SWOT AnalysisContext of the organisation is one of the new requirements of ISO9001:2015. It also applies to ISO14001:2015 (Environment), ISO27001:2013 (Security) and the soon to be published ISO45001 (Health and Safety).  An organisation must consider both the internal and external influences that can impact its strategic objectives, the planning of the Quality Management System (QMS) and its scope.  To find out more, read our factsheet, Understanding Context

Humans were not designed to sit for hours on end. In evolutionary terms we have made a very rapid transition from working the land to sitting all day at a computer screen. Just a few decades ago, if you were a draughtsman, engineer or even an accountant, you would have worked at a high sloping drawing board or ledger and with the option of sitting on a high stool. But computers changed all that, and  with it certain health conditions have become prevalent.

Risks of sitting

As long ago as 2007, the Daily Mail published an article about the health effects of sitting. A new phrase was coined – ‘Sitting is the new smoking’. Nearly 10 years on, we now known that sitting increases your chances of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and blood clots, or thrombosis.

In the US studies have shown some dramatic effects of sitting for long periods of time. People who sit a lot are 54% more likely to have a heart attack. Men who sit for more than six hours a day have a 20% higher mortality rate; women have a 40% higher mortality rate. If you sit for more than 23 hours a week, you are 64% more likely to have a heart attack.

Recent studies in the UK along with other studies, have indicated that even regular, cardiovascular exercise are insufficient to counteract the damage done through our sedentary lifestyle.

Health benefits of a sit-stand desk

Sitting for long periods of time causes metabolic issues – you don’t produce the chemicals necessary for processing sugars and fats and as a result your circulation suffers. Your skeleton and muscles form a reactive frame for your body which needs to move and respond to outside forces. Additionally, muscles need to regularly flex to support healthy functions and chemical production.

Standing allows your body to adjust and move easily, flexing muscles continuously. It also keeps your blood circulating well. Movement regulates your blood sugar and keeps your blood pressure lower.  Another benefit is that you burn more calories throughout the day. Standing while working, burns a third more calories than sitting.

Standing and sitting can reduce pain

There is anecdotal and scientific evidence to show that standing while working will help to alleviate back pain and some repetitive stress injuries. The problem can stem from not using your back and stomach muscles enough when sitting. When you sit, you don’t hold your upper body with your muscles; rather you let the chair hold you.

This can lead to compression within the chest and abdominal cavities, slouching of the shoulders and rolling of the spine. These are classic contributory factors in repetitive strain injury and back pain. Working at a standing sit-stand desk gives you the choice to sit or stand for optimum comfort and by working a standing posture will help to keep the core and back muscles engaged throughout the day and improve posture.

Mental benefits of standing

When standing, it is easier to release restless energy. Combined with good circulation, stable blood sugars and an active metabolism, it is easier to stay focused on the task in hand.

But beware

In the US many companies have tried to fit sit-stand desks retrospectively in a mixed seating environment, often after pressure from employees. It has proved difficult.

In a purpose designed office, where all the desks are sit-stand, it works well, so much of it is down to the culture of the company, the attitude of the users and the general housekeeping on the desk and the surroundings. Imagine trying to raise or lower your desk when the person next to you has spread their paperwork on to yours!

So training is key. Users need to know how to adjust their desks, how long they should be in different postures for, and understand what a good set-up looks like.



3a Warning children choking copyIt’s that time of year again! As we rush around trying to make sure that Christmas is perfect and that we haven’t forgotten anyone in our present hunt, it’s tempting to buy gifts at bargain prices to eke out the budget; but at what cost?

Just last week we were warned about counterfeit shampoos and body wash being sold at bargain prices from on-line retailers and at discount stores and markets across the country.  In November, the BBC reported that thousands of counterfeit Peppa Pig toys, loom bands and Frozen princess dolls had been intercepted at Dover Docks.

Common sense tells us that you get what you pay for, and if it’s an incredible bargain, there is a reason. An American site, The Counterfeit Report lists products that are being counterfeited and describes how to identify a fake product. With increased internet purchases, the site is a useful place to check if you have concerns, and it currently has a whole array of products listed, from Burberry Umbrellas and GlaxoSmithKline Alli Weight Loss Aids to Chanel No 5 Perfume.

Toys are always a target for the fake market. Currently there are reports of toxic paints in loom bands and eyes that fall off toys. The obvious thing is to always buy from a reputable retailer, where you can be confident of your rights as a consumer. The key thing to look out for is the European Community (CE) mark on toys. All manufacturers, manufacturers’ authorised representative distributors and importers must comply with the Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 and the CE mark confirms that the item is intended to be used as a toy. The main requirements are that the toys must:

  • Satisfy the ‘essential safety requirements’ in the regulations
  • Be properly marked to ensure traceability
  • Bear the CE mark
  • Be accompanied by instructions for use, and warning where necessary.

3b CE Mark copyThe CE mark is a sign of both quality and safety. The product will have had to have passed rigorous standards, inspections and tested to have been awarded the CE mark. Products without the CE mark may not be intended to be used as a toy, but as a novelty or decoration and it’s not safe for children to use it.

If you identify a product that you think may be counterfeit then report it to Action Fraud


If you would like more information about current product recalls or the latest news on current counterfeit concerns, take a look at the Trading Standards website

3a approvedlionmarkretailer


1a Better Drinking picture copyMost companies at this time of the year throw a party. It’s a great opportunity for the senior management to show their appreciation for their staff, whether it’s drinks and nibbles in the office, dinner in a posh restaurant or an outing to the night club. A couple of glasses of wine is fairly normal as part of the festivities, but, what happens if you employ someone who is under 18?

I was asked this question by a client earlier this week. In this particular case the answer was quite straightforward, as the party will be on the company premises and the drinks will be Bucks Fizz. But care really has to be taken to ensure you, as an employer, don’t break the law.

Here are the basic rules:

It is against the law:

  • For an under 18 year old to buy, or try to buy alcohol
  • For someone to sell alcohol to someone under 18
  • For an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for someone under 18
  • For an 18 year old to drink alcohol on licenced premises (e.g. pub or restaurant)

If someone is 16 or 17 and they are accompanied by an adult they can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal. If they are on private premises then it is not against the law to drink, however, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, parents or guardians must be informed of any outcomes from risk assessments and for ANY staff at a works ‘do’, the employer still has a responsibility for their welfare.

To ensure that you don’t break the law with your under 18s:

  • Get written consent that their parents or guardians are happy for them to have a drink;
  • Make sure that there is a responsible adult monitoring the situation;
  • Ensure that ALL staff can get home safely with taxis, shared lifts by someone who hasn’t been drinking, public transport, or if necessary make particular arrangements for the under 18s.
  • Drinks on your premises make it easier to manage and monitor alcohol intake.
  • Drinks at a restaurant or corporate function are fine as long as it’s in moderation (wine, beer or cider) and with a meal, and the young person doesn’t buy the drinks.
  • Alcoholic drinks at the pub, night club or casino are absolutely off-limits unless it’s with a meal, so it’s worth reminding staff that they will be breaking the law if they buy the young person an alcoholic drink.

Click here for more information.

Box quality streetI find it strange how, so often, two seemingly unconnected incidents cause interest at the same time, only to find that in fact they have a connection. It’s happened to me again recently.

Quality Street, as a product name, has always intrigued me and I was doing a bit of research on the subject when the delightful Una Stubbs appeared on the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? the other week, Now sadly, I do remember when Una Stubbs was the face of Rowntree, though I was clearly far too young to be influenced by the marketing message. She discovered that her grandfather used to work at Rowntrees in York, and the programme traced his journey from York to Welwyn Garden City. Quality Street was developed by Mackintosh (in Harrogate), which then became Rowntree Mackintosh, so there we have the link!


Quality Street was launched by Mackintosh in 1936. The name was inspired by a play by JM Barrie called Quality Street, although in fact it’s a play on the words Quality Sweet, and the figures in the design on the early tins are based on ‘The Major’ and ‘Miss’ who were the principle characters in the play. The figures on the tin were affectionately called Major Quality and Miss Sweetly. In the early 1930s only the wealthy could afford boxed chocolates; exotic flavours in expensive packaging. Harold Mackintosh wanted to produce chocolates that working class people could afford so he developed a process of covering different toffees in chocolate and then packaging them in attractive, low-cost tins. Rather than having each chocolate separated in costly trays, he decided to cover each piece, individually, in coloured paper. Through his ideas he introduced the world’s first twist-wrapping machine. The different wrappings of the sweets are all very distinctive, but so is their shape and size. It was an experience he wanted the whole family to enjoy.

It’s an interesting story. Not only was Harold Mackintosh a marketing genius to develop and successfully sell a product during a time when the world was still feeling the effects of the economic crash and about to go to war, his vision of quality is reflected through the product in its design, ingenuity, conformity and production development. He set high standards and that’s reflected in the product and it’s longevity, which we still enjoy today.

Stepping Stones for Business provides quality and safety consultancy. If you need advice on emergency and evacuation procedures then get in touch. Email  info@ssfb.co.uk or call 0333 321 0131.

There seem to be two big media stories today – the arrival of the Royal baby and Beyoncé’s hair!

Having watched the video (Click here if you haven’t seen it) of Beyoncé in the crowds and seeing her hair being dragged into the large rotary fan on stage, it’s amazing to see the determination and focus she has to carry-on. She is also extremely lucky that her minders were close by and presumably switched off the fan almost immediately. The size of the fan would have provided some anchorage so that it didn’t start flaying around in the audience. But the speed with which it was switched off would have reduced a potentially very serious accident and no doubt Beyoncé probably has a sore head today, but she still has her trademark mane of hair!

The news led me to search the internet for other on-stage incidents and there are more than one might think. One was of Pink, doing a Cirque du Soleil style trapeze act in Nuremberg in 2010. She fell out of her harness, hitting a metal barricade before hitting the ground. Thankfully she didn’t break anything, but confessed that she hadn’t been clipped into the harness properly.

Sarah Guyrad-Guillot an acrobat with the Cirque Du Soleil was not so lucky at the beginning of this month. She slipped from her safety wire whilst performing in Las Vegas on 1st July and fell 15m (50ft) to her death.

There is plenty of coverage on the internet about artists falling off stage during live performances; some might say it’s a hazard of the job. The reality is, it IS a job. Whilst YouTube footage makes entertaining watching, very often the incidents need not have happened. Being an artist is no different to any other form of earning a living – good planning, risk assessment and communication are all key to making the performances safe, not only for the audience, but the performers too; and an alert, proactive, safety conscious support team can make all the difference in the world!


Reverse ParkingMy car is fitted with a parking assist button that I can use to parallel park my car. It will detect the right size space. Apparently, all I have to do is press the Park Assist button and when it finds a suitable space, take my hands off the steering wheel and the car does the rest! I say apparently, because I haven’t had the confidence to try it yet; I also fear that if I were to use it, I would lose the ability to park my car – just like becoming reliant on Sat Navs, we seem to lose the ability to navigate!

There was quite a heated debate about parking recently on one of the health and safety LinkedIn Groups; in particular reverse parking policies in company car parks. I generally reverse park in large public car parks from a security point of view. It was recommended to me by Mark Dowding of Intelligent Driving http://www.intelligent-driving.com.  Once the car door is open it provides a natural barrier between me and a potential mugger, facing forward so I can see what’s going on and I can drive away from the space quickly and safely. But it’s good practice in company car parks too, particularly if there are a large number of employees.

It’s quite common for people to arrive at work at staggered times, but to leave at about the same time. On arrival there should be fewer people trying to park so staff can reverse into the space safely. At the end of the day, if everyone is facing in the same direction vehicles will flow out of the spaces and the car park, and tempers should be reduced. It also helps if a quick and safe evacuation of the car park is needed in an emergency. Where companies have introduced a reverse parking policy, they have found that after a few weeks of practice, people learn to park quite easily and appreciate being able to get away more quickly at the end of the day.

Stepping Stones for Business provides quality and safety consultancy. If you need advice on emergency and evacuation procedures then get in touch. Email  info@ssfb.co.uk or call 0333 321 0131.

The other day I was visiting a client and was asked to look at their risk assessment folder. It was comprehensive, well maintained with good follow-up actions recorded. I was asked to look at it because they were finding the process bureaucratic, confusing and wanted to know if there was a simpler way of doing things.

I do a lot of their risk assessments, so I was puzzled to see that what they were calling risk assessments should have been classed as audits. Put very simply they were risk assessing risk assessments – a wholly confusing situation to be in. What should have been a routine scheduled in their working week had turned into a bureaucratic nightmare. What we have done is extracted the genuine risk assessments so that they remain as discrete risk assessments and we’ve combined the rest into an audit report which reviews how the management system is working as a whole, looking at risk assessments, training, communication, etc. On my next visit I hope to see a less stressed office manager!

Now I know we health and safety bods have a reputation for being sticklers for detail – I include myself too, but we do appreciate that paperwork needs to be meaningful.

Over the years people have been driven down the road of thinking they have to have every eventuality covered by risk assessment. The legislation actually requires risk assessments to be recorded when there are five or more people in the company and the following needs to be recorded:

  • The significant findings – what the risks are, what is already being done to control them and what more needs to be done to make an area safe;
  • Details of any particular groups of people who have been identified as being at particular risk.

Some risks may be identified through other routes, such as inspection and audits, and this I think is where the confusion creeps in. Not all inspections and audits fall under the guise of safety, but the outcome may have safety implications. So, for instance, a facilities manager might do a site inspection and identify that a carpet is lifting or a piece of guttering is hanging loose. As long as a report highlights these issues and there is evidence that action has been taken to rectify the situation then that’s fine. There is little point in duplicating it with a risk assessment.  In larger organisations, a health and safety audit may highlight that site inspections are carried out routinely by a member of the facilities team. The detail should be in the facilities team inspection report not the audit.




Safety Legislation Update – October 2012

It is a year since Professor Löfstedt published his review on health and safety reform. Professor Löfstedt, Director of the King’s Centre for Risk Management at King’s College London chaired a committee tasked, by the government, to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulations on businesses, whilst maintaining Britain’s high performance in safety. In general the report concluded that health and safety law in the UK is fit for purpose, however, he identified some legislation that needed to be reviewed and updated. This review followed hot-on-the-heels of Lord Young’s review in 2010 entitled ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’. During 2012 we have seen the impact of their recommendations, with more due over the next couple of years.

Changes that came into force on 1st October 2012

Smoke Free (Signs) Regulations 2012

In July 2007 the Smoke Free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006 came into force. These regulations prohibit smoking in the workplace or public place in enclosed or substantially enclosed areas. This means that virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces became smoke free, including offices, rest rooms, pubs, clubs private members clubs, cafes, restaurants, shopping centres and work transport.


Licensed vehicles such as taxis and minicabs must be smoke-free at all times. Even if the vehicle is being used as a private car and the driver is off duty they cannot smoke in their vehicle.

The legislation covers all company and work vehicles, like delivery vans and lorries, that are used by more than one person. Even if there is only one person in it, and more than one person sometimes uses the vehicle, it has to be smoke-free at all times.


Smoking in smoke-free premises or vehicles is against the law and the perpetrator is liable to a fine, if caught. The person with management responsibility for the premises or vehicle is legally responsible for preventing smoking as well.

Smoke-free law is enforced by local councils and port health authorities, within the areas for which they have responsibilities. The penalties and fines for the smoke-free offences set out in the Health Act 2006 are:

  • smoking in a smoke-free premises or vehicle: a fixed penalty notice of £50 (discounted to £30 if paid within 15 days from the issue of a notice) or a fine by a court not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale (up to £200)
  • failure to display no-smoking signs in smoke-free premises and vehicles as required by the law: a fixed penalty notice of £200 (discounted to £150 if paid within 15 days from the issue of a notice) or a fine by a court not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (up to £1,000)
  • failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free premises or vehicle: a fine by a court not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale (up to £2,500)

What’s new?


The Smoke Free (Signs) Regulations 2007, which supported the Smoke Free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006 has been revoked. The 2007 regulations were very specific on what type of signage must be used and where it must be displayed. The new regulations relax the rules on signage and premises owners are only required to display a legible no smoking symbol somewhere on the premises or vehicle. Unlike the 2007 regulations they no longer need to be displayed at the entrance to buildings and neither do they need to be a specified size and design.

Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012

The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations, commonly referred to as the Fee For Intervention (FFI). FFIs are only applied when there is a ‘material breach of health and safety law’ which requires an HSE inspector to make a formal intervention through letter, email, and instant visit report or prosecution. The breach could be a lack of machine guarding resulting from a technical breach, such as inadequate risk assessments, lack of policy documents, etc. An inspector’s time will be charged at £124 per hour and will be applied from the beginning of the visit for which that material breach was identified through to the point that the problem is rectified. The costs have the potential to mount-up significantly.

For more information about changes in safety legislation in 2012 and in the future click here for our Safety Legislation Update 2012.

All businesses have stakeholders and as part of any management system or project it is important to identify stakeholders and understand the influence they can have on your business. Often, shareholders are assumed to be the only stakeholder in a business, but in fact stakeholders are any interested party or individual. They may add value to the business, influence direction and affect activities.

Meeting the needs and expectations of interested parties contributes to the overall success of the organisation, and as business opportunities develop in the global market the diversity and impact of the stake holder demands will change. However the needs and expectations of each interested party or stakeholder is different and they can sometimes conflict with each other, and also, their needs can change. The means by which the needs and expectation of interested parties are acted upon can take a wide variety of forms, including collaboration, cooperation, negotiating, outsourcing or terminating an activity.

Stakeholders demand different things, but in return they can bring something to the table.