Products that look alike don’t always perform alike – and where Health and Safety is concerned performance can be a matter of life and death, declares James Smith, director of fixed polymer safety barriers inventor and manufacturer, A-SAFE.
In the world of heavy industry, real life and death situations are everyday occurrences. Which means corner cutting and cheap imposters should never, ever cross over into Health and Safety.
Some businesses still see Health & Safety best practice as a bureaucratic spanner in their operational works, with others applying only the flimsiest of Health and Safety procedures, hoping they’ll adhere to some vague principal that placates the pesky inspector.
And still 150 people die every year at work in the UK alone.
Of course, not every one of those fatalities was down to Health and Safety negligence, but those that were (and it’s a sizable portion) will be counting the cost for a very long time, not just in financial terms – insurance, fines, productivity loss, legal fees, compensation, admin, loss of reputation – but in the psychological human costs to the victim’s families, staff and the business owners themselves.
This isn’t scaremongering. Reduce Health & Safety best practice down to its core in whatever industry and all it asks of responsible business owners is to apply a level of ‘reasonable practicality’ to their Health & Safety procedures.
Sadly, this advice offers no guidance on the quality of products to use – and there are a lot of poor imposters out there.
Take something that goes to the very heart of Health and Safety in the modern workplace – segregating personnel from workplace vehicles. Any responsible facility manager will mark this as a priority – but then what? Procure a few safety barriers, slot them in areas where vehicles and pedestrians crossover and hope for the best?
But what should the barriers be made from? What types of barrier should be used? What about properly managing the flow of traffic and the movement of pedestrians?
It wasn’t too long ago that barriers were almost entirely made of steel. While strong, steel is something of a sitting target for forklift trucks (FLTs) and will crumple on impact.
Worse, because steel is inflexible, 100% of impact forces are transferred to the fixtures, which usually means costly floor damage alongside the need for a replacement barrier.
When our Yorkshire-based company invented the world’s first fixed polymer safety barrier in 2004 they created a Health & Safety first – a barrier that was capable of absorbing the impacts of the vehicles operating within a workplace. They did it by taking a scientific approach – analysing the potential forces of FLTs, assessing various angles and heights of impact – and creating a product that we knew could withstand these forces.
We then implemented a traffic management programme that would only ever see barriers installed as part of a strategic programme which properly managed the flow of vehicles and pedestrians around a facility.
Over a decade later, A-SAFE now has subsidiaries in Germany, France, Italy, Benelux, Scandinavia and the US, was the recipient of the Queens Award for International Trade in 2014 and counts companies the likes of Coca-Cola; Jaguar Land Rover; DHL; Unilever; Heathrow Airport and a host of others as clients.
The best facility managers know that when it comes down to long-term investments, only the best products will do – products that are tested and independently-verified.
It’s true that, from a distance, imitators can look like the real thing. But when it comes down to the performance, there really is no substitute for the original and the best.