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Workplace safety is becoming one of the most talked about subjects in almost all industries across the Globe. Existing safety legislation is continuously being updated and new regulations are being imposed. Authorities are implementing strict compliance to ensure companies provide a safer environment for their employees.
While it is the responsibility of Health and Safety Professionals to create a safe environment, the responsibility falls on the buyers to procure the most suitable and reliable safety products. Therefore, choosing the right products or service provider is a critical step of making any workplace safer.
Before giving us your tips, help us understand why it is important to choose the right safety product or service provider.
Ultimately, it’s all to do with liability and risk mitigation. All manufacturers and service providers have a corporate responsibility as industry experts to help their clients and users of the system to understand the different products required for individual tasks whilst reducing risk. Unfortunately, not all service providers follow this best practice. This is why it is important to choose the type of service providers that are ready to educate their client and take liability for their products and services.
If I take an example from my industry, 'are horizontal fall arrest systems (lifeline) always the answer for an unprotected roof?' The simple answer is no. In some cases, it may be the most cost-effective but not necessarily the most appropriate solution as with active fall protection comes increased risk. Upfront costs may be lower than collective fall protection systems, such as rooftop guardrails, but the additional costs required for annual maintenance, recertification, training and rescue procedures and equipment often get overlooked. When combining all of these factors it can become an expensive specialized product with higher liability factors.
Collective or Passive Fall Protection is a form of barrier, providing users with a safe work space without having the requirement of user training, personal protective equipment (PPE), rescue plans and is generally low maintenance depending on the environment. The cost to the client is initially higher than active Fall Arrest Systems (Lifeline) but over the longer term it will be more economical. The most important factor to understand is that it creates a safer working environment for all.
Overall, choosing the right service provider is essential to mitigate the risk and liability you could potentially incur as an employer. We are in a sector where we get no second chances and therefore you need a competent industry expert who will get it right first time.
Assessing the risk is a key factor to choosing the right product. Making sure that a risk assessment is conducted by a competent person within the organization, or an industry specialist is important. Following the hierarchy of control is part of the industry best practice but there are many other factors to consider.
Researching a solution is a good start once you have completed a risk analysis. Depending on your experience, it is always best to ask an industry expert who has the knowledge, experience, and competency to provide you with solutions. At this point I would say to keep an open mind and absorb the information to help develop your own knowledge and experience which will help you make the right decision.
Risk assessments are a legal requirement and are performed to identify potential hazards and analyze the risk. Conducting a risk assessment can be a complex procedure depending on the task and or environment so this should be performed and verified by competent persons within the organization or an industry expert. During a risk assessment, you should consider operational conditions, maintenance, environmental conditions, frequency of the activity and let’s not forget emergencies producers.
I find the best way to identify potential risk is to consult and gain an understanding of the activity being carried out by engaging with the personnel that perform those specific tasks to evaluate true feedback.
Five steps to risk assessing
Step 1: Identify the hazards - Hazards can be identified by using a number of techniques, although, one of the most common remains walking around the workplace to visually inspect for any processes, activities, or substances that may injure or cause harm
Step2: Decide who may be harmed and how - Identifying who may be at risk extends to full and part-time employees, contract staff, visitors, clients, and other members of the public at the workplace.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures - Once you've identified hazards, the next step is to remove the associated risks, however, where this is not possible, specific control measures should be put in place.
Step 4: Record your findings - It is good practice to record significant findings. It's worth highlighting that recording your findings does not need to be a lengthy exercise, simple notes and photographs are sufficient but should be recorded with dates and times.
Step 5: Review the risk assessment - Workplace environments change day to day. There may be new equipment, substances, and or tasks, that have been introduced since the last assessment so its vitally important to have a procedure in place which allows repeated evaluation based on risk level or frequency of activity for continuous improvement.
The most important factor to be considered is the legislated requirements for such elimination or control measures.
Industry experts can support you in many different levels of this process. With the knowledge and experience they also can provide you with valuable information and recommendations of the hazard elimination or control measures. Allowing you to determine that the product you choose is suitable and safe, which may protect you from legal implications.
Carrying out due diligence on a supplier can be complicated and confusing. You will find companies with an abundance of information and others with little or no information at all. The simplest way is to follow criteria based on your specific needs. Reduce information overload and produce a simplistic approach to retrieve the specific information you require.
Create a checklist
All industries have an abundance of suppliers or service providers. The objective is to identify your specific needs and create a simple checklist to reduce the number of companies you can retrieve information from, then validate if they are suitable for your requirement.
Four simplistic ways to help choose your supplier
The easiest and most common method in researching a product or service provider is right at your fingertips. Web searches, online questionnaires, and Google reviews are an effective way of researching a company and its performance.
However, there are a few more steps to make sure that the research is complete.
Upon the web search, If the supplier or subcontractor is in the same region as you are, a visit to their facility / office or showroom will be a good way to understand how established they are and the standards that they follow. As we are dealing with products and services related to safety, it is important for you to know that you are dealing with a professional party that practice what they preach.
If you are wondering why this is important, it is because a well-established organization will potentially have processes and procedures that will protect them from risks and liabilities which in return will protect you as their customer.
I can give you an example with Kee Safety. As a provider of Fall Protection products and services we have a number of insurances in place.
A Testimonial or a recommendation is influenced by the amount of trust that a customer can have in a company or their product and services. Therefore, it is a good marker to establish reliability and quality.
Asking your supplier or subcontractor to provide project references and testimonials will provide more credibility to the information that they provide you and what they advertise.
Employees who are passionate about what they do are dedicated to their work and the customers that use their products and services. In most cases they will provide you with the information you need and an exceptional service, building the reputation of the company by going that extra mile.
Quality is important for customer satisfaction, which ultimately results in customer loyalty. The quality of something is measured by its functionality, performance, durability/ lifespan, serviceability, and physical features. Industry standards play a key role in defining quality. Engineered products and services that meet stringent criteria ensure optimum performance.
Researching a product or service provider will provide you with the top brands because customers gain trust through experience. This will provide a starting point, but we all must consider technical documentation, environmental implications, and workmanship as well.
There are many Quality Standards that drive the performance of companies and their products or services. Companies that follow standards lead the market by providing a superior output which will enhance their reputation and give their clients exceptional service. Being compliant with a quality standard is not just receiving a certification from a concerned body, it is also making sure that the standards are strictly followed.
When choosing a product or service provider, make sure that you look for;
To become a market leader and maintain their leadership, a company must focus on consumer preference, quality, and reputation. They have to make sure that the products and services are of highest quality and use innovative technologies and methods to be able to outshine their competitors. Consumers trust market leaders and will choose to purchase from them to minimize risk and acquire superior quality.
Testing of a product is done by conducting laboratory tests to see if the product is compliant with the necessary regulatory standards. It also verifies the safety of the materials used in the manufacturing process making it easier to identify risks associated with the product.
Service providers go through a certification process to make sure that the service they provide is in accordance with industry standards. These standards are set by regulatory bodies to protect consumers from risk and liabilities.
Therefore, selecting a service provider that is certified in accordance with the industry and regulatory standards will ensure that you receive a quality product and service.
To design, produce and implement a high-quality product or service requires great workmanship. Market leaders have trained competent people involved in their production, quality control and implementation processes to make sure they stay ahead of their competition and deliver an exceptional output.
Price and quality are seen to go hand in hand. This is not always the case, the cheapest product is not always the weakest and the most expensive is not always the best. When talking about price what is being considered? 1) Product only, 2) product and service or 3) product, services, and technical evidence.
“Apples to apples” is the common phrase but there are very few market leaders who can provide all three and execute the scope of work with quality results. Byers always want the best quality product for the lowest price but don’t think about the services rendered for execution.
Safety standards are important to set the benchmark for every industry globally. Without the passion and workmanship behind it, compliance is simply a box ticking exercise. Companies who are passionate about following the standards set benchmarks against their competitors and provide the customer with protection and confidence.
Safety standards are continuously changing so it is important for the industry experts and professionals to lead the way by coaching, sharing knowledge and information with regards to industry updates. It is essential not only to make sure you reach the benchmark but to show compliance by ensuring the safety of the product after installation.
Mark Kelly, Sr. Contracts Manager for Kee Safety LLC is an industry expert with 17 years of fall protection experience in UK, Ireland, and the Middle East.
Mark started in the UK in 2005 until he was headhunted for a Dubai role in 2012. Currently, as Contracts Manager, he is responsible for the review and negotiation of sub-contract agreements, overall project execution, internal technical expertise, and health and safety for the entire Middle East business.
Mark Kelly says, “The fall Protection industry is a specialized industry. It has very few industry experts globally compared to other trades. Over the last seventeen years, I am proud to have been a part of the industry’s growth by sharing my values, knowledge, and experience. I feel there is a long way to go for the industry to be understood".