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New online directory to help businesses access sensible, proportionate health and safety advice

What is the register designed to do?

The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) is a first step to addressing some of the problems identified by the Common Sense, Common Safety Report.  Many businesses develop in-house competence to manage their health and safety risks and do not need to use health and safety consultants. Others, however, may need some additional help.  Employers that use OSHCR can have confidence that consultants on the register have:

Who can sign up?

The scheme is voluntary for individuals who provide commercial advice on general health safety management issues.  Consultants who meet one of the following criteria are eligible to apply to join the register:

In addition, all consultants will be required to confirm that they will:

What benefit is the register to businesses?

Businesses are able to use the register to find a consultant to give them advice on general health and safety issues. All those consultants on the register will belong to a participating professional body and will have met set standards.  Businesses can be confident that the consultant they use has had their experience and qualifications assessed by a professional body.

Businesses are able to search for a consultant by county, industry and topic, and HSE and Local Authority Inspectors will be able to refer businesses to OSHCR. The register also has the support of a wide range of health and safety professional bodies. The scheme is being operated on a not-for-profit basis and all searches will be freely available

Do I need a consultant?

As an employer, the law says that you must appoint one or more competent people to help you meet your health and safety duties. This could be yourself, one or more of your workers, someone from outside your business or a combination of these. Where there is an employee with the necessary competence, that person should be appointed, but where that isn’t the case, businesses may use a consultant to get the advice they need.

The consultants who will be on the register will be committed to giving sensible and proportionate advice. This means that they should be:

Distinguishing between legal requirements and best practice (i.e. the ‘must do’ and the ‘could do’

Where else can I get advice?

There are a number of different ways you can get advice. HSE has a dedicated section on its website on how to get advice, from doing assessments for low level risk management through to obtaining specialist advice on specific topics. Other sources include:

I use a trade association to get advice, can I still do that?

Yes, trade associations can be a very useful source of advice.

Can I do risk assessments myself?

Yes.  Many businesses find that they are able to manage health and safety without external advisers. There is no set way of undertaking a risk assessment but a simple and straightforward approach is set out in the HSE leaflet ‘Five steps to risk assessment’ . Example risk assessments and an online assessment tool are also available on the HSE website

Why is this register for ‘general health and safety consultants’?

This register is aimed at helping those businesses who have difficulty in finding a general health and safety consultant. It is most likely to help small and medium sized businesses who have not used a consultant before and are looking for advice on how to meet their health and safety duties.  ‘General’ advice will cover the broad range of things an employer must do to comply with health and safety law. ‘Specialist’ advice will be very detailed information relating to a specific topic or issue.

I need specialist advice on a particular topic, where can I get this?

Where a business needs specialist advice, such as on asbestos or a specific engineering issue, there are specialist bodies who can help them obtain that advice.

Will it be free for me to search the register?

Yes.

Will HSE/LA inspectors refer businesses to the register?

Yes, this is the first time that HSE and LA Inspectors will be able to refer businesses to a central register of consultants covering a range of professional bodies. It remains the responsibility of the dutyholder to ensure both the suitability of the consultant they select and that they obtain competent advice. However, this register aims to help businesses find a consultant working in their area who has relevant expertise and experience.

Will HSE and local authority inspectors be required to join OSHCR?

No, the register is intended for health and safety consultants who provide commercial advice

Will Trade Associations be required to join OSHCR?

No, the register is for individual consultants who give commercial advice

Who has assessed the consultants?

Each consultant on the register will have achieved the relevant status within their professional body on the basis of their qualifications and experience. When they apply to join the register, their professional body will verify that they have met the eligibility criteria.

Why do consultants have to declare that they have Professional Indemnity Insurance or equivalent?

When joining the register, consultants will have to declare that they have Professional Indemnity Insurance or equivalent for the nature of their duties. This will reassure businesses that, if they use a consultant from the register, that individual will carry adequate insurance.

Why aren’t companies on the register?

The register is for individual consultants. If an individual works for a company, its trading name can be included in the consultant details

If I choose a consultant from this register, is it a guarantee that their advice is competent and I won’t be prosecuted if something goes wrong?

No, the responsibility remains with the dutyholder to ensure that the consultant they use is competent and suitable, based upon their particular business needs. The register will indicate a consultant’s area(s) of expertise and experience, and it should therefore help businesses find a consultant who is suited to their needs.

What should I do if I am concerned with the advice an OSHCR consultant provides?
The register is a list of consultants who have met certain standards of the participating professional bodies in the scheme and any concerns should be raised with the individual’s professional body. The existence of the register will not change the approach of the health and safety enforcing authorities towards inspection, investigation and enforcement. Any complaints about an individual consultant will be handled by their relevant professional body, which will have its own procedures to investigate complaints about professional conduct. If necessary, this may lead to the removal of a consultant from OSHCR

I already use a consultant but they are not on the register – can I still use them?

Yes, the register is a voluntary scheme and it is for each business to decide where to get advice.

Why aren’t people who are not members of a professional body eligible to apply?

The eligibility criteria have been set by the range of professional bodies and stakeholders involved in developing the scheme, some of whom have membership schemes and some of whom do not. It has been agreed that one way of identifying those consultants who meet certain standards of expertise is to verify them through a professional body.  Other consultants may regard themselves as well qualified; OSHCR is a voluntary scheme and they are not prevented from continuing their business. Consultants not yet affiliated to one of the participating professional bodies may wish to join one and, once the required status is achieved, they can apply to register on OSHCR.

Why should consultants want to be registered?

The benefit for health and safety consultants is that this establishes a new benchmark for standards in the sector. The register will be a means by which consultants can demonstrate their professional standing and experience in occupational health and safety. It is freely accessible and searchable by the public, including potential clients. Consultants on the register will be entitled to inform others that they are OSHCR registered. 

How will the success of the scheme be evaluated?

More than 1600 consultants were approved onto the register in the first few weeks since it opened to applicants. It is expected that this number will rise as more consultants meet the standards and are eligible to join the scheme. The scheme is intended to become a new benchmark for standards in the profession and also contribute to raising health and safety consultancy standards.

Why do consultants have to declare that they will undertake continuing professional development (CPD)?

By undertaking CPD, a consultant is demonstrating a commitment to keeping up to date with the latest training, guidance and legal requirements relating to health and safety. This is good practice among many professional organisations

What are the costs for consultants?

The application fee will be £60.00, but applications received by 30 April 2011 will be subject to a discounted fee of £30.00.  The fee, which is non-refundable, covers the cost of processing the application and is payable annually on renewal of registration. Individuals who apply to join the register during the discounted period from 31 January to 30 April 2011 will be given a registration renewal date of 30 April 2011.

How long can consultants stay on the register?

Once approved onto the register the consultant can stay on the register provided they still meet the criteria and want to stay on it. There will be an annual renewal process to make sure all those on the register still meet the eligibility criteria. The website is also clear that the relevant professional body will handle any complaints and may take necessary action that could result in a consultant being removed from the register.

Who will check the qualifications of the consultants?

The individual’s professional body will confirm that the eligibility criteria have been met, which include an assessment of their qualifications.

Who is running the scheme?

HSE supported a number of participating professional bodies and other stakeholders as they established OSHCR Ltd as a not-for-profit company.. The members of OSHCR Ltd are:

HSE is currently administering the register but the intention is that once the register is up-and-running, the professional bodies themselves will take this over.

2011-12-12