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Hold your nerve and ignore the scaremongers

Specialist health and safety consultancy SMTS is issuing a warning to transport company directors that “drama queen” so-called experts are using scare tactics to drum-up business.

The firm says that some unscrupulous consultants are exaggerating the risks to company directors of increasingly complex legislation, the compensation culture, and the rise of no-win, no-fee lawyers.

“Management by fear is not the route to a safer working environment,” said SMTS Managing Director Jamie Cliffe. “Our message to directors who are faced with consultants who are clearly trying to put the fear of God into them with talk of corporate manslaughter and jail sentences is that they should show them the door, and hold their nerve.”

“The law is becoming more complex, and companies are expected to be more diligent about issues relating to safety. But the objective is not to jail responsible directors of well-managed companies who make the occasional slip up – it is targeted at cowboys and incompetents who wilfully, or carelessly, put their employees at risk.”

Mr Cliffe started his company three years ago after 18 years working in both health and safety, and training. The firm uses behavioural change systems, training and consultancy to help its clients lead their employees to a more positive view of health and safety at work.

“We believe that if a workforce is working well together, and communicating efficiently, then safety awareness will follow and attitudes will change for the better,” he said.

“Unfortunately, selling this concept into a company requires greater advocacy skills and technical knowledge than is required if the objective is merely to frighten the client silly with over-stated risks. Enlightened clients, who approach the issue from an informed base, are already becoming wise to the problem.

“Some of the selling messages we have come across amount to little more than ‘hire us, or you risk going to jail’, and the industry really does have to be a bit more sophisticated and grown up than that. It might work with some clients, at the moment, but in the long run people are going to see through it – and if we can help them to do so faster, we will.”

Much of the information sold by unscrupulous consultancies is available free of charge from Government agencies, or from the internet.

Mr Cliffe said that the transport industry was inherently risk laden, but that a responsible, professional and positive approach to the issue would steer most companies away from trouble.

SMTS currently employs only a dozen people, but says that figure will more than double by the end of the year on the back of work which has already been secured. The firm has offices in North Yorkshire and Hertfordshire, and covers the entire UK.

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