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Louise Hosking is managing director of Hosking Associates

Safe and sound

Louise Hosking believes that the impact procurement can have on the working environment is still not being properly addressed

Posted by Dave Higgitt | January 07, 2015 | Facilities & buildings

Health and safety issues usually occur because those responsible for procurement are in a separate team or department, away from those individuals using the services or work equipment that is – eventually – acquired.

Every organisation is required by law to have access to a ‘competent person’, someone who can provide advice or guidance on all things safety. But experience has shown that the unique insight and practical advice they can offer is not usually solicited. This can result in compromises being made in respect of safety or sustainability, often to do a deal that appears to be cheaper, but at what price? 

Buying work equipment

The scope and range of work equipment is vast. It is defined by The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), and includes everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) to tools, access equipment and fixed work equipment such as boilers or air-handling equipment.

But how does this relate to procurement? PUWER states that work equipment should be “suitable for intended use”. This means it has to fit the needs of the person or the task for which it is intended. PUWER also requires equipment to be maintained in a safe condition, inspected regularly and installed correctly. Suitable safety measures are required including emergency stop devices. It must also be used in accordance with any manufactures guidelines and be CE marked.

In November 2012, an academy was fined £8,500 when an 11-year-old pupil suffered serious hand injuries when they came into contact with the moving parts of a hand-held tool within a design and technology class, because their fingers were not protected by a guard. The guarding was designed for adult use and the smaller fingers of the child were able to come into contact with moving parts.

In April 2014, a local authority was fined almost £24,000 when a primary pupil lost the tips of three fingers after they were trapped in the hinges of a school gate. A recommendation to install hinge guards had not been followed through.

When new equipment is purchased, planned maintenance should not be viewed as a ‘nice to have’ and arrangements for maintenance and formal checks must be organised when the equipment is first purchased. 

Buying services

Section three of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 places a joint responsibility for safety upon the client and contractor. Clients will be held to account for contractors working in an unsafe manner or those who undertake work they do not have the experience, knowledge or qualifications to complete. The manner in which contractors work is likely to have a direct impact on the cost of their service. For example, the use of a ladder used to clean windows several storeys high will be in conflict with work at height requirements, but may be a cheaper service than the contractor specifying the use of access equipment. It is therefore essential to have a strong contractor management process in place that questions how work will be undertaken safely.

Clients have responsibilities to warn others of hazards they are aware of. This should be considered at the tender stage to avoid contractors taking short cuts later on due to their resources being stretched by surprises which could affect their ability to work safely. The most important of these is ensuring they have access to asbestos information.

For advice or guidance on using competent contractors visit the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSiP) website: www.ssip.org.uk/contractors-consultants.asp.

Louise Hosking is managing director of Hosking Associates W: www.hosking-associates.com

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