FB_IMG_14222084613734107 copyStepping Stones for Business has been sponsoring swimmer, Harry James, for over five years. In October 2014, Harry went to Plymouth University to study photography, but also to follow his dream – to train with the Olympic swimming squad.

After just four months he is breaking his own personal best results, winning the Devon County Championships 200m breaststroke in January 2015, with a 10 second lead!  View Harry’s win at the Devon County Championships here.

In February Harry is off to to Lisbon, Portugal to compete, and he’s also been invited to an Olympic training camp in Tenerife in September.

What a great start to the year and we continue to support Harry and are very proud of his achievements.


Stepping Stones for Business is delighted to announce that we have been selected as the Health & Safety exhibitor at the upcoming Clear Books Community Exhibition (CBCE), which takes place on 6th February 2015.

The CBCE (organised by cloud accounting software provider, Clear Books) is a not-for-profit event designed to help British small businesses learn more about what it takes to be successful has been announced today

The Clear Books Community Exhibition (CBCE), is supported by Microsoft and aims to provide an inspiring and informative day of presentations, exhibits and networking opportunities to help small companies learn, overcome challenges and succeed with their ambitions.

Clear Books has designed CBCE based on the feedback from its community of more than 8,000 small business customers to ensure that content is highly relevant, topical and engaging for small business owners and managers across a wide range of sectors.

On the day, delegates will have the opportunity to:
• Hear presentations from leading industry speakers across a range of topics, including finance, legal, health and safety, marketing, PR and branding
• 1-2-1 advice from experience Clear Books accountants
• Attend the exhibition and network with other attendees
• Showcase their products and services by exhibiting

“We know from our own experiences that starting and growing a business is incredibly rewarding, but equally it’s not without its challenges,” says Lizzie Fouracre, Chief Operating Officer of Clear Books. “Our aim with CBCE is to provide the opportunity for many of our existing customers, as well as other small businesses, to get information and advice which they will find really useful, including tips, techniques and strategies from small business specialists. CBCE is very much part of our ongoing strategy to support our community of small business customers.”

“Clear Books has developed a strong reputation for helping small businesses to flourish and we are very keen to support this initiative,” said Chris Rothwell, SMB Customer Channel Manager, Microsoft. “The exhibition also offers a great one off opportunity for small business owners and managers to experience how their businesses can flourish with the Microsoft mobile first, cloud first world.”

CBCE is taking place on the 6th of February 2015 at Microsoft’s London office at Cardinal Place, 80-100 Victoria Street, SW1E 5JL.

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.

goring-streatley-festival (c) Bernard NovellRebecca Russell from Stepping Stones for Business was delighted to be on the organising committee for the Goring and Streatley Festival.
The 10-day inaugural festival, which ran from the 27th June to 6th July held 52 events included art exhibitions, open-air theatre, performing arts, concerts, workshops, dance classes, bell ringing, circus skills and fringe events. The Grand Finale was a family day in Streatley Meadow, with over 2000 people enjoyed picnics in the Meadow with the Wimbledon Men’s Finals on the Big Screen, followed by the Last Night of  the Proms lead Dawn Roberts, the Goring and Streatley Concert Band and the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir.
Stepping Stones for Business carried out a total of 56 risk assessments for the festival, provided First Aid Cover for most events and organised the Last Night Concert, along with a number of other events.Overall the festival was extremely well attended and plans are already afoot for 2015.

Queen Anne's school logoQueen Anne’s School in Caversham recently hosted an ‘IOSH Working Safely Course’ run by Stepping Stones for Business. The delegates, who included staff from Queen Anne’s and surrounding schools, passed the end of course assessment and are now fully IOSH Working Safely qualified.

This was the first course organised as a joint venture between Stepping Stones for Business and Queen Anne’s.  Following its success a number of safety courses are being scheduled for 2014, including ‘IOSH Working Safely’, ‘IOSH Managing Safely’, ‘Manual Handling’ and ‘Asbestos Awareness’.  Queen Anne’s boasts excellent conference facilities, has fantastic transport links and ample parking for visiting delegates – making it a perfect venue for hosting training courses.

‘IOSH is a well-recognised qualification and at Queen Anne’s we strive to provide the best safety training for our staff.  We opened up the opportunity to other schools in the area and were inundated with enquiries.  Following the success of this first course we are now planning a series of courses for 2014!

Judith Tremayne, HR Advisor, Queen Anne’s School

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.