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Make UK provide interim health and safety staff for a variety of reasons, including covering for long-term absence, assisting during peak workloads, and ensuring the delivery of a critical project.

Barbara Hutton, Health, Safety and Sustainability Consultant at Make UK recently supported a client with the implementation of a health and safety management system. We sat down with Barbara to get the insider’s view on interim support, including more information about her recent project, what she enjoys about this aspect of her role, and how businesses can benefit from using external health and safety support staff.

Can you tell us more about the recent project you were involved in?

I was deployed within an engineering business for two or three days a week over a period of three months. The organisation had failed a third-party audit, so my role was to put in place the systems and processes and gather the documentation required to ensure success at the next audit. I worked alongside the Health and Safety Manager, the Quality Manager, and the senior leadership team (SLT), as well as those on the 'shopfloor.' Working so closely with the Health and Safety Manager, I soon realised that they were responsible for health and safety without support from across the business, so I also worked to address the issues preventing buy-in.

What do you enjoy about consulting for an organisation on an interim basis?

Typically, interim support involves deployment within an organisation on a regular basis over several weeks or even months. This enables me to thoroughly understand the organisation, including where they are and where they want to be. Then, I help them get there.

Thinking about the project I worked on recently, it was fantastic to be able to support with strategic direction and see the improvements in health and safety across the organisation.

When I've provided cover in the case of long-term absence, it is nice to know that the organisation has competent support, so they remain compliant and the risk to workers is minimised.

What do you think are the key skills you need to possess to be a successful interim health and safety manager?

Clearly, interim staff need to be competent. This means they need appropriate qualifications as well as substantial experience in a health and safety role.

You also need an abundance of soft skills (probably a better name would be 'power skills'), particularly good communication, assertiveness, and conflict resolution.

I also think it's important to understand the organisation's culture and business objectives so you can align with these to deliver the highest level of support possible.

How can businesses benefit from the use of interim health and safety staff?

Firstly, businesses can ensure compliance by using interim staff if their health and safety manager is absent for a longer-period of time. Businesses must, by law, ensure that a 'competent' person oversees health and safety. For those operating in a high-risk environment this is vital.

Interim staff will use their wealth of experience and knowledge to apply best practice and reuse methods that have worked previously. For example, on a previous assignment, I set up a private meeting with the team of supervisors. Without the presence of their line-manager, I uncovered a critical roadblock within five minutes of the meeting starting. I have no doubt that this information was revealed so readily because I was external to the organisation and therefore seen as impartial.

I set up the meeting because, I understand from previous experience that, workers and middle management are crucial for developing and maintaining a strong health and safety culture so listening and responding to their views and concerns is essential.

Additionally, interim staff provide a balanced view and won't be afraid to make suggestions, even if these are likely to be met with resistance and/or are aimed at senior members of staff. I am very clear on the legal obligations of businesses regarding health and safety so have complete confidence when I make recommendations, whether this be advice regarding strategic direction or proposing senior staff need to undertake training.

Why should organisations consider Make UK when looking for interim health and safety staff?

Make UK offer a bespoke solution for all customers seeking interim support. We tailor our services to suit the client's aims and objectives, we can cover all job roles, and there's no long-term commitment or contract giving you complete flexibility.

Additionally, we have a specialist knowledge and understanding of the UK manufacturing sector so can apply our extensive experience for customers operating in this industry.

For more information on choosing an interim staff supplier, read our previous blog: 4 Things to think about when considering Interim Health and Safety Staff | Make UK.