I used to love the old ‘How’ series…OK, maybe that’s just me then (for those who don’t know, Fred Dinenage is on the right of the photo)
Anyway, the kids programme showed how useful things like chairs were put together in a very practical style – a bit like Blue Peter but a little less sticky-back plastic.
Of course, we all like to try and understand the world and so ‘How’ is a great question.
And in the Health & Safety field these days businesses have to work out for themselves how they’re going to comply with the laws and show they’re doing all that’s required of them.
However, unlike putting a chair together, H&S can be harder to pin down.
One great benefit of the internet is that there’s no shortage of available advice.
HSE and others are constantly improving and simplifying guidance and making it freely available but the reason that everyone just doesn’t get on with it is that there’s a limit to the applicability of this to every kind of business.
The answers ‘How do I do it?’ are developed as a result of EITHER:
- The business reading through the available guidance (e.g. from the HSE) and translating it to their individual circumstances, OR
- Hiring a consultancy to do all of this for you.
The important point is that the individual consultant would of course have read around the subjects, but the value you’re actually buying is in the independent analysis and translation so that it fits your risk profile – hopefully along the way making it simpler and easier for you to understand too.
So finding out ‘How’ comes during the consultancy interaction.
The unscrupulous consultancies take advantage of the lack of understanding of this, cutting down on client/consultant time (which is expensive), and playing up the plethora of guidance notes and call-centre-type help. So clients asking them for practical help – and needing a consultant to ‘translate the How’ for them are sent emails with 5 or more in-depth attachments to read…knowing full well that they’re not going to find time to go through it all. But if the matter gets dropped and the risk remains unsolved the consultancy can still claim they were trying to be helpful…right? (in fact, you could say much less COACHING, more like KER-CHING).
Most people don’t buy a dog to bark themselves.
In fact, the ‘How’ will differ according to such variable as: organisational activities that may bear risk (which may take a while to get to the root of); competence of staff and managers (what I call ‘S.T.A.K.E.-holders’: i.e. those with sufficient Skill, Training, Attitudes, Knowledge & Experience), resources, future plans, resources etc.
And during the interaction with the client broader issues can also be covered such as to what the priorities should be, the evidence of risk and routes to solve it, making clear decisions on how to take this forward, advice on dealing with potential snags e.g. in the face of staff resistance to change, particular high hazard areas, loss of a key resource, etc.
In addition, a good consultancy will work hard during the non-client-facing-times to develop simplified ways of explaining how H&S can be done with minimal impact. And like when you’re training up a new job apprentice, you don’t do that by giving out all the tools at once together with a training manual. You build understanding and go as quickly as possible, but no quicker.
So ‘How’ is a great question, but unlike the old telly programme with consultancy it is rarely a quick and easy ‘one-size-fits-all’, and buyers whose businesses bear obvious risk should beware of consultancies that don’t include enough face-to-face time to accommodate that.