A Typical Competent Person Day by Louise Hosking

I am visiting Ashridge Business School in Berkhamsted who are a local client and luckily the traffic is not too bad so I arrive on time.

9.00am: I meet up with the Operational Support Manager and we briefly run through some issues before heading into the quarterly health and safety steering group meeting

9.30am: We have a productive meeting. Amongst other topics, department heads were reminded to update their risk assessments by the end of the year, we discussed gritting regimes now that the weather is becoming icy and I agreed to look at arrangements for reviewing display screen equipment (DSE) assessments. Ashridge have made huge steps forward during the last year to improve how contractor safety is managed and I let them know that this is going really well. I have actually been very impressed that they followed all our advice on this tricky to handle area. Everyone feels far more in control and contractors have been well briefed. Consequently there have not been any major problems so far, even from the smaller firms and self-employed people. I agreed to undertake a final review of the H&S policy in the afternoon to ensure that off-site staff working has been adequately covered including for those working abroad.

11.00am: Meeting with a specialist roofing contractor and the maintenance manager. The main house is a grade I listed building and dates back to the early 19th century. Repair work is required to some sections of pitched roofing. They need to ensure that the work can be undertaken safely but are concerned that coping stones are not damaged. The same contractor is also working on a section of external wall that has suffered weather damage at high level. We agree a safe method for the roof repair with the contractor who is a specialist in historical buildings. I suggest that his method statement includes hand written sketches and photographs to show sequence of works which makes much more sense to everyone involved.

It is also a chance to discuss how he is getting on with the new contractor arrangements. Hosking Associates have worked with Ashridge to develop an electronic web based portal that enables contractors to upload their safety information which means that managers across Ashridge can access documentation and contractors can see relevant hazard information such as asbestos surveys. Feed back following contractor day has been excellent and Ashridge management have stressed that they will help less IT literate contractors to scan and upload relevant material.

After the roofing contractor has left it is time to catch up with the maintenance manager. I want to know how the new contractor induction arrangements are going and that high risk work permits are being issued correctly. Standards are really improving and everyone on site is feeling much more in control. Everyone is an H&S convert these days!!

On the way back to the office the operations support manager shows me the difficulties that they have been having with blocked (drainage) hoppers on one of the towers. Another work at height issue that has been solved by some clever (and invisible) changes which mean it can be unblocked from an existing platform at the bottom. There is always more than one way to skin a cat!

12.30: Grab some lunch and check for any interesting news articles on the HSE website and twitter (follow us @hoskingassociat.) One of the gardeners drops by and we chat about some imminent tree surgery that is planned in the estate – more work at height! I also manage to swap some emails with Hosking Associates new business manager Christine McBride who is working on ways we can use our website to make client information more accessible and also reviewing how much we are paying for phones!

1.00pm: Time to make the requested changes to the policy documentation following the H&S steering group meeting. Governors have already approved it and the steering group have been asked to read through the documentation again before it is finally signed off by the CEO.

3.00pm: Meeting with the project operational support manager to discuss some project work planned for the Christmas break which has to be coordinated around some planned asbestos removal. We have previously agreed the arrangements required and I have provided her with a check list that will be used at a pre-start design meeting so we run through this again together. Schedules are discussed to ensure that trades are not working on top of each other, that the right amount of pressure will be applied to get the job done without additional risks. We know who will oversee the projects and we talk about which parts of the job will require high risk work permits.

The same manager has been overseeing food safety. Hosking Associates food safety specialist has trained staff in CIEH level 2 food safety in catering over the summer and 91% passed. There may be a requirement for us to undertaken some more training but we agree to re-visit this in the new year.

4.00pm: Further to the steering group meeting this morning, we run through what we think the procedure should be to ensure that existing staff have their DSE arrangements reviewed. New staff are being assessed and there are occupational health arrangements in place if someone experiences problems but we know we have to tighten up on periodic checks for existing staff so that future issues are prevented.

4.30pm: The final job of the day is to review the dreaded action plan. All our clients have very specific action plans that they work through. We develop the action plan at the initial review which is the first work we undertake with all new clients. Once the action plan is received they assign responsibilities and realistic targets for completion. Whilst actions are in progress any history must be updated. Therefore, I am looking to see that issues raised are moving forward. There are quite a few actions we can close down and it is satisfying to feel that things are continually improving but it is also clear that there are some areas we do need to tighten up on so there is a plan for how we will use my next H&S day to ensure that these areas are not left overlooked.

We also look through the training plan. One of our associates has recently trained relevant members of staff on work at height and safe use of ladders. There are a few more members of staff that require this and we discuss whether we can combine people with another local client. We did some risk assessment training in the autumn that we agree can be undertaken internally now. It’s great when clients can become self-sufficient in areas such as this.

My next day will be an Environmental day. The BSI auditor is due to monitor compliance with ISO14001, something Ashridge has worked hard to achieve and is very proud of. We briefly discuss the issues raised from his last audit. Last time I was on site we undertook some departmental Environmental audits and the internal IT department in particular did very well. We wonder how we might steer him in their direction before heading home for the evening.

As I pass the very tall Christmas tree in the reception area on my way out I wonder who put the star on the top……………..


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Article written by Louise Hosking from Hosking Associates