Choosing the right workplace health and safety consultant
Choosing the right workplace health and safety consultant for your organisation will help support your health and safety activities.
Health and safety consultants provide an important resource when you need specialist advice and services. Before selecting a consultant, it’s important to understand what they do and how they can help your organisation.
The Health and Safety at Work Act means that businesses and organisations have a greater focus on managing health and safety risks in the business.
Many business owners are regularly reviewing, changing, and developing their health and safety strategies and systems to make sure they are managing their workplace health and safety risks effectively, and complying with new regulations
Most organisations do not have enough people with the right training to cover all the issues necessary for good management of workplace health and safety. Health and Safety consultants can offer expertise in specific areas so that problems can be solved, or they can provide ongoing support where a full-time health and safety manager or advisor is not needed (enquire today about our Virtual Safety Manager service).
Workplace Health and Safety Consultants
Workplace health and safety consultants sometimes called `health and safety generalists’, provide broad-based strategic and practical advice, support, and analysis to organisations on a wide range of aspects of health and safety. There are two main types of consultants: a workplace health and safety professional and a workplace health and safety practitioner.
Workplace health and safety professionals operate at a more strategic level and can design an organisation’s health and safety management strategy within the wider context of business processes and external regulatory, market, and societal influences. Influential with senior management, they are advisers on problem-solving and organisational change. Their advice is based on conceptual and technical knowledge of design and operations, enabling them to extend their understanding to control complex health and safety risks.
Workplace health and safety understand how to access, use, critically evaluate and develop the evidence base and they value professional collaboration. They are more likely to gain their health and safety education through the higher education sector.
Workplace health and safety practitioners tend to take a more practical, hands-on approach. They are likely to focus on the workplace and the organization’s primary processes and communicate predominantly at middle management, supervisor, and shop-floor levels. They support a safe working environment by maintaining health and safety administrative processes, conducting basic training, and using a range of state-of-the-art tools, processes, and standard practice solutions to manage health and safety risks. Particularly focused on evaluating routine and well-known processes and work, workplace health and safety practitioners oversee and drive monitoring and compliance in relation to technical and behavioral risk controls. They usually gain their health and safety education through the vocational or technical education sector.
Workplace health and safety consultants can help with:
- identifying, assessing, and controlling critical health and safety risks in the work environment;
- developing, implementing, and managing health and safety systems including developing health and safety policies and procedures, and designating responsibilities for health and safety;
- integrating health and safety strategic and operational planning with broader organisational and operational planning;
- designing and implementing systems for monitoring and reporting on organizational health and safety performance;
- providing advice on compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards;
- fostering participation and engagement with workers;
- evaluating the financial impact of health and safety risks, and building business cases to support appropriate controls;
- determining the need for additional advice from other workplace health and safety professionals;
- management and worker training;
- management of contractors and other workers;
- incorporating essential health and safety requirements in purchasing and contracting specifications;
- advising on applying safety principles in design and manufacture to achieve maximum product safety;
- development of emergency response systems;
- accident or incident investigations with detailed reports that identify root cause;
- rehabilitation policy and claims management systems.
A workplace health and safety consultant usually has a health and safety-related qualification and a wide range of experience. Look for membership to the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management and is a registered member of HASANZ (Health and Safety Association of NZ).
Choosing the Right Health and Safety Consultant for You
To select the most suitable health and safety consultant, consider the following:
Check if their qualifications are relevant and up-to-date, with specialization in health and safety. Verify whether their education, training, and experience have been validated by recognized by HASANZ.
Evaluate their professional activity duration and experience in private practice or consultancy work. Determine if they have helped clients with similar problems and seek references from other organizations they have worked with.
Continued Professional Development:
Inquire about their participation in courses, seminars, and conferences to stay updated with the latest knowledge and best practices.
- Has the consultant provided a contract or a similar agreement?
- Does the contract cover confidentiality, liability, and patent rights?
- Does the consultant have professional indemnity, public liability, and statutory liability insurance?
- What are the arrangements regarding advertising or endorsement for either party?
- Who has ownership of the material produced for the project? Are there any restrictions?
- What are the timeframes for starting and finishing the work?
The Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) is the national umbrella organisation representing workplace health and safety professionals and has developed a national online register of competent professionals working in the health and safety sector. Ensure your Health and Safety Adviser holds a current registration. HASANZ has produced a simple checklist of 5 quick questions to help you choose a qualified health and safety advisor.
- Which professional association do you belong to – can you confirm this?
- What qualifications and/or certifications do you have?
- What relevant skills and experience do you have for this job?
- Can you give me examples of similar work you have done recently?
- Are you happy for us to contact your clients about your work for them?
Additional guidance is available on their website www.hasanz.org.nz
Monitoring the consultant’s performance
When you engage a consultant you invest time and money. It is important to be able to determine if you have received the results you expected. The project brief should specify the measures you will use to judge the consultant’s performance.
Ideally, these will be agreed upon with the consultant at the outset, so both parties fully understand the requirements of the job and they are realistic. Regular meetings and progress reports from the consultant are an effective way of monitoring the work they are doing for you.
This ensures that long-term projects run on time and budget and that both you and the consultant don’t lose sight of the original objectives.
Disputes or complaints
If a dispute about the standard of work arises between you and a consultant, you should first approach them and try to resolve the issue. If this fails then the consultant’s professional body (NZISM) should be approached as they will have complaints and dispute resolution procedures in place. This is one of the benefits of dealing with a consultant who belongs to a recognised professional association.
Developing a Brief
A brief helps the health and safety consultant to estimate the time and cost of the project. It should provide information such as:
- the activities of the organisation and its current workplace health and safety program;
- what you understand the problem is;
- what your requirements are;
- the objectives you want to achieve;
- an assessment of the level of risk;
- the resources to be provided by the company, including personnel;
- budget guidelines;
- any reporting or progress requirements;
- any special conditions which might affect the consultancy project
The more information you give the consultant, the better they will be able to prepare an estimate of the cost, timeframe and any other issues.
Choosing a Health and Safety consultant and answers
Consider whether you want a consultant who will simply assess your business and draw up an action plan for you to follow, or one who will go on to help you implement these actions.
Key questions to ask
Can they provide references from previous clients? Don’t be concerned if you are advised the consultant will check with reference first as health and safety service requirements can be a sensitive subject for some businesses.
Do they have direct experience of working in a similar business to your own?
Can the health and safety consultant provide training for your staff? You’ll need to check they have appropriate training qualifications and ask if you can speak to previous clients who have received training services from the consultant.
How will they communicate progress to you?
Do they operate a quality management system?
Does the health and safety consultant have enough resources to cope with your demands? Or will they need to subcontract some of the work? You may need to use a larger consultancy business or check how subcontracted work will be monitored.
Who will you be dealing with on a day-to-day basis?
What is staff turnover like in the consultant’s business? It can be frustrating and costly to have to explain the nature of the project several times to different consultants and then wait for them to familiarise themselves with it.