The HSE are very clear on the subject of 'competent advice':
As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.
You could appoint (one or a combination of):
- one or more of your workers
- someone from outside your business
You probably manage most aspects of your business yourself, or with help from your staff. But if you are not confident of your ability to manage all health and safety in-house, you may need some external help or advice.
There are a number of different sources of advice. These include:
- trade associations
- safety groups
- trade unions
- consultants registered on the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR)
- local councils
- health and safety training providers
- health and safety equipment suppliers
Deciding what help you need is very important. Unless you are clear about what you want, you probably won’t get the help you need.
Things to consider when using external help
- Make sure you clearly explain what you need and check that they understand you. Ask them to explain what they understand the work to be and what they will do, when they will do it and what they will charge you.
- Check for evidence of relevant training/knowledge, such as formal qualifications or practical experience of providing advice in your industry/area of work. Can they explain why they are competent to advise you on your particular problem? Are they a member of OSHCR?
- Shop around to find the right help at the right price. If you were buying equipment or another service for your business, you wouldn’t always accept the first offer, so do the same with health and safety advice.
- Check that the person you choose is adequately insured.
- Consider whether you have received the help you needed. Do you have a practical, sensible solution to your problem? Or have you ended up with something completely ‘over the top’ or a mountain of useless paperwork? If you are not happy with the solution, ask for an explanation and whether there may be a simpler alternative.
Try to make sure that you get a good follow-up service and are able to get further advice on any issues that arise from implementing their recommendations.