By Zoe Drew, Director, HCS Safety

Classroom of course – end of blog.

Only kidding…I’m going to have to flesh out this argument just a bit.

At HCS Safety, some of the subject matter we teach is quite challenging. There might be a bit of law, some chemistry, biology or some practical elements to digest; even a touch of psychology and sociology now and again. A lot of these concepts are the sort where you need to check you’ve understood something, hear real life examples from other people and bounce ideas off classmates and your tutor in order to make sure you’ve really understood something.

There’s something truly satisfying about being in a group of people and all “getting it” when you’ve learned something really new. It’s quite a buzz, and in the world of online isolation, it doesn’t happen all that often. These are fulfilling and empowering moments to value and cherish.

Undertaking a NEBOSH Diploma is a big deal – this is a degree level qualification and you’re going to get it in ONE YEAR, probably while you are working. Being in a separate place of learning is essential. Your mind knows it’s a college day, your family and colleagues also know and they are important to your exam success. You will also be in a group of people who are up against the same challenges as you – and you’ll have actually met them in the flesh. These people will be your support network and may be your friends too soon – nothing creates bonds like being up against a challenge together.

So, if you want to check that you’ve got your times tables correct, maybe online is ok, but when there’s a concept any more complex that that, I’d head for the classroom in a heartbeat.

To find out more about our NEBOSH Diploma Classroom course or any other services from HCS Safety visit our website or call us on 023 80 894695.

All of us at the South’s favourite health and safety consultancy are very proud to announce that we have been awarded accreditation against the Investors in People Standard, demonstrating our commitment to realising the potential of our people.

For those of you who don’t know us, we have been providing health and safety training and consultancy services across the South for nearly 20 years. We serve nearly 400 retained clients and look after over 4000 companies for their safety training. We employ 24 people and are based in Southampton.

Investors in People is the international standard for people management, defining what it takes to lead, support and manage people effectively to achieve sustainable results. Underpinning the Standard is the Investors in People framework, reflecting the latest workplace trends, essential skills and effective structures required to outperform in any industry. Working with clients across the globe, Investors in People enables organisations to benchmark against the best in the business on an international scale.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People, said: “We’d like to congratulate HCS Safety. Investors in People accreditation is the sign of a great employer, and an organisation committed to achieving success by realising the potential of their people. HCS Safety should be extremely proud of their achievement.”

Commenting on the award, HCS Safety’s Director, Zoe Drew said: “It takes a lot of work to gain the accreditation, but it has been one of the most valuable journeys we have taken as a company. Our team is stronger and more committed as a result of our IIP status, meaning that we can offer the best service to our clients. A big thank you to everyone!”

Please contact us for information about what HCS Safety can do for your business.


by Drew Underwood, Senior Consultant, HCS Safety Ltd

This year at our annual forum we were overjoyed to celebrate the achievements of 21 member clients, who had managed to achieve 100% scores on their annual health and safety review.

The annual review is our way of measuring the success of our client’s health and safety management systems and procedures. Review is a vital part of any effective health and safety management system, not to mention a legal requirement and a key component of our membership package. It allows us to keep track of the successes and challenges that clients have faced over the year, and helps us to identify the practical ways that we can help keep employees safe and company leaders on the right side of the law.

A 100% review score represents a company who has committed fully to embracing health and safety as a crucial component of their business, so it is with genuine pleasure that we have been able to give an increasing number of these awards annually. Our advisors get to know every client on both a personal and professional basis at these meetings, so being able to recognise that relationship really feels like a validation of the shared work that we put in.

So once again, a massive congratulations to our 21 Health & Safety Excellence award winners of 2019:

  • A.W. Jeffreys (Southampton) Ltd
  • Able Steel Fabrications Ltd
  • Basingstoke Fire Protection Ltd
  • Bluestone Design and Construction Ltd
  • Corrigenda Ltd
  • Createability
  • Dartmouth General Contractors Ltd
  • Fifth Elevation Ltd
  • Gypsum Plasterers Ltd
  • Hampshire Light Ltd
  • Hazeley Developments
  • Hexley Ltd
  • JW Hill Garden Care Ltd
  • KAMM Civil Engineering Ltd
  • Macintyre Scott & Co. Ltd
  • March End Carpentry
  • Richardson Decorating Contractors Ltd
  • SMR Plant Services Ltd
  • Spirit Solar Ltd
  • Titan Drylining Ltd
  • Vision Scaffolding Solutions Ltd

To find out more about our membership service, please click here.

by Zoe Drew, Director HCS Safety

Sometimes events occur and the effects are very hard to predict. The fatal air accident involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft this weekend is such event in more ways than one.

The aircraft was carrying people from 157 people from 32 different nationalities. Each one of them will have family, friends, work colleagues and a wider circle of lives and consequences what will be changed forever as a result of this tragic event.

At the time of writing, China and The Cayman Islands have grounded their Max 8 aircraft. All over the world, fleet managers, mechanical engineers and any decision maker who has recently taken delivery of one of these craft will now have their focus shifted to trying to make the right decision in this challenging situation.

Closer to home, we often talk about the ripple effect in relation to workplace accidents – how a single second event can affect a large number of people in many ways, sometimes forever. This is also true of course for ill health effects. Serious illnesses can have the same far reaching consequences that extend way beyond the sufferer.

In terms of the air crash, 22 of the passengers on board were en route to a UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi. At this time of cliff edges and exponential effects on the climate, only history will be able to tell us what essential changes may have been delayed, cancelled or altered by the effect on this vital conference.

What relationships will be forever altered, what focuses will change, what calls will not be made because priorities will have suddenly shifted?

To understand more about how incidents, accidents and ill health can impact lives and businesses, get in touch with us at HCS Safety to see how we can help prevent these events and minimize the consequences.

A visit to your company to see how we can assist you is free of charge and may just be the best way of finding out what you need to do to manage your workplace risks effectively.

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Do you remember your first crush?

Did you ever pluck up the courage to ask them out on a date?

The anticipation, the waiting, it may have taken hours, days, weeks or even months to pluck up the courage to approach them. The heart pumping, that nervous shuffling, the dry mouth and wringing hands all demonstrating that you were entering a stressful situation and exposing yourself to that fear of rejection.

Who do people in your organisation approach if they are struggling with their mental health? The feelings that they encounter may be exactly the same as the feelings described above, in short – Stress! If a colleague or employee comes to talk to you about their mental health, listen to them, offer support, please don’t shut them out! For further information on how HCS Safety can help you with your well-being strategy, follow our Linkedin page  or take a look at our Mental Health Awareness- Preventing and Managing Occupational Stress course.

by Zoe Drew, Director HCS Safety

As employers are starting to engage with the concept of mental health in the workplace being within their remit, it seems as if the solution with the loudest voice is getting the most attention, but is this the right way to go?

We are getting better now at regarding mental health in the same way as we do physical health, and so isn’t prevention better than cure? In terms of the physical workplace, we concentrate our efforts on prevention – using lightweight materials, non-slip surfaces, dust suppression, physical barriers and good housekeeping, all brought together and underpinned, of course by a suitable and sufficient risk assessment (see last week’s blog). We want first aiders, of course we do, but they are not, and never have been, the only option in risk management.

I think we are potentially going down an overly simplistic road – many employers are looking at Mental Health First Aid as the only option in risk management. This is a complex area to get involved in and the hope seems to be that if they do this one thing all the problems will go away. Life isn’t as easy as that. Risk management hierarchies tell us we need to prevent the problems from occurring as well as being well placed to fix them.

I am a huge advocate of Mental Health First Aid – we run the course here at HCS Safety, but I am also of the belief that employers should be preventing the problems that are within their control – in this area, the main focus is inevitably workplace stress. There are ways of preventing and managing it, making it less likely that an employer will directly cause a mental health problem or exacerbate an existing one.

We at HCS Safety wouldn’t be fulfilling our duty if we didn’t have a solution for you – we suggest that employers look at a prevent and protect strategy; and add our course on Preventing and Managing Occupational Stress to your Mental Health First Aid training to give you the full picture.

by Zoe Drew, Director HCS Safety

There is a dangerous myth out there that risk assessment is simply a form filling exercise. This could not be further than the truth. Almost every prosecution following a serious accident cites the lack of a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment as part of the cause. These aren’t just words – the law requires your risk assessment to be “suitable and sufficient”. If not, the author of that assessment is potentially exposing workers to risk and themselves to legal action.

Risk assessment is a thought process, a method of enabling people to do potentially dangerous jobs safely, and it needs to be done well. A solid understanding of the task, the hazards (both immediate and long term) how to evaluate risk and how to control it is essential in fulfilling your legal duty to get this right.

The way the risk assessment is recorded is also a part of the process, but it comes after the serious problem solving has been done. This really is NOT about risk assessment forms or risk assessment templates – it’s about the identification of problems and solving them BEFORE you worry about how to write them down.

The art of creating a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is not rocket science, but it does require knowledge and skill. The author of a risk assessment is signing their name to a method of work for others to follow, and that carries considerable responsibility, both morally and legally.

If you have been asked to write a risk assessment, your employer has a duty to ensure that you are competent to carry out this task. Training is essential and is available right here…

A Risk Assessment course at the South’s favourite safety consultancy will fully equip you for this. An interactive and enjoyable day will leave you with the confidence, skills and knowledge to carry out this important task. Click here for details.

Alternatively, if you’d like to engage our consultancy to write your risk assessments for you, then please contact us.


by Drew Underwood, Senior Consultant, HCS Safety Ltd

The recent fire at the Ocado factory raises some interesting issues with regards to protection of people and buildings from fire risk.

Ocado’s facility in Andover is one of the most advanced automated facilities in the country, with a team of over 1000 automated robots controlled by a bespoke 4G network and far fewer human staff than would be found in almost any other warehouse of its size.

It is also protected by a sprinkler system which has won global awards and received the highest insurance protection rating possible.

Despite this, the facility suffered a serious fire which started in the early hours on Tuesday 5th February and was not brought completely under control until the end of the week. Fire crews are expected to remain on site for several weeks and it will be many months, and maybe even years before the building is fully operational again.

The good news? There were no human casualties.

The less people are exposed to risk, the less chance there is of harm. This is one of the advantages of increasing automation in business, but one that many companies just do not have access to. What we cannot forget is that fire brings with it the potential for the ultimate consequence whenever it breaks out.

Fire regulation, as is correct, places the majority of its emphasis on the protection of people. Buildings are viewed largely through the prism of a tool, which when properly designed can help to deliver this aim.

There is no single answer when it comes to controlling fire risk. As with almost all other health and safety laws the emphasis is placed on risk assessment and the identification of practical and proportionate controls.

The fire at Ocado shows that even with the best protections in place, the risk of an out of control fire is always present. Make sure that your business is doing everything it needs to keep its staff and premises safe by ensuring that you have a robust fire risk assessment in place.

If you need any help with your fire risk assessment contact us, we’re always available to help.

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

This is my motorbike, it’s a Yamaha FZ1, it is a 1000cc engine with 152 bhp and 106.8Nm of torques (whatever that means), but I do know its great.  It will reach speeds of up to 98mph…. in first gear (its got six!).  I enjoy riding it, I like the looks I get when I roll up at the lights, I imagine their faces as I accelerate away leaving them for dust! It makes me feel so manly.

It even fits with my name …Andy…short for Andrew which means ‘manly, brave, strong, courageous and warrior’.  My parents got that right as I left home and pursued a long a fruitful career as a soldier, a proper man’s job.

I suffer with atypical male pattern baldness as a result of the overload of testosterone coursing through my veins. A beautiful bushy beard adorns my chops, my body is embellished with a collection of tattoos from the four corners of the globe. If someone asked you to draw a man, a tough man, I suspect it might look like a cartoon version of me (or maybe Bruce Willis, you choose).

I took the photo of my bike during one of my regular visits to one of my favourite places.  It’s a quiet little car park in the New Forest where I like to sit and spend some time in quiet contemplation.  It hasn’t always been like that though.

The first time I went there, I had no intention of returning.  I had decided that my life was not worth living and that I was becoming a burden to everyone in my life.  A decision that is repeated by men like me around 84 times every week in the UK alone. Thankfully I survived the night and since the morning that I shouldn’t have woken up I have made the decision to never visit that place in my mind again.

Part of that commitment involves telling my story to anyone who will listen; I discovered a way back from the edge, I found a path and discovered tools to help me along the way.  Perhaps the most powerful tool is talking, if something is bothering me I tell someone, if I’m happy, I laugh- if I’m sad I cry.

I have learned that it’s ok to not be ok and that it’s not weak to speak.  If I need help, no matter how small I think it is, that if I ask for help, I will get it. This is where the magic happens, when I follow this advice, I feel better, I feel supported and able to get through whatever fog my brain is enveloped in and thus it starts to look rosy again.

In a journey of a thousand steps- the first one being the most important.

It’s ‘Time to Talk Day’ on Thursday 7 February.

Where ever you are, who ever you’re with, ‘start the conversation’.


by Drew Underwood, Senior Consultant, HCS Safety Ltd

With the process of our exit from the European Union continuing, it seems a good time to look at an issue on which European lawmakers have always disagreed with their British counterparts; our approach to implementing sensible, proportionate measures to protect people from harm at work.

The phrase ‘So far as is reasonably practicable’ is a fundamental phrase in health and safety law in the UK. It is also one that Europe has long disliked and have in fact tried to prevent us from using during a 2-year long case in the European Courts. Which we won.

British health and safety law is based around the idea that competent people should be able to make sensible decisions based on their knowledge of risks and how to control them. In short it is what allows us to have proportionate solutions rather than prescriptive ones.

Where the phrase ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ is used, it allows us to balance the time, effort and cost of the control measures against the risk that we are seeking to control. Of course, this does mean that we have to assess the risks of our work, but it allows us to avoid the more ridiculous measures that would be in place if we tried to have a rule for every scenario.

Risk assessment is the linchpin of this process. By understanding how dangerous a job really is, we can find ‘reasonably practicable’ ways of completing a job safely without going over the top. Done right, a risk assessment allows us to find ways to safely carry out the most dangerous of activities rather than banning people from taking part in them.

It may not be perfect but its our way and regardless of what happens during Brexit negotiations, we will be keeping it.

For more info on how to make ‘reasonably practicable’ decisions, our risk assessment course can help you come up with your sensible solutions.