by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant


It’s a quarter before work starts.  Everyone starts arriving, general office chit chat is happening, coffees are being made while laptops are woken from their slumber or the working tools of the day are prepared.  The conversation ranges from the latest illness from the duty ‘sick note’ to the happenings on Coronation Farm, to the sporting prowess of the company fitness freak.

We spend, on average, more waking time a day with our colleagues than we do with our families and loved ones. We get to know each other quite well.  We know everyone’s foibles and idiosyncrasies, we know what makes each other tick, we are fully aware of the strengths and (more often) weaknesses of our colleagues. It’s only natural then that after a while, our work colleagues become our friends, people that we can confide in, people that we trust and people that we look to for support when things aren’t going quite right.

Now, it’s no secret that over 25% of the adult population suffer with poor mental health at any given time during their working life.  How big is the work force? If 25% aren’t ‘firing on all cylinders’ the company output will suffer, and instead of exponential growth (I learned all about that in an Ed Sheeran song), it will start to go into exponential decline and that can only be a bad thing (I watched the Ewan MacGregor film – Rogue Trader and learnt about that).

As well as the decline in output and the effect on the bottom line, this may well have a negative effect on the workforce.  Stress, absenteeism, presenteeism – when people who should be working are sitting, silently, suffering, staring – instead of producing the goods, will be where the exponential growth is happening.

Do you know who might be suffering within your team? If not, why not? All you have to do is ask, it really is that simple.

Ask ‘How are you today?’, invariably ‘Fine thank you’ will be the response.

And then the conversation ends.

‘Time to change’ are running a campaign to coincide with World Mental Health day on Wednesday 10 October 2018 called ‘Ask twice’.  The campaign centres around a chap and his mate out rambling in the woods.  One of the pair questions ‘How are you?’ a muffled reply of ‘Fine’ is heard as the camera pans out and the other guy is pinned beneath a giant log, unable to move.




The log symbolises the crippling weight of a poor mental health condition and the ‘Fine when we’re not’ tag line alludes to the stigma attached with talking about a mental health issue.

So how can we do it, how can we broach the subject?

The first stage has got to lie with education – educating the workforce to spot the warning signs in themselves and others.  Educating line managers and supervision staff in how to spot the signs in their teams – and more importantly how to ask the question ‘How are you today?’

If the reply ‘Fine’ comes back, chances are they’re probably not.

‘Are you really ok? I’ve noticed you’ve not been yourself recently? Let’s have a brew and a chat…’

Don’t ask once and leave it at that, if you’ve spotted the signs, ask twice! If there really is nothing wrong, you’ve just had a nice chat with your mate/colleague/employee.  If there is something wrong, well, you might have just helped to save a life.

For more information about the #asktwice campaign and the Time To Change organisation, please visit their website at

For information about educating your work force, doing your bit to break the stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues please get in touch with HCS Safety–  we have a wide range of courses and services on offer to help you look after your most important assets – your people!

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

For those of you that know me, you will understand that I suffer with a degrading and sometimes embarrassing condition – I am a Southampton FC fan. I follow the team passionately and attend as many games as I can (I didn’t renew my season ticket, this was a shrewd investment on my part), I was there when we scored two goals in the same game at West Brom last season. I am an eternal optimist and every week I put my money where my mouth is and place a bet on the mighty reds to win (gamble responsibly, when the fun stops, Stop! etc). When the odds are around 10/1 I see that as a worthy bet with a good chance of getting back ten times as much money as I outlay.

Now, if I were to tell you of simple change to make in your business that would result in a similar return of £9.98 return for every £1 invested, I reckon I’d have your attention. Its all to do with the mental health and wellbeing of our staff.
Currently in the UK we spend approx. £33 – 42Billion per annum with half of this cost as a result of ‘presenteeism’ – when an individual is less productive due to poor mental health and the additional costs that sickness absence and staff turnover create.

The Government spend between £24-£27Billion in providing benefits, costs to the NHS and the subsequent drop in tax revenue as a result of a shrinking workforce and we all know how crucial that kind of money is when it comes to the UK!

More than both those combined is the cost to the economy which is placed at between £74-£99Billion a year!
In my opinion, the cost in terms of the personal impact on the lives of all those involved, family, friends, colleagues, supervisors and managers is far more worrying than the financial losses.

As employers, there is a legal and a moral duty to look after the mental health of our workforce. As we all know the Health and Safety at Work Act places duties on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our workforce.

The HSE have developed a set of six Management Standards and a toolkit to be used in assessing how well stress is managed within your workforce. The management standards focus on those areas which cause the most stress, they are:
• Demands
• Relationships
• Role
• Control
• Management of Change
• Support

By completing an assessment of these areas within your workforce you will be better placed to reap the benefits. By having a happy workforce, we will have a more productive work force and will be better placed to reap the rewards of the £9.98 return per £1 invested in training.

For information and guidance on applying the management standards to your workforce book onto the Mental Health Awareness – Managing Occupational Stress course run at our training centre in Southampton.

For further information on the facts and figures in this blog please see ‘Thriving at Work – The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers’.

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

If you follow sports in the UK you will no doubt have heard of the ‘Power of Marginal Gains’ when it comes to increasing elite level sports performance.

It first became a buzzword following the cycling successes of 2012, straight off the back of the first British athlete winning the Tour de France, the British Cycling teams at the Olympics blew their competitors away with Gold after Gold after Gold both on the track and the road.

This was masterminded by Sir Dave Brailsford who was then the Performance Director for British Cycling.  The theory of marginal gains is a simple one. If you take everything that contributes to the athlete’s performance and increase its efficiency or its effect by 1% and then add all of the 1% gains together, the overall performance or output is increased by the totals of those percentages added together. This has been brought to the fore again by Geraint Thomas’ superb Tour de France win and Simon Yates conquering La Vuelta a España.

The marginal gains employed in these fantastic victories range from the floors of the mechanic’s trucks being painted white and kept spotlessly clean (if a mechanic drops something, due to the contrasting colours, he can instantly see it and carry on); to the athletes being provided with the same bedding and air conditioners in their hotel rooms at every location so that their night time routine remains consistent.

In the world of Health and Safety compliance, the basics, when done well, can have the exact same effect on a business output as they do with high performing athletes.

Take Risk Assessment as an example – often these are generic and passed from task to task with just a change of heading.

The operatives are shown the completed document and asked to sign the back of it to agree that they will work in accordance with it and off they go to complete the task the same way that they have always done it.

They start to do the job and realise that they need an item of equipment or material that isn’t there, they then spend the next period of time looking for that essential item (Did you know that once concentration and momentum on a task is broken it takes an average of 23 minutes to regain it!)

If we apply Sir Dave’s teachings to our Risk Assessment process, we can soon notice marginal gains creeping in and our efficiency and (more importantly in my opinion) our Health and Safety performance improve.

The best person to assess the risks of the job is the person doing it.  By consulting with the workforce and adapting their processes to fit, we stand a better chance of them adhering to the safe system of work that we supply them.

If we conduct a specific RA for every job that we do, and make it site and location specific, we can ensure that we get the right equipment and materials to the right place at the right time and eliminate the regular 23 minute concentration breaks- you only need to do this twice and you’ve gained nearly an hour of productivity.  Do this across 4 tasks involving two people and you’ve saved a whole day’s work. Saving a whole day’s work in financial terms might mean a cost saving and a positive effect on your bottom line, but it will also mean that your deadlines, milestones, targets and programs don’t suffer or slip, resulting in pressure, stress and potential contra charges for lost time.

Winning all around I reckon!

Have a look at our website and see if HCS Safety can assist you in your own marginal gains.


Why not try: Risk Assessment Courses


Southampton based Health and Safety Training and Consultancy company, HCS Safety Ltd, are proud to have signed the official Armed Forces Covenant in a pledge to support Armed Forces personnel and veterans.

The Government-backed scheme was established to encourage businesses to recognise the value that serving personnel, veterans and military families contribute to the country, not just during their military careers but also once they return to civilian life.

Over the years HCS Safety Ltd have developed a great working relationship with the Armed Forces Community. We have recruited a number of former service personnel into key roles within the company. With each branch of the UK Armed Forces represented amongst our staff and regular freelance tutors we find ourselves well placed to serve the needs and demands of the Armed Forces community and offer a helping hand to those personnel about to transition to civilian life.

As well as our accreditations with the UKs leading H&S governing bodies we also offer the service leaver the chance to use Individual Resettlement Grants, Standard Learning Credits and ELCAS funding (Provider ID 3286) to enhance their career prospects and employability with courses from NEBOSH, IOSH and the CITB amongst others.

L-R: Joe (USMC), Hilly (RN), WO2 Brodie RE, Bish (Army, RE)

This week we welcome Warrant Officer Class 2 (Quarter Master Sergeant Instructor) Kev Brodie to HCS Safety as he nears the end of his full career with the Royal Engineers. Kev is joining us for two weeks where he will be shadowing our advisors as they go about their daily tasks. This will furnish Kev with valuable work place experience across all aspects of Health and Safety.

HCS Safety Directors Ian and Zoe signing the pledge


This is the third evolution of our military work experience programme with two former participants gaining employment with HCS Safety.

Paul welcoming WO2 Brodie to HCS Safety


Paul Cook, Operations Manager at HCS Safety said, ‘The Armed Forces do a fantastic job and often don’t get the appreciation they rightfully deserve, that’s why HCS Safety are proud to recognise the value of both serving personnel and veterans.’


If you would like any further information check out our website HCS Safety

If you would like to discuss potential work experience opportunities or training drop us a line to or give us a call 02380894695

Bish talking to the Junior Ranks

As part of our commitment to support the Armed Forces Community, one of our consultants recently delivered a Mental Health and Resilience training session to all ranks of 26 Engineer Regiment based in Tidworth.

  By Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

There would be no safety without danger, no danger without a sense of safety.  Safety is all about taking reasonable precautions, and it’s almost common sense… but it seems that the Health and Safety People across the world forgot to tell the songwriters and performers who regularly wax lyrical about their blatant disregard for Health and Safety.

Roy Orbison had clearly never heard of a Fire Risk Assessment when he sang about how ‘Love Hurts’ apparently its ‘like a stove, burns you when its hot’! May I suggest allowing some cooling off time before attempting to touch it, or perhaps a pair of nice chromium leather heat resistant gloves and apron combo when handling it.

I know that pop-stars do ‘a lot of good work for charidee mate’ and for that I applaud them; but what were Mick Jagger and David Bowie thinking of when they encouraged the whole world to start ‘Dancing in the Street’? Now I’m not going to be a killjoy, but any dancing in the street can only take place after suitable segregation has been provided to prevent the dancers from being squashed by the lorries!  And whilst we’re on the subject of traffic, don’t get me started on Ed Sheeran who encourages driving at ridiculous speed on country roads singing along to the hits of Elton John (Castle on the Hill).

Starship set about building cities on rock n roll.  I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find any information on the compressive strengths or bearing capacity of rock n roll. Quite clearly a breach of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations. Whilst we are on the subject of structural stability, did Paul Weller give any consideration to the stability of existing structures when The Style Council sang about walls coming tumbling down? I think not.

Back in the 80s Mark Knopfler informed us all of a really dangerous work place that he knew about (and kept secret) in his song Industrial Disease.  Even the Mother Superior was at it in the Sound of Music when she instructed everyone to ‘Climb every Mountain and ford every stream’ with no cold weather gear, crampons or waterproofs in sight.  I doubt very much if she had any safety boats on standby with a competent crew either. Whilst we are up high I wonder if Led Zeppelin were aware of the requirements of the Work at Height Regulations when they sold the ‘stairway to heaven’?  I can’t see any mention of suitable guard rails or fall prevention in the lyrics.

By Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

‘What do you mean you didn’t bring it with you!’ screamed the angry Corporal who had just asked me to show him an important piece of kit from my rucksack, ‘It was on your kit list.’ He muttered something about the skill set of junior soldiers then pointed out a hut on top of a nearby hill, ‘Go and read what it says on the front door.’
‘AND HURRY UP!’ he yelled as I started to trudge towards the hill, carrying a 25kg rucksack and a 5kg rifle, I’m sure I muttered something about my perception of his parentage as I was on my way.

As I approached the door to the range hut I could see a bright red sign that read ‘Hut 5b, for access call the range warden’, I noted down the instruction and the range wardens telephone number in my notebook and set off back down the hill, my kit rattling and shaking as I bounded back towards the angry Corporal. ‘Well, what did it say?’ he demanded, I reached into my pocket and read the instruction complete with telephone number from my notebook, confident in the knowledge that my punishment was over, ‘Incorrect’ he replied with a knowing look in his eye, ‘Off you go again!’ he instructed.

As I stomped up the hill again, the straps of my rucksack cutting into my shoulders and the rifle getting heavier with every step, I pondered what I could have got wrong? I probably copied one of the numbers down wrongly. I arrived at the door and looked, and checked and wrote it all down again, I even made a sketch map of the door and drew the sign on it. Confident that I had the numbers in the right order, I set off back down the hill at breakneck speed. As I marched back towards the Corporal, he announced ‘You had better not read out the same as last time’, ‘Turn around and get back up there!’ he barked, ‘This time go to the FRONT door!’ It hadn’t occurred to me that the small hut atop this hill would have two doors. As I arrived, I went straight to the other side, and true enough there was another door there. I looked for a similar sign to the door that I had previously visited but none were there, all that greeted me was some spray-painted graffiti.
I turned and headed back down the hill, wondering what would happen next. I tentatively approached the Corporal anticipating another run up the hill and recited the only legible statement amongst the painted nonsense –


‘Good Lad’ he praised me ‘Find out who said that and tell me when we get back into camp.’

It has been cited to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. That phrase stuck with throughout my military career, and now as a Health and Safety Professional it still resonates strongly in everything that I do.

It is so simple, by failing to prepare for what life throws at us, when it happens, invariably failure is an outcome. Unfortunately, failures in relation to the Health, Safety and Welfare of our work force can be incredibly costly both in financial terms and ultimately in terms of life.

Planning of tasks and work activities is a fundamental part of any Safety Management System as illustrated by the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ model recommended by the Health and Safety Executive guidance document HSG65 – Managing for Health and Safety.

As part of our Membership Service scheme, HCS Safety can help you with your safety management system and help you prepare for your success.

Andy Bishop, Health & Safety Consultant

I watched the Red Arrows a couple of weeks ago when they performed at the finale of Cowes Week, they were, as ever amazing.  There is something quintessentially British about watching those 9 red aircraft perform death defying feats of precision formation flying and aerobatics in the skies above our green and pleasant land.

The best display I’ve ever seen was one that I forgot was happening.  The scheduled flypast had been cancelled and I was gutted. Then a few days later I was sitting in my lounge watching football when the unmistakable roar of five Hawk trainer jet aircraft made me jump out of my seat and rush outside.  The five ship Enid team were executing a perfect steep banked turn as they ran in to the target area to perform the ‘Goose’ right over my house! They were so low I swear that Red 3 winked at me as he saw me leaping about in my garden like a giddy schoolboy!

I remember watching them training over the skies in Cyprus and going through the rigorous selection process that every one of the Reds must go through before they get issued with the world-famous Red Overalls.  They truly are the best of the best, pushing the very limits of human performance with split second reaction times and nerves of steel.

The selection process for the Red Arrows takes longer that the display season lasts.  Before they are even considered for the role they must have amassed 1500hrs flying time, at least one operational tour and be regularly assessed as above average flyers.  Only three pilots are replaced every year and their tour of duty as a Red lasts three years.  The Team Leader must have completed a flying tour to be considered and undergoes the same assessment process as the remaining members of the team.  One of the most important aspects of this is team cohesion, if their character doesn’t fit the team, they won’t get in, it’s a s simple as that.

For me the Red Arrows epitomise the word team, they seem to magically know what each other is doing and they can focus on seemingly impossible situations at a rapid rate. They are also cool characters, if you have ever been lucky enough to meet them after a sortie, it’s amazing just how cool they are, they climb out of the cockpit and saunter over to the reception area like you and I would walk to the front door of the supermarket after pulling off a skilled reverse parking manoeuvre in the car park.

The reason they can do this is because they operate in their peak performance zone.  They have arrived there following years of intensive training and months of rehearsals for each display that only lasts for fifteen minutes.

Can you imagine the carnage that would result if they didn’t go through all those hours of training and preparation? It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Within our own workforces we should treat each employee the same as a Red Arrows pilot, we might not expose them to the same levels of performance requirement, but we will expose them to work related stresses if not positively managed.  We need to give them the correct skills to develop in their field and regularly assess and monitor the demands that we place on them.  They should have a clearly defined job role that lets everyone know exactly what is always expected of them. We should foster good working relationships between all our staff and treat all team members with respect.  If people don’t understand something or are worried by anything at all we must have the means to offer encouragement and support.

To learn more about managing stress within your workforce, why not book onto our new Mental Health Awareness- Preventing and Managing Occupational Stress course.

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Andy Bishop, Health & Safety Consultant

Following on from last week’s blog, where I relayed the traumatic loss (blatant theft) of my mobile phone, I decided to write about my after-action review (I’ve been reading a lot about cycles and continuous improvement models recently) and what I could have done differently and will definitely do differently in the future.

The first thing I should have done before I went to the car wash was a risk assessment.  A simple process that we all do with everything in life often subconsciously.  As an example, if you are reading this at your desk and near a window, have a quick look outside.  What is the weather like? Now, take a look at what you are wearing.  Does it match the weather conditions and the days tasks? If so, well done, you have completed a successful risk assessment.  It really is that simple.

Risk assessments and the requirement for them often strikes fear into the hearts of the most hardened characters.  As demonstrated above, everything we do is based on our assessment of risk.  So why the fear?

The HSE define risk as the chance – High or Low – that someone could be harmed by a hazard.  The definition of a hazard according them, is anything that could cause harm.  Electricity, an open drawer, working from a ladder and so on. In short anything with the potential to hurt someone. Or in a financial sense, for a loss to occur…

…like my mobile phone getting stolen from the car wash.

Retrospectively, here is what I should have done in three easy steps.

Step 1. Identify the hazards.

Step 2. Decide who might be harmed and how.

Step 3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.

Hazard – Someone Stealing my phone

Who is at risk – I am, I won’t have my phone and will have to replace it – double loss.

Definitely High Risk – Don’t wash the car. I won’t be using that car wash any more, and I won’t be leaving my phone or anything valuable in the car ever again.

Risk assessment completed, control measures applied.

In the world of work, all employers have a legal duty to control the risks that their workers are exposed to and to reduce the risk to an acceptable level, and this is where the fear strikes.  With risk assessment comes paperwork, with paperwork comes ownership and responsibility and with that comes liability and the potential for litigation.

Risk Assessments are not about creating reams of paperwork and covering everything that could possibly go wrong at whatever level, its about creating sensible solutions to the most significant risks – the ones that are most likely and which will cause the most harm.

Still overwhelmed by it all?  Why not give us a call and come and attend one of our Risk Assessment training courses, we will teach you how to complete a risk assessment and how to apply it to your work.

Risk Assessment Made Easy

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

I was recently the victim of a theft. I placed a sleek and shiny mobile phone safely in the car glovebox when I dropped it off for its monthly clean. I assumed, wrongly, that it would still be there after I had my car washed. I searched my house, I checked the laundry, I went to the office to see if I had inadvertently left it on my desk, I hadn’t, I resigned myself to life without the phone.

Spurred on by a rerun of Inspector Morse, I conducted a thorough investigation which revealed, beyond any reasonable doubt (in my mind) that the person charged with vacuum cleaning my car interior felt that he needed my phone more than me and so helped himself to it.

I went to the car wash and confronted the foreman who denied all knowledge and even though I presented my anecdotal evidence to him, he persisted with his innocence. The police were informed, a crime number was issued and due to the lack of concrete evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that one of the car washers now has a shiny new phone at my expense, it was left at that.

The criminal in this case is protected under the ‘presumption of innocence’, which requires me to prove that he stole my phone, and for that, I needed hard evidence and not assumptions. Innocent until proven guilty.

In Health and Safety law the requirement for the burden of proof is reversed.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act an organisation is automatically regarded as having failed to ensure the health and safety of employees or others if an accident has occurred.

If this isn’t enough, a further section of the Health and Safety at Work Act makes it clear (once its translated from regulatory legalese) that it shall be for the accused to prove … ‘that it was not practicable or not reasonably practicable to do more than was in fact done to satisfy the duty or requirement, or that there was no better practicable means than was in fact used to satisfy the duty or requirement’.

If health and safety law were applied to my mobile phone theft, then I (the victim of the crime) become the accused because I didn’t do everything practicable or, reasonably practicable to stop my phone being stolen. I could have slipped it into my pocket or I could have locked the glovebox, or I could have even washed my car myself and not provided the temptation in the first place.

I could have argued that I had my car washed there many times before and never had anything stolen, so why should I go to the extra trouble, after all, I’ve been doing it that way for years! ‘You’re asking for trouble with that attitude!’ remarked my mate when I told him of my loss.

If cases of petty burglary and theft were tried in the same way as an accident or incident at work, I’m pretty confident that our belongings would not get stolen anymore!
The world of Health and Safety Law can often be difficult to understand and interpret. We are often guilty until proved innocent or in some cases less guilty.

Here at HCS Safety we have a whole team of experienced individuals to keep you on the right side of the law and more importantly, you and your employees safe. If you would like to see what we can do for you and your team or just contact us for a chat, please follow this link to our Membership Services.

 by Zoe Kneller, Director HCS Safety

Well I’m sure many of us have heard about Apple’s current valuation of $1 trillion. I happened to see it on my iPhone as I was scrolling through the news while accompanied by the pod cast that I’d downloaded from iTunes that very morning.  I’d love to say that I’m writing this on my iMac, while checking the time on my I-watch but that would be fibbing…

I wonder if Steve Jobs and chums ever imagined their growth would get them to where they are today – when Ian and I first started HCS Safety 18 years ago it was with fairly modest ambitions. We will not be valued at $1 trillion any time soon, but we do look with some pride (and a bit of exhaustion sometimes) over how far we have come.

Earlier this year we held our 8th Annual Members Forum at the Concorde Club. It was a joy to see so many of the South’s companies attending and a true pleasure to present some well-deserved safety awards for members who had scored most highly in their annual audits. The record turnout did cause a little bit of a car park squeeze, so this coming year, on 14th March 2019, we will be using a rather larger venue.

We’re  proud to announce that the 9th HCS Safety Annual Members Forum will be held in the ballroom of the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl. At this event we will be taking the stage once more to take our members through updates, insights and essential knowledge they need to be up to date on safety matters. There will be awards for the highest achievers in this challenging area of business management and we will of course be taxing our new venue’s catering department too.

The event is for companies who are part of our Membership Service – currently we have 380 Membership Service clients and we’re looking forward to seeing as many of them as possible at this prestigious new venue. To find out more about what the Membership Service can offer your business – Click Here. We’d love to see you there too!

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