Whenever an organisation seeks to use a consultant or an adviser they really must choose carefully. And if ever there was a case to highlight this, it’s one I came across just a few weeks ago…

In July, a hotelier from Mansfield was sent to jail for eight months after pleading guilty to 15 fire safety offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. He was also ordered to pay £15,000 in costs.

Fire protection officers from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service had visited two hotels in Mansfield and issued prohibition notices to the owner preventing further use of the premises because of the failings they had uncovered. Fire risk assessments, a legal obligation which had been carried out, were found to be “wholly inadequate”.

Interestingly, it was not the hotelier who had carried out these assessments, but an adviser who ran a local fire protection business. The fire risk assessments he had produced for the hotels were deemed so inadequate that he too was prosecuted for breaches of fire safety legislation. The fire risk assessor pleaded guilty and was also jailed for 8 months and ordered to pay costs of £5,862.38.

Speaking after the case, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire Protection Group Manager Ian Taylor urged organisations to only seek advice from “competent persons.”

I echo Mr Taylor’s call for anyone providing health and safety consultancy services to have met a level of professionalism.

One way of now searching for health and safety consultants who have met certain standards within their professional bodies, is the new Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR).

A network of professional bodies and stakeholders, including the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and NEBOSH, worked together to develop this register. Prior to its launch earlier this year, a minimum standard for joining the register was agreed. This standard was set at a degree level qualification, at least two years experience and active engagement in a continuing professional development scheme. All consultants who join the register are bound by their professional body’s code of conduct and are committed to providing sensible and proportionate advice.

About Teresa Budworth

Teresa Budworth, Chief Executive of the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health

During a 30 year career in health and safety, she has specialised in safety consultancy; working with a number of Boards of Directors on implementing safety governance within large and diverse organisations. Her work on competence, education and training culminated in her appointment as Chief Executive of NEBOSH; the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, in 2006.

Prior to joining NEBOSH, Teresa combined management of Norwich Union Risk Service’s (now Aviva) Consultancy operation with her post as a non-executive Director and Trustee of NEBOSH and was Senior Examiner for Diploma Part One from its inception in 1997. She is a Visiting Senior Teaching Fellow and member of the Examination Board for post graduate courses in Occupational Health at the University of Warwick’s Medical School. She is a member of RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee and also serves on the judging panel for RoSPA’s annual occupational safety and health awards. She is a member of IOSH Council.