Last month saw us have our second visit in six weeks at our County Durham shredding facility from the Health and Safety Executive.
This visit was a first for us, and like any business going through this process, we were apprehensive to have our systems audited by the enforcement agency for Health and Safety. We had heard so many horror stories about enforcement officers, jobs-worth’s, robots and no common sense where to name a few aspersions cast upon them to us.
We were expecting the worst power crazy bureaucrat to attend site, picking up on anything and everything with a view to fine us and stop us from getting on.
Well, we couldn’t have been more wrong, our initial visit headed by Martin Baillie, HM Inspector of Health and Safety from Newcastle, introduced us to a pragmatic and engaging inspector. Martin sought first to understand the nature of our business, where we have come from, where we want to go and how we go about work before undertaking the formalities of the visit.
Whilst auditing our premises, we had very practical discussions about the real risks of the operation and floated ideas to solve them and some that warranted further research on my part. There was some real practical advice about where improvements could be made, and do you know what we made them, and staff feel and are actually safer.
After our first visit there were no issues, improvement notices or fees applied to us and we undertook some of the work Martin suggested or made us think about. We were contacted however to be made aware that Martin would be coming back with his boss, HM Principle Inspector of Health and Safety Victoria Wise.
At this point Sinicism kicked in, and we thought oh right this is the real HSE coming out to issue fines etc. There were a lot of “I told you so” comments from people after we sang the HSE’s praises from our initial inspection visit, the consensus in the discussions was they are coming back with one thing in mind FINES.
Upon Victoria and Martin arriving to site it was again clear that these guys were human. Victoria made the same efforts to get to know the business as Martin had previously and let us know the reason for the second visit was because of the nature of our work and the high risk of sever injury. Much like the first visit we walked, talked and made suggestions and discussed the operational nature of the business and potential benefits and drawbacks of changes that could be made including financial impacts.
It really was an eye opener having two HSE inspectors on site and getting constructive advice, it’s a service I would have happily paid for because the advice made a real difference to us.
Our operational area contains, moving forklifts, vehicles reversing, stacked bales, conveyors, a baler and a shredder. We have always been acutely aware that these things can, if used incorrectly kill a person, and so we have sought to put in place measures to ensure the safety of our staff. The fact that our efforts and consideration of safety issues was recognised and commended on both visits really defined what we found of the HSE, they were there to ensure that companies operate “sensible risk management” and that’s all they ask to put people and safety first.
Our health and safety management system has been cultivated and supported by H&S Consultants limited and we cant thank Stuart and Louise Mackenzie enough for their fantastic support in helping us develop a strong culture of safety within our business, you have been a great asset to our team. Particular thanks goes to Louise for holding our hands through the two inspection visits. Thank you.