Choosing a Safety Consultant
Our first question has to be why do we need an event health and safety advisor? There are often several good reasons, first, there is the legal reason as Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires all businesses to appoint competent safety advisors, the actual wording of the regulation states:
“Every employer shall, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions”.
In simple terms, this means employers have to appoint competent persons (safety advisors or consultants) to help them discharge their legal health and safety duties and comply with the law and these competent persons must be given the time and information they need to enable them to do the job properly. Because of the often complex and hazardous nature of our work, safety advisors in our industry need extra training and a lot of experience because they are classed as Specialist Safety Advisors (INDG 420. HSE)
A Health and Safety Advisor, consultant or manager is unlikely to be a qualified and competent Crowd Safety Manager, and an event with over 5000 people will almost certainly require a Crowd Manager in addition to a safety advisor, they are very different roles and crowd management is a very different specialist position and quite different from security. Your safety advisor may be a qualified Crowd Manager but the two roles still require two separate people you only have one head and can only wear one hat at a time, one person can’t do both jobs properly no matter what they may say. Be also warned about anyone who tells you they have an NVQ in Spectator Safety, they are definitely not a Crowd Safety Management or a health and safety advisor! it’s a qualification for what is called a “Safety Officer” at football grounds (as set out under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act). It's an important qualification for anyone who works at sporting events, but meaningless otherwise.
There are other good reasons;
- It may be that you have had a visit from the enforcement authorities (Local Authority or Health and Safety Executive) and are in need of help and advice as they may have found possible breaches to Regulations and they are threatening action unless you take action to put things right.
- Or you may be applying for a Licence under the Licensing Act 2003 to hold an event and need help and advice with Licensing and Health and Safety aspects.
- Perhaps the Local Authority may be making it a condition under the terms of your License for the event or they may just be applying pressure.
- Or you just want to cover yourself and do it right.
Working with a safety consultant can give business owners, managers, and stakeholders peace of mind that the aims of their safety policies have been prepared, communicated and audited competently by someone independent of their business objectives and those of the creative and production processes.
"People are tumbling out of universities with a degree in event management at an alarming rate and are being paid ridiculous day rates for jobs they are not competent to perform". Eric Stuart. Chairman, UK CMA.
It may be any one of these items or a combination of two or more items.
Either way, Safety Advisors, Managers or Consultants are available to help you as the law expects, you must manage health and safety and have auditable safety management systems in place in the same way you manage the financial aspects of your business or event, your safety adviser has a similar role in safety management as your account does in the financial running of your business or event but your responsibilities for Health and Safety cannot be passed to your safety consultant, manager or adviser; they are simply advisors with no further responsibilities, but which advisor is best for you?
The HSE has discovered confusion amongst those they asked about what signifies a competent, qualified, and up-to-date H&S consultant. Consultants are indeed often chosen purely by ‘word of mouth’ or by Google search – business simply doesn’t know what good looks like.
Furthermore, some consultants are seen to operate outside their own competency zone and fail to tailor their advice to the needs of specific businesses or industries, instead they provide standardised factsheets.
Both the UK’s Health and Safety Executive and the now established new international standard for occupational safety, ISO45001, stress the importance of taking ‘risk-based approaches to all aspects of safety. Yet so often, safety, in all its many guises, is still seen as a legal and regulatory focussed discipline, relying on tick-box type approaches.
Risk management meanwhile can still be seen as ‘something to do with insurance’ or an esoteric office-based paper exercise. Instead, risk and safety must be seen as two sides of the same coin – a truly integrated discipline.
The world and his wife are now claiming to be event safety advisors, managers and consultants, many are simply not competent to do the job yet are still out there trading. Like any contractor you engage, your advisor, manager or consultant must be competent, they must have adequate knowledge, training and experience to complete the work involved and you need to assess them properly prior to their appointment and not select them by price alone. Has your candidate previously done similar work at the same level and can they prove it? Most of the good event safety consultants/advisors come originally from the events industry in roles such as production managers so they know the industry and the job roles, they are often "jeans and T-shirt" types and not "suits". They also need additional knowledge of areas such as power, temporary structures, rigging, work at height, noise etc. and bags of experience to enable them to be competent.
For an event or festival, it is important that your safety advisor is independent and not wearing two hats, in other words, that are not carrying out an additional role such as site manager, crowd safety manager' production manager or technical advisor, this would be a major conflict of interest especially in the event of a major incident. Hiring contractors and crew, budgets, time schedules often conflict with safety and in an emergency situation both roles will be excessively busy and one person cant possibly carry out both roles effectively at a time when they are most needed or be in two places at once. We know your advisor must be on-site during the most dangerous periods of build and breakdown and that most major incidents are in fact made up of several smaller accidents and issues that cause a domino effect, this is common when resources are stretched, communications and faltering and management and workers are all tired. This is no time to find your safety advisor in another role and not wear he or she is required.
We all know that the most dangerous times for an event are usually the build and breakdown periods when time is limited and people are often tired, this is the time when your safety advisor should be on-site to monitor activities and ensure safety continuity.
There is a lot of confusion about levels of competence, you can look at a CV and obtain references and testimonials to show experience and knowledge and you will certainly need somebody who has loads (several years worth) of experience in the relevant sectors of the event industry as you require but what about training? Well, qualifications, whilst not mentioned in the HSE definition of competency, are commonly and rightly used to demonstrate levels of training and competence and often you may hear the term NEBOSH, or this or that person has got their NEBOSH. This is a totally incorrect use of this term as NEBOSH stands for National Examination Board of Occupational Safety and Health and they produce several different training courses and qualifications, not one.
A NEBOSH National General Certificate is, in reality, an essential minimum level of qualification for any health and safety job. Many people then realise that they, their employers and savvy clients demand a greater level of knowledge.
The Certificate in Applied Health and Safety awarded by National Compliance and Risk Qualifications (NCRQ) the National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety, delivered by the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) or the City and Guilds Level 3 (NVQ) Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety provides a good basic understanding of a broad range of health and safety issues.
Most degree-level qualifications are provided at the postgraduate level and are aimed at those looking to become health and safety professionals. IOSH and IIRSM list of those that meet the academic requirement for Graduate membership of IOSH (Grad IOSH) or Full Member of IIRSM (MIIRSM), check with these institutions but you are likely to need a minimum of a 2:2 degree or equivalent, as well as a basic knowledge of health and safety.
Other relevant degree-level qualifications include:
- NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
- British Safety Council Level 6 Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health
- City & Guilds Level 5 (NVQ) Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Practice
- NCRQ Level 6 Diploma in Applied Health and Safety.
When selecting your Health and Safety advisor it is those candidates with these degree-level qualifications that should be of interest to you, as opposed to Certificate level.
One area you may find difficulty checking is your advisor's knowledge of the live music and event industries technical production areas such as staging, sound, lighting, audio, power, plant and vehicles, special effects, fire, etc and your consultant needs at least two years experience in these areas so a check of their CV and additional training and qualifications is essential.
Be wary when using large consultancies, they may send a different consultant to each meeting they hold with you so you have to explain everything starting from scratch again and again or you may get an extremely and qualified consultant at the first meeting and the office junior next, you need continuity of staff and competence. You may get a Chartered Consultant one meeting and a TechIOSH at the next.
Next check if they carry at least £1 million of Professional Indemnity Insurance (check their Insurance Certificate, is it in date?)
It is important to remember that any Health and Safety Advisor, Manager or Consultant should have no other role in the event outside of their health and safety role, all to often we have seen event organisers, production, and site manager also taking on health and safety roles, this is an obvious conflict of interests and must be avoided at all costs. As well as being “best practice”, this may also be a condition of any Licence granted by the Local Authority under the Licensing Act 2003 to hold the event. It is such a major yet very common mistake to appoint or hire a person (such as a production or event manager) who already has a role to play in the event as a safety advisor as a secondary role. It is not a secondary role. If they have another role then there will be conflicts of interest, they will not be independent, there may be severe clashes between the two jobs and it really restricts and devalues the safety advisor. Safety is not a bolt-on extra!
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Government regulator and enforcement body for health and safety, recommends selecting an advisor from the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OHSCR), this is run by the HSE and various institutes and trade organisations and only consultants who are Chartered or Fellow Members of IOSH or IIRSM or have reached certain agreed levels within the other organisations administering the scheme can become members. It's a good idea but the scheme is unpublicised and not promoted at all so nobody knows of it. The membership criteria and insurance for each consultant are checked on by the OSHCR but no checks are made on their special areas of interest or sector skill competence such as event industry knowledge, anyone can claim to be an expert on anything, and nobody checks. Each consultant has to pay an annual fee to be listed on what is now considered to be a waste of time as it is generally considered by the industry that the OSHCR is not fit for purpose and should be avoided at all costs. The OSHCR is in need of major changes before it can be successfully and safely used and it now looks as if this will be finally done as a major review has now started with all stakeholders taking part.
Consultants and advisors give advice on how to meet your minimum legal requirements, they work in the same way as an accountant advises on tax and finances or a solicitor advises on legal issues. do with real health and safety). They are advisers and consultants who work with you to try to solve safety problems and to make sure the job goes ahead smoothly and safely and that safety is proportionate and pragmatic yet does not distract from the artistic content and aspects.
It is one thing for a consultant to identify risk but that is only part of the job, organisational survival and indeed development requires the establishment of systems, processes, and particularly culture to ensure that risks are controlled systematically. This means that as risks change, or new risks emerge, consultants are able to adapt, change and advise on ways to manage and control those risks appropriately.
To be really effective, safety advisors need to be involved as a cornerstone of your event or tour at an early stage of your management planning, they need to become embedded as part of the core team, to advise on things like site suitability, planning, assessing contractor health, and safety competence, they must not be a bolt-on extra towards the end of the planning stage.
Event health and safety consultants are specialists in live music and events but some specialise in narrower fields. Some of the principal ones are:
- health and safety management - which may include some of the following, as well as management arrangements themselves: policy development and planning; performance monitoring; aspects of employee involvement and employee relations; training and communications;
- occupational hygiene - a discipline concerned with the effects of work upon health. This includes assessment and control of exposures to airborne contamination and other environmental conditions; measurement of the factors which lead to ill health, and how to reduce or eliminate them, or otherwise protect employees by personal protective equipment. Occupational hygiene consultancies frequently have use of an analytical laboratory;
- engineering - the design, construction and installation of equipment to control risk, for example, electronic process controls, exhaust ventilation to remove contamination and machinery guarding systems;
- noise, vibration and electromagnetic radiation - assessment and measurement of levels and advice on preventive measures; occupational medicine and nursing - the application of medical diagnostic and nursing skills to health care at work. It may include:
- preventive medicine, health surveillance, medical examinations, and biological monitoring; the study of patterns of sickness absence and advice on fitness for work; emergency first aid; rehabilitation; counseling and health education;
- ergonomics - the study of how jobs and working environments can be designed to suit the anatomical and physiological characteristics of employees. It is a field of growing importance as the part played by human factors, fatigue and stress in health and safety is recognised, as well as the high level of illnesses caused by day-to-day activity. Notable examples are the back, limb, and neck disorders often associated with the lifting and handling of loads or work at keyboards and VDUs.
Safety advisors are NOT enforcement authorities like the Health and Safety Executive or Local Authority, we will only quietly suggest to staff that they use their PPE or advise on a safe system of work to give an immediate fix to a problem, we will, however, report ALL breaches of health and safety to management or clients who are expected to address the matters immediately, if you fail to act and there is a possibility somebody may get hurt we have a legal duty to make a report to the authorities, this is not something we have ever done nor wish to do, but we don't want to be held responsible and our action will not be taken lightly.
Clients need to give full support to their safety advisors and their work and never publicly contradict or argue with their safety advisors. They have a difficult job trying to get workers "on-side" to help build and support your business or events safety culture, the wrong comments could destroy their work. Consultants don't want to spend hours arguing with someone who does not like health and safety or objects to wearing their PPE and so they have to be careful not to upset workers as this may lead to a hostile situation that nobody wants. Employers must always bask employees to always cooperate with safety consultants.
Health and Safety in general, as well as consultants, come in for a lot of unnecessary ridicule and sarcasm from the public and workers alike, but they cannot operate effectively if they are being undermined in any way, clients are just as guilty of this as management and the workforce. This makes life difficult as consultants can't improve the safety culture within your business without the full support of everyone, from Directors to workers. If you don't agree with our advice or if you want to talk to us or have different views please talk to us in private.
Start off by making a bullet point list of your requirements, a list of “wants”, it’s a starting point to give your consultant or advisor some idea of your requirements together with full details of the project, but remember, your consultant or advisor is the specialist, be honest with him, that is why you have engaged him, he knows best and the list you have made is a list of "wants", your actual “needs” are probably a lot different from your “wants” and your consultant or adviser should advise you accordingly.
If you are starting from scratch you may not be sure of what you need, don’t pretend to know if you don’t and don’t be dogmatic about your “wants”, explain, your business, your event or where you think you currently stand and let you a consultant or adviser do his job and advise you, consider what you may need. This could maybe help with your Licence application, policies, risk assessments and safe systems of work, event safety management plans and contingency plans, contractor assessments, establishing an event safety file and other documentation. This is a huge volume of work and your safety advisor will use some templates to reduce time and cost but they will be tailored to your business or event. Most people seem to have their own views and ideas on health and safety and its not often long before they start telling their safety advisor his or her job, this does not happen to most other professional consultants or advisors, please don't try to tell your advisor his or her job.
A decent consultant will not advise you to have anything you don’t need just to gain extra work, his role is to first get the basic legal minimum requirements in place, that is often a major job in its self, going beyond legal minimum requirements is a good plan but initially, it’s the basics, one step at a time.
Your consultant or advisor, can produce a lot of the required documentation for you and help and advise you on how to implement the required management systems and advise on training needs (as determined by the results of risk assessments) they can provide some of that training but they can't do it all, that is down to you to arrange with advice from your consultant. Most of the risk assessments produced by your consultant will need to be completed by you or your staff when they arrive on-site, a decent consultant will just not provide a set of generic documents as every site and job is different, they are working documents, they must be used by the staff doing the tasks or jobs and are not to be filed away until somebody asks for them.
For hire and production companies a decent consultant will look at your whole business (office, workshop, warehouse and yard) not just your onsite activities, health and safety has to come from "the top-down".
For events, your safety advisor usually has a lot of work to do, make sure you allow him enough time, his schedule may require him to start work way before you start on the project, a lot of documentation has to be produced and your consultant will need a lot of information from you and will almost certainly need to talk to members of your staff and contractors to involve them in the process and ensure they fully understand their roles and responsibilities, this will vary depending on their role or job function. Your consultant will help establish the required safety culture within your operation as opposed to a risk-taking culture.
Make sure you promptly provide the information your consultant requires to carry out their duties. We are often required to wait and work at what you consider the right speed, please remember we are consultants who are often doing several jobs at the same time, we have to manage our time with great care and cannot always be working on your project at the time dictated unless agreed times such as when on-site or meetings neither do we have time to wait.
One of his normal duties is to assess the health and safety competencies of your contractors before they are appointed, a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) is used for this purpose and be prepared to make changes to your list; the law requires you to appoint "competent" contractors who can demonstrate their compliance with health and safety law!
For established events your adviser may suggest some new changes, these are for your benefit and the benefit of the event, don’t take the attitude or view that everything was fine in the past so it must be fine now, things change, a different site or venue, different conditions and different personnel, they all make a difference, not only do things change but you should not stand still, things can and should be improved, try and go beyond the legal minimum.
Consultants and advisors are not enforcement officers (that is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities). They are not “finger-wagging safety policemen”, we don’t spy on workers or try to find fault. We don’t make health and safety laws and regulations – that is down to Government. They don’t always agree with all of the laws and regulations that exist but we are obliged to give our clients correct advice on how to stay within the law.
Help your consultant to help you as to when it comes to health and safety, he knows best, listen to him but please don’t tell him his job!
There are of course the consultants who are prepared to pass and approve anything they are asked to pass or approve by their clients or to turn a“blind eye” to certain breaches of regulations, even safety-critical operations, and tasks. They are often loved and sought out by event organisers, promoters, and production managers and they perceive that this will make life cheaper and easier for them but they are really low life with no integrity and bring good consultants into disrepute. If they belong to one of the professional institutes they breach the Code of Conduct and must be driven out and avoided at all costs.
During the event, the consultant needs to be on-site monitoring the event build, the event itself, and the breakdown. They will advise but they are not an enforcer, they will report issues that need to be rectified immediately and will expect production, site manager, or event organiser to take the required action to rectify the problem. The one thing safety consultants hate is asking the crew members to wear their PPE so we get their boss to do it as they have the power we don’t have.
For larger events, such as a festival, a number of people may need to share the monitoring role. Your consultant should be able to arrange suitable trained and qualified assistants who will be familiar with the risk assessment findings and control measures and be able to identify new hazards and assess risks as they arise.
A good safety advisor can sometimes act as a buffer between the event organiser, promoter or production manager and the enforcement authorities as they usually talk the same language but ultimately the person at the top of the chain still holds all responsibility, they have both the Criminal or Statute Law (Health and Safety Law) and the Civil Law (Duty of Care) to comply with. Your safety consultant can attend any Safety Advisory Group meetings prior to the event and be part of the Event Liasion Team (ELT) during the event. Finally, they should provide an audit and or a report after the event and attend the debrief meeting.
Now if you think this is all too expensive, try having an accident. A good safety advisor can save you a fortune, an under-qualified consultant or advisor will be exposed, discredited, and humiliated by a prosecution barrister in Court so don’t scrimp.
We can only outline some of the tasks here a safety consultant can and should carry out, many make exaggerated claims.
It is important to understand that consultants can only provide a consultancy and advisory service, they can show you and help you with everything you need to do to become and remain legally compliant but they can't do it all for you. There may well be small changes that you may need to make to the way in which you and your staff operate, there will be paperwork and forms that will need completing just to be legal and compliant, these are usually part of the regulations, the law, consultants don't make the law they simply show you how to be legal and comply with the minimum amount of changes and paperwork but we can't get rid of it all. We maintain the same standards throughout, to be compliant with health and safety regulations and law you have to work to the legal minimum standards regardless of the size and scale of your event, business, or tour, and they can't change or lower those standards just to make life easier for you. If they lower standards and there is a problem then it may cause you serious issues you really don't want.
If this service is provided by an external consultant you will normally pay an initial fee followed by a monthly retainer fee for continued support and advice should it be required. This service is where your consultant becomes part of your business and should be informed of anything that changes within the organisation. In this service, you will be provided with a full Safety Management System including full Health & Safety Policy and generic Risk Assessments. Your consultant will be on hand to be the link between you and the HSE should this ever be necessary. Many clients think that all they need from a consultant is an H&S Policy and a handful of generic RAMS, this is simply not the case, at Stagesafe we provide a full service including an auditable and compliant management system.
It's not difficult to put in place all the required management systems and other basic requirements of a compliant safety management system but it does require some effort and expense from you, after the initial effort and expense it's easy and very cheap to maintain and you can have help every step of the way.
After our initial site visit and inspection/audit of your site or premises, you will be provided with recommendations, policy, etc. The effort and expense that went into them will be wasted if they are not acted upon. Employers quite often fail to translate good thinking about health and safety into action and allow breaches of the law to persist as a result. By engaging Stagesafe, you acknowledge that compliance with health and safety legislation is a serious matter. If no action follows, or if you pick out only the easy or inexpensive recommendations, your money will have been wasted and your seriousness about health and safety will be called into question.
Managing the relationship with your safety consultant
As with any supplier, the relationship with your consultant needs regular monitoring and managing to ensure your business draws the maximum possible benefit from it. I will want to know if I am achieving what you want.
If delivering a full program of safety advice and activity, we can divide the project into a number of key stages, carrying out a review of progress at the end of each one.
We can carefully set your budgets and monitor my costs as the project progresses. You need to know you are getting value for money. If costs appear to be higher than your estimates we can talk about it and try to find out why.
When I am working on your site you will need to give me access to relevant areas of your business and to relevant employees. I might request access to confidential or commercially sensitive information, if so you should ask me to sign a confidentiality or a non-disclosure agreement.
Make sure you brief your employees on why you have a safety consultant and what work I am doing and that I will require their help and co-operation.
We should maintain regular contact through regular meetings and phone conversations. I will want opportunities to show you evidence of the work being done.
When you receive the consultant's final report, check you've understood all the recommendations. Make sure recommended actions are realistic and that you know exactly how to go about implementing them; I can stay involved or in contact while you implement the recommendations and we can agree on monthly visits to review progress and repeat any risk assessments.
THE LEGAL POSITION
Most duties under health and safety at work legislation rest unequivocally with you as an employer. You may delegate tasks to others but it remains your duty to make sure that they are carried out.
Under Section 36 of HSWA, where an offense by one person (for example the employer) is due to the shortcomings of another (for example the consultancy), that other person may be charged with the offense as well as the first.
Throughout health and safety regulations the term “competent person” often appears, this may be a competent person to advise, operate plant and equipment or examine and inspect under LOLER.
A great deal of discussion has taken place between health and safety practitioners over the years over who is deemed to be competent and competency has become the “C-word” of health and safety but remember, if you are ever in a Coroners Court (or any Court), a Barrister may ask for details of qualifications of any safety advisor and the fact you appointed them because you believed they were competent may just not be good enough anymore and similarly, during a claim investigation, an insurance company may ask for the relevant qualifications of the person who gave their client safety advice, any weaknesses will be quickly discovered! If I were an insurance company, I would want to be assured by the client had advice from a fully qualified person. Qualifications are still very important.
By qualifications I mean those that sit on the National Qualifications Framework, many think that the certificate and/or the training they may have received while attending a training course is a qualification, unfortunately, in most cases it is not, it is simply a certificate of training, but that is also important. The national qualification frameworks in the United Kingdom are qualifications frameworks that define and link the levels and credit values of different qualifications.
The current frameworks are:
- The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) for general and vocational qualifications regulated by Ofqual in England and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations, and Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland;
- The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) for all qualifications in Wales;
- The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) for all qualifications in Scotland;
- The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK degree-awarding Bodies (FHEQ) for qualifications awarded by bodies across the United Kingdom with degree-awarding power.
Health and Safety Management qualifications are on the RFQ at various levels.
The Health and Safety Executive state that their definition of competency can be described as the combination of training, skills, experience, and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone's competence.
A competent person must be able to identify hazards within the worksite and solve those issues or take action to stop the work until the issues can be resolved. A qualified person has the knowledge to design and supervise the installation of the protective systems to be used on that job site.
People who are competent have a good grasp on information that is presented to them, evaluate that information, use the information to make decisions, and understand the repercussions of those decisions. Those who are unable to use these skills can be deemed incompetent in a court of law.
So, despite what the HSE may say on the subject, qualifications are still an important part of competency, they simply don’t want the responsibility of deciding who is and who is not competent, to say who is and who is not competent. It is not a matter of opinion. You simply can’t say that you deem you or your staff competent, you need to be able to prove that competency especially if anything goes wrong.
Many think competencies do not include qualification as a unit of assessment. In many cases it does, for example:
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) entry requirements for trainees are a minimum 2:1 Honours degree in any subject or higher qualification.
- For some specialist posts, you need specialised qualifications, for example-chartered engineer status.
- You must have National 5 Maths.
Armed with this information we should now look carefully at the qualifications of any safety consultants we may use the services of at our events or for our businesses.
Stagesafe meets all the best criteria set here so call Chris on 07831 437062 for a chat and to get started now and click here to find out about fees for our services.