Posted: Mon 12th Jun 2023
In this Q&A, we're joined by Michael Brown, health and safety content manager at Citation. Industry veteran Michael has worked across a number of sectors in the UK and is qualified to NVQ Level 5 in occupational health and safety.
Here, Michael explores the key areas of health and safety you must focus on to win big corporate contracts. He also provides insight into the current laws, highlighting what they mean for your business and how to follow them effectively.
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What are most corporate businesses concerned with?
They have similar concerns to small businesses, so what the government legislation framework targets – regulators like the Fire Rescue Service, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Environment Agency and so on. This also includes government strategies, such as net-zero companies, shareholder objectives and fiscal stability.
In a nutshell, making sure bills are paid, reputation damage, and sustainability, which we're starting to see a lot more. This involves making sure that a business can do the right thing for the planet, people, and with their processes.
What should small businesses know about sustainability?
Sustainability is basically fulfilling the needs of your business without compromising nature and the planet for future generations and making sure fair wages are paid. It can be broken down into people, planet and process.
Examples of these are making sure that wages are sustainable, that workers have decent mental health support and that you have an inclusive and diverse workforce.
What is the HSE's new Protecting People and Places strategy?
Reduce work-related ill health with a specific focus on mental health and stress.
Increase and maintain trust to make sure people feel safe where they live and work.
Enable industry to innovate safely to prevent major incidents, supporting the move towards net zero.
Maintain Great Britain's record as one of the safest countries to work in.
Make sure the HSE is a great place to work so that it can attract and retain exceptional people.
What can small businesses take from it?
To cut a long story short, I believe the statistic is out of every 100 absences from work, 99 are due to ill health, including stress. Only one is because of injury.
The HSE is paying more attention to things like occupational lung disease, stress in the workplace, and making sure businesses have a stress risk assessment, which is a requirement now. The HSE strategy will likely form part of what big businesses are looking at in their tenders.
Questions your business should answer to win a tender:
Do you have a stress risk assessment in place?
Do you have noise surveys and assessments in place?
Are your CoSHH (concentrates on the hazards and risks from hazardous substances in your workplace) assessments completed and up to date?
Do you have worker health surveillance in place for substances that require it?
Do you have hand-arm vibration syndrome assessments and monitoring in place?
Do you have whole body vibration syndrome assessments and monitoring in place?
These are proportionate steps that you might want to take for your business. When big corporates are looking at pre-qualification questionnaires and supply vetting, they're asking for this information at the tender stage now.
It's important to not only have the assessments in place but also have implemented control measures so that your workers aren't unduly affected or harmed. If you can’t demonstrate these as a minimum, you probably won't be very successful in your bids.
If you have five or more employees, by law you must record your health and safety policy. You need to make sure that you're communicating and have evidence of it. The golden rule here is if you haven't written it down, it hasn't happened as you'll need to provide example risk assessments as evidence.
This also extends to training. You'll need to provide proof of competency and competent advice and training given to workers.
Should you reveal pending notices from regulators in bids?
You'll be asked: “Have you ever been prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974? Have you got any outstanding or pending enforcement?”
The rule here, always, is honesty. You don't necessarily want to admit that you’ve been prosecuted many times but make sure that you're upfront.
The reason is that this information can be verified on any government database for free and you don't want to be caught in a lie. Make sure that you're truthful and that you can demonstrate what you do.
Any advice on winning large contracts?
When bidding for a contract, it's important that the work is relevant to your business. Here are some key questions to think about:
Are you eligible to bid? Are you the right company for that service?
Can you demonstrate that you have the right experience? (You'll be asked for references.)
Do you have enough resources and capacity to meet the tender requirements?
If you're successful, are you going to need to scale?
What are the three phases of the tender process?
Expression of interest
Pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ)
Invitation to tender (ITT)
Of these, the PQQ is the meaty health and safety bit. If I were a corporate client, I would look to see if the business has any ISO accreditation.
The PQQ usually follows a points-based system, meaning, for instance, if you have the ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety certification, you get more points.
The reason is that businesses with ISO standards are independently vetted at least once a year with a report and an action plan. There is also a structure for dealing with any shortcomings.
If you're a business with a lot of these certifications – like the ISO 9001 for Quality Standards and ISO 14001 for Environmental Management – you would be at the top of the list as there's evidence of being vetted by an external company.
This not only shows transparency but also provides a competitive edge when it comes to marketing. Once you have the qualification, displaying the badges on your website will demonstrate that your business looks after the planet and people. Having these certifications will also help you identify where you can make money back from waste or save energy.
And finally, they help you demonstrate that you have systems and standards in place to deal with complaints through quality management. However, it's not to say that businesses without them can't still tender for this work, but having them gives you an edge.
Watch this 30-minute webinar for more information on what details you need to include in the pre-qualification questionnaire:
What does a PQQ include?
It's very detailed and will cover:
your quality management system
your ability to outline and communicate it to your staff
Here's where certification comes in handy because if you have, for example, an ISO 9001 standard, you can bypass all of it, cutting your admin down to half. All you need to do is attach the certificate and a copy of the latest report.
However, small businesses must also consider the following:
Quality and complaints
Health, safety and environment
If you're a small business and don’t have health and safety training or a quality manager, it doesn't take you out of the running. You need to demonstrate that you have a source of competent health and safety advice. It can be an external consultant or you train yourself.
Policy and communication of policy
Staff awareness of the quality manual
How sustainable is your supply chain? How ethically are you buying your products?
Are there any redundancies built in to allow you to continue service?
Health and safety:
Policy and communication of policy
Training of workers
Incident management processes
Staff awareness of health and safety manual
Risk assessments, method statements, procedure examples
Accident history and incident rates
Enforcement, prosecutions and corrective actions/outcomes /brief summary of lessons learnt
It's good to record accidents but, more importantly, make sure you can demonstrate what you've learnt and that you've reviewed and adjusted your risk assessment plan to do it differently.
If you've had enforcement, add a brief statement about the corrective actions taken so that the HSE was satisfied and the incident report was closed.
Waste streams and supply chain (is your waste product responsibly disposed of?)
Permits and licenses (waste carriers etc.)
Carbon reduction plan
Final thoughts on bidding
When completing your bid, just make sure it's:
tailored to what they want
easy to understand, and
Do the research and complete the bid with care. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions to make sure that you're getting the bid right.
And finally, make it engaging and ensure that whatever you're going to do is onboard and aligned with what you perceive they want.