddled with an incomprehensible or incomplete system merely because it was about ‘getting the urgent contract’ at the time.

We always tell these types of businesses that good H&S takes time to build up and they’d best try another consultancy.

You can’t put in place policies, procedures, risk assessments etc. in a hurry just to look good and then expect them to be accepted by employees and be adopted as part of the new culture and practices within the organisation.

The key message in the ‘Stitch in Time’ saying is that if you take small steps early on, and regularly check things, it’ll save you a lot of hassle in the long-run.

One of the advantages of engaging with a Consultant on a ‘Pay-as-You-Go’ agreement is that, unlike with a monthly ‘Retainership’, you can improve easily on a stop/start basis that suits your workflow and cashflow.

Starting is the Easy Bit

Our recommendation is to start now, before you need to scramble to impress a new buyer or try to appease an enforcement officer or claims investigator.

We’ve noticed that all Clients have increased energy at the start of an improvement project – in fact, it can be envigourating to finally gain an understanding and put the key systems in place that you need.

The difficult bit comes later in keeping the impetus going. This is where those on a monthly ‘retainership’ contract may benefit as there is extra onus on us to inject some energy into keeping things progressing in the right direction.

So if your business has been hit badly by the pandemic, now might be just the time to set a new course in some of the key business areas that can be forgotten or left in an old format.

[By the way, we’re doing the same – for example, we’re just in the process of changing our business bank to a more ethical bank, and we’ve de-registered from VAT to simplify things.]

The aim is that you won’t even notice the time you spend on H&S as a ‘separate entity’ as it’ll be part of how you run your business, in the same way as you keep your accounts and bookkeeping; your staff employment contracts; your suppliers and customer lists; your building and equipment maintenance checks in good order….wait – you do, don’t you?!