Saving time and money is imperative when you are operating in a competitive, builders merchants market. But it is not at all easy to combine cost-cutting with good health and safety practice. After all, overlook key health and safety requirements and you will find yourself vulnerable to all manner of fines and civil claims.

It can be difficult to find cheaper health and safety solutions without compromising on safety but from over a decade of experience of working with merchants, we’ve put together a few money-saving tips:

Decrease your PAT frequency

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is an essential part of electrical safety for business merchants. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that employers are wasting more than £30 m per annum on unnecessary testing.

“Many companies approach portable appliance testing (PAT) with a blanket approach of annual testing, paying a fee per item. However, it is a myth that portable appliance testing is a strict legal requirement or that it needs to be undertaken annually,” health and safety professional, John Southall, a director at Southalls, explains. Items that are in heavy use or exposed to the elements e.g. portable hand tools may require 6 monthly portable appliance testing but office based equipment like desktop computers and VDU screen would not require testing at all if double insulated or, if not, then testing only 5 yearly would be adequate providing they receive a visual inspection every 2-4 years.

Consult on PPE and bulk buy

When it comes to saving on health and safety, buying items in bulk can help. However all purchases should be thoroughly reviewed beforehand to ensure compliance as PPE Regulations change in April 2018. Purchases need to meet the new standards, particularly hearing protection as classifications will change. It is also important to consult with staff to ensure items are fully fit for purpose – this can be a particular issue for female workers and those workers who are at the edges of sizes. It goes without saying that poorly fitted items will either not be worn, can cause safety problems or even increase the risk of accidents.

A number of merchants have seen reductions in lost time accidents through the provision of gloves to all yard staff, reducing hand injuries.

Conduct independent racking inspections

Independent racking inspections are not legally required, but would be recommended if you have a significant amount of racking. Alternatively, in house monthly visual checks on the condition of racking checking for knocks, deflection, overloading or poorly loaded stocked can be conducted in house. Ensuring stock is offloaded and damaged racking taken out of use pending repair or replacement promptly if required will enable your legal obligations to be met. Safety software such as Safety Cloud can manage monthly inspections conducted by managers, and these can be complimented by six-monthly audits by companies such as Southalls.

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Implement E-learning training systems

E-learning training is a cost-effective and time-saving solution for staff safety training. Whether for day zero induction training or ongoing refresher training, Southalls E-learning on Safety Cloud ensures staff get up to speed on essential safety training such as fire safety awareness and manual handling without the time and expensive of face-to-face training providers. Further merchant specific training including, racking awareness, work at height, powerline safety, workplace transport and banksman training can all be conducted through Safety Cloud.

Accident investigation and Accident Statistics

If an accident does occur, it is imperative that you can learn from it as quickly as possible. By bringing on a qualified consultant, you can minimise your reputational damage, chance of prosecution or enforcement action and implement practical preventative measures to prevent a re-occurrence. The cost of management time eaten up in an accident investigation can be reduced if a suitably experienced and qualified consultant is brought in from the start.

HSE reports reveal that in 2015/16, UK businesses lost £5.3bn due to workplace injuries, and £9.7bn due to ill health. The regular review of accident and injury statistics in your merchant is an invaluable way to build a picture of the effectiveness of your risk management and help you to make more informed decisions on how to spend your health and safety budget.

Be examination savvy

Avoiding unnecessary examinations of lifting equipment is a quick way to save money, so every business-owner should understand which reviews are legally required, and which are not. Pallet trucks are not defined as lifting equipment under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and therefore they do not require a thorough examination.

Sometimes through examinations are duplicated by both an insurer and another service provider. Thereby unnecessary doubling of cost.

Where pedestrian lifting cages are used with a forklift, nominating designated forklifts to be used with the lifting cage that are then thoroughly examined six monthly is more cost-effective than simply thoroughly examining all lift trucks on the site every six monthly. Remaining trucks can be thoroughly examined 12 monthly thus saving the cost of an engineer needlessly examining fork lift trucks.

Ratchet Straps and Brick Bins

Using ratchet-straps with timber when banding loads is cheaper and more time-effective than using banding. And deploying practical measures such as brick bins for holding loose stock can prevent the risk of trip-related accidents and prevent stock loss.

Legionella Sampling

Occasionally we come across merchants paying for independent Legionella water sampling, system cleaning or testing of water temperatures at taps on a rolling contract. If you operate on a domestic scale system then this expenditure is completely unnecessary.

Asbestos overkill

The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations require merchants to assess and manage the risk of asbestos. This is achieved through the undertaking of an asbestos survey and complemented by an asbestos management plan. There is no legal requirement to re-survey on an annual basis, only to review the survey and management plan you have in place.

Equipment and machinery maintenance

Keeping equipment and machinery maintained saves money on callouts or breakages, and reduces the subsequent downtime. Using a system like Southalls Safety Cloud manages this process efficiently through automatic email reminders when maintenance tasks are due.

To discover how Southalls can transform safety standards across your business, book a free consultation with one of our sector specialists. 

*You can find out more about our tailored solutions for Builders Merchants here.