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May 25, 2009

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Compliance and cost-control still a struggle for small firms

Declining markets, credit restrictions and sluggish payment by bigger companies are all combining to make small firms’ efforts to comply with health and safety more difficult.

This is according to the Forum for Private Business (FPB), which surveyed owners of small businesses ahead of the publication of the HSE’s new strategy for workplace health and safety. More than half of the respondents (56 per cent) said they do try to comply with the relevant laws to safeguard their staff, while 25 per cent admitted to fear of prosecution by the HSE as a motivator.

Said FPB chief executive, Phil Orford (pictured): “Complying with health and safety legislation is a costly, time-consuming exercise. Our research has shown that, on average, small-business owners spend 14 hours a month filling in forms specifically relating to health and safety.” Minimising this time and cost, he maintained, would make it easier for small firms to remain competitive in the current economic climate without having to cut corners on health and safety.

Mr Orford pointed out that there are myriad resources available to small businesses to enable them to access the health and safety support they need. The research showed that a fifth of those surveyed use the Internet, in conjunction with the FPB’s own Health and Safety Guide. The organisation has also recently launched an online training/distance-learning resource with Cardinus ( to further assist members in complying with health and safety requirements.

Reminding them of the Health and Safety Offences Act, which came into force earlier this year, FPB health and safety advisor, Martin Mulholland, urged small firms to take the issue seriously. He said: “For those companies that are already committing sufficient resources to ensuring their operations are undertaken in ways that are safe, and without risk to the health and safety of their employees and others who may be affected, there should be no undue concern over the impact that the new Act will have on their businesses.”

The HSE’s strategy will be published on 3 June.

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