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Prepping for H&S advice

Most small businesses are pretty well placed to take care of their own H&S needs. However, some businesses may feel more comfortable getting specialist help — particularly if they work in risky industries or have more complicated or technical issues to deal with. Here’s a guide to getting the kind of H&S help you need.

Questions to ask yourself before using an H&S advisor

You’re likely to save time, money and frustration by asking the following questions:

Do I even need expert help?

An essential first step in making work healthy and safe is finding out what your workers, colleagues and industry body know about H&S issues. By doing this first, you might discover that you don’t even need to pay for external help.

H&S issues are often invisible. Keep an eye out for less obvious risks, such as loud noises, solvents, stress, air quality and fatigue.

H&S issues are often invisible. Keep an eye out for less obvious risks, such as loud noises, solvents, stress, air quality and fatigue.

What kind of help do I actually need?

If you’re concerned about hygiene, there’s no point in getting a maintenance engineer to give you H&S advice.

There’s a whole range of experts with specialist knowledge and skills you might call on.

Spend five minutes reading what kinds of advisors are out there to figure out who might be most suitable for your needs. You can do this on the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) website(external link), the new national umbrella organisation of H&S professionals.

Questions to ask a potential H&S advisor

If expert help is what you need, asking these questions will help you choose the right person for the job:

Can I get a quote first?

If you ring a plumber for help, you ask for a quote first. The same goes for H&S consultants, so shop around. Just remember, cheaper doesn’t mean better. Whoever you go with should still have the right experience and qualifications.

Can I see examples of your H&S work for similar clients?

Ring a few advisors who seem a good fit for your needs, and ask if they can give examples of similar H&S work they’ve done recently. 

Can I check your credentials?

Unfortunately, not all H&S advisors give good advice, or are even accredited. Before handing over any money, check that they’re competent to advise you on your particular H&S needs. 

Can I contact previous customers?

Make sure your advisor can do all they say they can. Check if they have a history of providing practical H&S advice that supports business operations. Getting recommendations from other customers is a good way to go about this.

Things to watch out for when using an H&S advisor

Here are a few signs that the H&S advisor you’re using is following good or bad practices.

Good PracticeBad Practice
They give practical assistance. They give you a manual or some other written document that’ll probably just sit on your shelf.
They ask you and your workers lots of questions and involve you in the process.  They don’t ask you or your workers about your business or everyday operations. 
They’re very clear what the process is, as well as timelines involved. They’re not specific about what they’re going to do.
When asked,they show their qualifications.  They’re reluctant to let you speak to other clients and aren’t forthcoming about their professional credentials. 
They want you to build your ability to manage your own health and safety risks. They keep trying to sell you more services.
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