Updated: Jan 9
As an employer, you must use someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. It’s not essential for them to have formal qualifications and they’re not required by law to have formal training, although it can help. But whoever you choose should have the skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety. The competent person could be:
one or more of your workers
someone from outside your business
or a combination of the above
When you may need help?
If your business is large, complex or high risk and your organisation doesn’t have the competence to manage health and safety in-house, you can get help and advice from someone outside. But remember, as the employer, managing health and safety will still be your legal duty.
What you should expect from a consultant or adviser
As an employer you must make sure the consultant or adviser you use is competent and suitable. It’s not uncommon for employers to spend a lot for advice that doesn’t help them comply with health and safety law, so it pays to source good quality advice.
Make sure they have evidence of relevant training and knowledge, such as formal qualifications or practical experience of providing advice in your industry or area of work are adequately insured.
What they should do for you?
They should help you to better manage health and safety for yourself. Unless you’re clear about what you need, you probably won’t get the right help.
Ask yourself if you need help with:
health and safety management across the business?
putting things in place to control risks?
checking and maintaining controls?
Explain clearly what you need and ask them to confirm what they'll do and when they’ll do it.
If you just need a one-off visit to enable you to manage health and safety in-house, be clear at the outset to avoid tying yourself to a long contract.
Their advice should:
be specific to the risks in your workplace – generic advice often fails to identify and control key risks, and it can be difficult to identify risks unless they visit your workplace
be based on their knowledge and experience of your industry and processes
concentrate on practical action to control significant risks, not over-respond to trivial risks
recommend control measures that are reasonably practicable
not generate paperwork for the sake of it
Make sure they'll provide a proper handover to help explain the key risks and controls recommended
If you do not think they’ve provided you with a practical, sensible solution to your problem, ask for an explanation and see if there’s a simpler alternative.
Finding a consultant or adviser
The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) is a register of consultants who can offer advice to UK businesses to help them manage health and safety risks. It’s a register of consultants who:
are certified professionals who have a status recognised by their professional body
have valid insurance
are up-to-date on the latest standards and developments
If you can’t find the help you need using OSHCR, there are organisations that can assist you. They include:
health and safety training providers
health and safety equipment suppliers
occupational hygiene services ( provides information, expertise and guidance in the recognition, control and management of workplace health risks)
Some of the organisations that can help you are listed on the HSE website here.