health and safety policy for small builders

We have recently had an enquiry from a small builder in the west midlands who needed some help with winning some bigger contracts and not just private building work for small house extensions and refurbishment’s.

Health and safety policy for small builders

He was confident that his company could supply very high quality building and maintenance services as he has acquired various glowing reviews from happy clients over the many years he has been in business.

cowboy builders?

The main problem was this builder couldn’t get on the preferred suppliers list of some of the big main contractors even though he has over 40 years combined experience within his company. Now as he stated “if you are not on the preferred suppliers list then you can not submit a quote for any project they may be involved in.”

“Please note we understand that there are many rouge builders out there who prey on home owners and rip people off. Theses cowboy builders will not be able to get on main contractors lists for good reason!”

This creates a standard across the board and you may notice quite often is the case that if you’re a small builder you may get stuck completing small contracts and never be able to move up the ranks to the big jobs no matter how good you may be.

So what is the problem?

We soon discovered that this is normally due to meeting specific criteria with company policies (we are not just talking about health and safety policies here).

As many of you may know if you want to work for one of the big boys in the construction industry you firstly contact the company expressing interest and then wait for the dreaded pre contract questionnaire.


For those not in the know this is a quiet hefty document (varies in size depending on main contractor!) that has to be filled out by your company answering a multitude of questions.

Some examples are:

Does your company have a health and safety policy (please attach a copy).

Does your company have an environmental policy (please attach copy)

Does you company have an equal opportunities policy (please attach copy)

Does you company have an anti harassment policy (please attach copy)

Please state when above policies were updated and how often they are reviewed.

Who has total responsibility for health and safety within  your company (please state qualification)

Please include 5 past risk assessments and method statements from relevant work completed within the last six months.

Does your company conduct health and safety meeting and how often are they held?

Please include copies of minutes from the last three health and safety meetings.

And so on…..

The above is just a snippet of a pre contract questionnaire and as you can imagine some of these go on for twenty plus pages.

Please remember if you are lucky enough to get past this stage with flying colours you are only on the approved sub contract list to submit your prices. You are not guaranteed any work.

A small builder could pay thousands of pounds just to get on this list with no guarantee of any work.

The problem is the same questionnaire is sent indiscriminately to builders with five employees as to multinationals who can afford several thousand in consultancy fees.

So there is quite a big jump to go from small contractor up to playing with the big boys  thus you usually find the smaller builder tends to continue completing smaller jobs due to lack of funds to meet specified criteria.

Is there a happy ending?

Yes on this occasion our aforementioned builder got in touch with us through and expressed that he would not be beat! He wanted to better his company and progress higher up the ranks. So he sent us the complete details of what he needed to achieve and stated that his budget was just £600.00 asking if this was possible?

It was! We set him up with all the documentation, processes, strategies and advice he needed to not only secure a safer and more productive way to work but to admit him into the higher reaches he desired.

Needles to say we had a confirmation E-mail from him last week stating not only did he get on the requested proffered sub contractor list but he won the job that will earn him 4 times as much as any previous single contract.

If you find yourself in a similar position why not see if we can help






Exploding fire extinguishers


Have you noticed that every time we take steps to reduce the risk or eliminate a possible outcome of a hazard or dangerous occurrence the new method could creat new problems?

Remember when we used to use fire extinguishers to hold open the fire door? (tut tut go and move it now).

Then there was the introduction of a rubber sleave around the bottom of the fire extinguisher to stop the damp corroding and weakening the bottom.

finally now we have to hang the extinguishers on the wall to prevent a trip hazard, make it easy to access, stop people from using it to hold the door open and prevents the bottom from getting damaged by a wet floor and weakening.

Well a new study has found that certain types of fire extinguishers held on the wall by a single bracket could now be dangerous.


“How could this be?” I hear you ask. Well apparently the single bracket puts a lot of stress on a single point of the compressed cylinder and over time could be weakened enough to cause an explosion.

fisr safety

So go and check to see if yours is OK?

Until next time

Roadworks safe for workers at home?

Here’s one for you

Today I was on my way to a client to complete a safety audit and I was driving down a well-known motorway when lo and behold guess what I came across….   You guessed it some road works.

Now I know you probably don’t belive me but honest I managed to find some of the elusive road works in the UK that you sometimes hear about in the news very rarely 🙂

I am of course being totally sarcastic because im sure you will know that if you drive more than about 10 miles in the UK you will inevitably hit some road works.

OK so while I was driving down the motorway there was the usual endless stream of road cones at the side of the road (not closing any lanes just sitting on the verge!) and the all important 40 mph speed restriction (complete with distance-avarage speed cameras!).

I would imagine on this 4 lane stretch of motorway the speed restrictions were to protect the workforce?

After about 10 miles of driving I saw not one worker or any sign of work being completed?

Now maybe the work was scheduled to be done soon or maybe completed already, who knows.

The point is I was driving down a 4 lane motorway at 40 mph with not much traffic about and no workers to be seen.

So apart from the restrictions upsetting a lot of people who would probably be late for work or worse receive a fixed penalty and fine in the post if they crept over 40 mph, I found another problem!

Due to driving so slowly for so long with nothing to look at I found my concentration wondering and also found myself yawning and getting very tired.

Now as we all know driving while tired is a big no-no and you should pull over and have a break open a widow and drink some coffee.

Apart from not being allowed to stop on a motorway and not having any coffee I did the next best thing and opened the window.

The next service stop was about 10 more miles so due to having to drive at 40 mph this would take quarter of an hour to reach, where as if I was allowed to drive at 70 mph I would arrive there in under 10 minutes.

So in effect the speed restriction was making me drive while tired for longer.

If you’re wondering this was at 10am on a Thursday morning and I had a good night sleep the night before and felt ok before I hit this stretch of road.

Just as I was contemplating sticking my head out the window to wake me up (not really do not try this) my car phone rang (yes hands free!) and it was my client apologising that he had been called out on an urgent job so I would not be able to complete the audit.

To cut a long story short I came off at the next exit and returned the opposite way on the motorway where there were no restrictions.

Have you guessed the end yet?

Well 10 points if you guessed that driving back home at 70 mph woke me up again and I was back to being my alert self.

So the question is:

Is it safer to drive at the national speed limit of 70 mph needing to have your wits about you or is it safer to be bored to death, be late and probably fall a sleep and swerve off the road.

I feel bad for the people in countries where the speed limit is 55 mph on great stretches of open road.

Once again I will leave it for you to decide

Until next time





kitchen safety for children should mothers worry?

Had an interesting but worrying call from an angry mother today.

OK let me set the scene.

You’re a busy mother with a small baby who can crawl and get himself into all kinds of mischief.

You know the story your ironing or maybe changing the bed-clothes and you turn your back for half a minute and he has gone? Maybe under a bed or in the wardrobe?

“Even if you have a well-behaved baby we all know they love to explore!”

Not this time, it just so happened the little tyke had made his way to the kitchen and managed to open the kitchen cupboard below the wash basin.

Now if your like 90% of the population I bet you keep a plethora of dangerous cleaning and other products such as bleach and god knows what under there?

Luckily she managed to grab him just in time.

So a near miss? A common problem of having dangerous chemicals within easy reach for a toddler. Simple answer find a way to lock the cupboard or move said chemicals to a high storage area out of harms way right?

Wrong! Problem not yet solved!

Now im sure these items would be the last choice of toys for your toddler to play with but they have a strange similarity that attracts children and any human for that matter towards them.

Wondering what im talking about?
Go and look at your selection of cleaning products and I will bet you that most of them are in bright and even luminous coloured bottles that put your baby’s toys to shame on a scale of  attractiveness?

Well that is exactly what this angry mother discovered. Her baby continued to try to get to these products and she stated that her boy threw a tantrum when she removed the bright coloured products from sight!

So if your toddler goes for the cleaning products once be aware that it could happen again!

Maybe we should raise awareness to the dangerous chemicals manufacturers that not only are these bright, funky colours attracting gullible customers but they are attracting the most important assets in a mother’s life.

I am sure there is some type of disclaimer to cover these companies on the bottle in small text like:

Keep out of reach from children.

Is that enough?

Attractive to a baby?
Bleach Bottle Attractive But dangerous

I wonder if it would be a good idea to have a Chain Saw that looked like a Baby Bunny Rabbit?

Risk assessment to cut opening in wall

If things come in threes there will be one more post like this and then we can get back to business as usual so just hear me out on this one.

It may appear that after delving into the question of health and safety going mad in the UK we are on some sort of crusade to prove health and safety has gone a bit over the top but I promise this is just how things are panning out here at HQ.

Here is a short story we were told by a friend of ours who has clients who he helps out with their paperwork.


BTW, If you do need a risk assessment for a wall opening You can buy one here for just £6.99:

You will receive several powerful variations of the wall opening risk assessment by email.

All unlocked completed word documents that are good to go.

All you need to do is fill out your company name and site address and tweak slightly for you specific wall opening.


OK Back to the story!

Wall opening risk assessment

Mr. X story goes as follows:

“Well this was a first for me! Today I was called to a building site that a very good customer of ours was working on. This was quiet a big overall job held by one of the bigger UK building contractors.”

So my customer (sub contractor) has been asked to cut and break out some openings in an existing brick and block work walls in an existing sports centre to accommodate the new refurbishment and extensions, so far so good!

So we have been called in to help write a method statement and risk assessment to

A) Support, Cut and break out existing brick/block work above proposed opening to accommodate lintel that will take load.

B) Lift Lintel, Fit and secure then remove Acrows & Strong buoys .

C) Continue to cut and break out proposed opening and remove debris.

After taking notes on how this will be achieved and what type of tools and equipment will be used we commenced to write an appropriate method statement and risk assessment.
Now at this point I need to let you in on some details. This customer of ours is 59 years of age and he has been completing this type of work safely for 40 years and to date he has no ailments or injuries.

The method he explained to me is as follows.

He will cut the marked lines with a 9”110v grinder with diamond blade, dust guard and vac. He would then use a mechanical breaker to break out the remaining brick and brick/block work.

After breaking has been completed he is to remove all debris to skip.
Sounds simple enough right?”

Again because it is a delicate subject and hand arm vibration syndrome is a serious condition that has caused many people a lot of misery and pain, I am going to have to leave the finer details out of this post but here is the gist of it.

“ This large company has in the past lost every single compensation claim made against it for hand arm vibration syndrome (also known as white finger to some) even though in some cases the evidence was heaped on the main contractor’s side.

One case even had photographic evidence of the claimant rolling a cigarette even though he claimed he could not hold a pen?

This has obviously made the said main contractor very nervous about using vibrating equipment.

So the main contractor’s safety man would not allow the grinder and breaker to be used on the job until all equipment had been tested and rated.

The equipment had vibration ratings on but this was said to be possibly inaccurate as the equipment was over a year old and taking wear and tear into account.

The conversation went a little like this

Me “So what do we need to do?”
MC Safety Man “Have it tested or purchase/ hire new equipment.”
Me “But the job has not been priced for that.”
MC Safety Man “Sorry company policy your method statement and risk assessment must be cleared.”
Me “and you wont clear them until I have paid to have the exact vibration ratings”
MC Safety Man “correct”
Me “but even then it could result in only being able to break for a few hours a day?”
MC Safety Man “Yes”
Me “So I would have to pay out more to hire the equipment (assuming they have brand new equipment)?”
MC Safety Man “That’s correct”

This back and forth went on for some time with no resolution.”

OK so you’re thinking “what happened in the end did he get the job done?”

Well yes the guy had to do the job in the end with a HAMMER and BOLSTER!


Safer to use a Hammer?
Safer to use a Hammer

Are we evolving or going back in time? You make your own decisions.

Until next time

Bye for now

Welcome to the Safety Expert Blog

This is the first installation of what we hope will be many helpful hints and tips of how to get your small to medium sized business up and running with your health and safety systems.

We have decided to make an easy to use and easy to understand site regarding everything health and safety.

This site will be most useful throughout the United Kingdom but will also be a wealth of information and help throughout Europe, North America and the world.

We will be adding new content at regular intervals and alerting you all to new legislation and regulations they may affect your business.

As we are seeing a slight rise in new business start ups in the UK since the recession, we feel it to be a good time to provide help and guidance to make your new venture run as smooth as possible.

We are all hoping that there is now light at the end of this long and drawn out downturn and are confident that new start-up businesses will steadily continue to increase as time passes.

Please keep checking back for regular updates as they will be plentiful, regular and full of useful information that you will be able to implement into your new business.

Our main goal “as often is most companies” is to keep you and your workers healthy and safe, but also help you understand your legal requirements without the all so often view of “Has health and safety gone mad?”

We will point out what is over the top and not required as well as giving you suggestions and guidelines.

Also we would like to point out this will not be a literary masterpiece as thoughts, feelings and news will be added as and when conceived. This could be in the middle of a journey, from within a meeting or a revelation at 2am.
The point is we will keep you updated with easy to follow information as we can.

Until next time

The Safety Expert.

Has Health and Safety gone mad in the UK?

From stories about firemen not being allowed to use there poles, to kids being banned from playing conkers, has the world really gone mad over health and safety or is it just the UK?

Health and safety gone mad?

You may think that me being a safety expert I would be a very boring person with no personality, maybe labelled as one of the “Fun Police”.

You know the serious looking one on site with the big cross on his hard hat going round telling everyone that they are not doing something properly, basically holding people up from doing there real work and costing everyone money in lack of production.
Well you would be right, so don’t let me catch you breaking the rules! Only joking
To be honest there are that many personalities in all line’s of business that you can hardly stereotype one.
That being said maybe certain roles attract certain people.

Are all traffic wardens evil?
Are all care workers angels?
Are all actors’ empty soulless shadows of human beings?
Are all safety consultants’ fun police?
No not at all.
Anyway moving on before I get myself in to trouble the truth is I own a motorbike, enjoy various types of what some consider “dangerous  activities” and have the famous “Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932” picture of workmen eating there lunch hundreds of feet in the air with no harnesses displayed in my bedroom.
So now I have hopefully debunked a stereotypical image of myself let me tell you what I think is true.
A lot of laws are put in place to be of benefit and to maintaining the health, Safety and wellbeing of the general workforce, public and anyone who may be affected throughout the UK.
Many of these regulations, laws and guidelines have been proven to reduce and reduce loss, damage and injury.
So what about all the crazy stories mentioned at the top?
Does “no win no fee” ring any bells?
I will elaborate on this subject in the next post.
Until then Stay Safe!