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Backing for commonsense approach to safety in small firms

A major RoSPA initiative to raise standards and reduce the health and safety burden on small and medium-sized firms has won the support of leading figures from business and industry.

More than 20 organisations have so far pledged their support for a set of common health and safety criteria to help small firms that are seeking new contracts.

The list was drawn up after it became apparent that SMEs were facing problems because their prospective clients used a wide range of pre-qualification schemes to assess their approach to the prevention of accidents and ill-health.

RoSPA's National Occupational Safety and Health Committee, which is conducting a long-term inquiry into the help available to SMEs, found that there was little mutual recognition between the schemes. Firms were therefore facing unnecessary and time-consuming form filling as they sought to meet the requirements of each one.

It is hoped that clients and other third parties will now accept the results of any competent assessment that is based on the 12 criteria.

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA Occupational Safety Adviser, said: “Small and medium-sized businesses face distinct challenges when dealing with health and safety, without the added complication of having to duplicate paperwork.

“The core criteria are designed to reduce significantly the administrative burden, while also making the essential requirements of health and safety management clearer for SMEs.

“It is hoped that they will also help to improve health and safety management competence by enabling businesses to put the foundations of good health and safety management in place. This is ultimately good for all of us. Greater competence should lead to fewer injuries and cases of ill-health, resulting in clear business benefits and a reduction in pain and suffering to workers and their loved ones.”

A joint statement has been signed by organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses, the Electrical Contractors' Association, the Association of British Insurers, Royal Mail Group, and construction federations. They have pledged to support the development, implementation and widespread recognition of the criteria.

The core criteria are: health and safety policy and organisation; arrangements for ensuring health and safety measures; risk assessment (and safe systems of work); access to competent advice; training and information; individual qualifications and experience; workforce involvement; contracting procedures (i.e. using contractors); co-operating and co-ordinating with others; accident/near-hit reporting and investigation; first aid (and other emergency measures where applicable, notably fire arrangements); and monitoring, checking and reviewing performance.

The joint statement can be viewed at www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/sme/initiative.htm. Email Roger Bibbings (rbibbings@rospa.com) if your organisation is interested in becoming a signatory.

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