At Work: Human resources - Case study - Health and safety without a budget

Rob Langston and Mathew Little

Scottish Huntington's charity used workplace assessment for staff, including lone workers.

The challenge

The Scottish Huntington's Association is a small charity that supports people with Huntington's Disease. It has about 35 staff, many of them lone workers. Providing good health and safety training was hard because the association could not afford an HR department.

It needed to keep staff up to date with health and safety issues without the cost of employing a trainer. "We don't have the budget for a human resources department to take care of health and safety," says chief executive Marie McGill. "When you're focused on the health of patients, it's easy to forget about your own health and safety."

The process

Eighteen months ago, the association signed up to the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives, set up in April 2005 to improve the health of Scottish people of working age by offering free workplace assessments to employers, advising them on health and safety issues. It also provides a confidential advice line and an advice website for businesses and workers.

McGill contacted the centre's healthy working lives adviser, Graham Rudd, to ensure the association was meeting health and safety requirements.

The outcome

The association has reviewed many of the areas where it felt the need to improve. All staff now carry personal alarms, and they receive free eye checks and free health and safety training. Those who work alone log in with a system that automatically calls their mobile phones if they fail to report back at the expected time.

"Improving health and safety doesn't have to mean spending," says Rudd. "In many cases we can help organisations save money by advising them on the correct equipment and highlighting which areas need immediate attention and which can wait."

McGill adds: "The service was really helpful. We had no criticisms whatsoever. Sometimes you can feel a bit intimidated, but it was extremely supportive and very positive about what we were doing."

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