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.

by Zoe Drew, Director HCS Safety

As we get into this new year, we’ve had a smashing start by completing one each of all the CITB Site Safety Plus courses (SMSTS / SMSTS Refresher / SSSTS / SSSTS Refresher / Health & Safety Awareness and Director’s Role for H & S). It is a real honour that these 103 people put their trust in us to get them through these challenging qualifications, and a testament to the hard work of our delegates and the tutors (in this case Mr Leon Maidment GradIOSH and Mr David Hilton Tech IOSH) for supporting them all the way.

Last year at HCS Safety we saw 6000 delegates leave our premises with an enhanced knowledge base in this vital subject of Health and Safety, at all levels from basic to degree level. That’s a lot of people who are better equipped and better informed about the hazards they and their colleagues face, not to mention better qualified to move forwards in their careers. Our training calendar for 2019 includes increased capacity for many of our most popular courses, including IOSH Working Safely, IOSH Managing Safely and IOSH Leading Safely, as well as the CITB Site Safety Plus favourites. Alongside these we are proud to provide some new additions in the vital field of Mental Health and Occupational Stress.

We recognise our duty as the South’s favourite safety training provider and consultancy to be there when you need us; so not only can you rely on us to run the courses we advertise, but to offer the best facilities possible in which to run them. If you’ve noticed the scaffolding up on our building, recently, you can see that we are investing in our premises, and despite the uncertainty of the times, we promise we will be here for you come what may.

Take care out there, everyone – and if you need us, you know where we are.

On Saturday 22nd August, a pilot tragically crashed a plane into a main road in Sussex.

The Hawker Hunter jet, piloted by Andy Hill, was taking part in the annual Shoreham air show. During a stunt where the plane makes a loop, the pilot lost control and failed to pull out of the manoeuvre and crashed into the A27, colliding with traffic. 11 men were killed.

Today saw the opening of Andy Hill’s trial for Manslaughter by Gross Negligence, charges he denies.

The court were told how the vintage Hawker Hunter, which was in ‘excellent working order’ had ascended to about 2,800ft (850m) when Hill attempted the manoeuvre- 1,000ft below the required height at the top of the loop.

Tom Hark QC, prosecuting, explained to the court how Mr Hill should not have started his descent, but nevertheless continued the manoeuvre”.

“He did not have the height to pull the aircraft out of its dive, back to level flight at a safe height and, as a result he crashed into the ground… The aircraft disintegrated and that crash caused a massive fireball…The effects of that crash were devastating and eleven people lost their lives as a result.”

Hill survived the crash due to his cockpit becoming separated from the rest of the aircraft and landing in a nearby ditch.

Hill is deemed an experience pilot, serving in the RAF between 1985 and 1994 before becoming a commercial pilot. However, he has been known in the past to take risks, with a previous air show halted due to his dangerous flying.

Display pilots hold a heavy responsibility in ensuring that they plan their displays carefully so that no-one is put at risk.  The prosecution case is that is was Hill’s ‘serious negligence’ that led to the loss of 11 lives on that fateful day.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

On June 28th 2017, David Duckenfield and Graham Mackrell were formally charged following a formal inquest into the infamous Hillsborough disaster of 1989.

This week the trial opens, where Duckenfield will be tried for Manslaughter by Gross Negligence of 95 men, women and children.  Mackrell, the Safety officer for Sheffield Wednesday at the time, will be tried under breaching section 3 of the health and safety at work act, namely ensuring as far as reasonably practicable that persons other than themselves or employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

The trial is closely monitored by those that have campaigned for justice since the fans were blamed for the tragedy.

The “exceptionally bad failings” of police match commander David Duckenfield were “a substantial cause” of the Hillsborough tragedy, the court was told.

The focus on Mackrell is provided by the Safety certificate and its alleged breaches.

At condition 6 (1), the certificate required the club to agree, prior to an event with the Chief Constable (in this case, Duckenfield), the “methods of admission to be employed in connection with a Specified Activity (including a football match) and … the methods to be used for the segregation of home and visiting supporters.”  This was a particular condition that the club had to agree on in regard to the methods of entry into the stadium- in this case, the amount of turnstiles to be used for admission in to the west stand and north west terraces.  Mackrell is accused of ‘turning a blind eye or neglect of part of his duties as a safety officer.’

Richard Matthews, QC, who is prosecuting, stated “The Safety Certificate was never updated or amended from the date it was granted in 1979 until the day of the disaster” and there was “a recognition by all concerned that the safety certificate was very out of date… Few of those involved with the Safety Certificate appear to have performed their function diligently in this regard.”

The trial is expected to last several months.

How have the events unfolded so far?