“ISO 9001 for the small business”

Small business can be stressful. A small number of people, wearing multiple hats, facing a myriad of regulations, laws, sales pressures, financial issues, quality problems and HR management, to name just a few. The sustainable and growing business needs to ensure consistently quality services. Consistency in workflow, quality and process is critical. 

A struggle with routine quality issues restricts growth. A tool of real benefit is an ISO 9001 Quality Management System. This international standard provides a framework to embed process, and its practical implementation improves processes, activities, and customer satisfaction.

The standard provides a foundation for all organisations, large and small, to ensure quality. Higher levels of customer satisfaction and consistency leads to achievement of objectives and maximised profitability. It can help in specific areas, such as business processes and improving supply chain relations. Typically, implementing ISO 9001 for our customers has helped achieve objectives such as:

  • Purchasing project critical materials from suppliers approved based on quality.
  • Meeting the requirements for bids and tenders, by having a certified quality management system, which has increased levels of business and customer satisfaction.
  • Gathering vital business intelligence, to inform evidence-based decisions, which yield better results.
  • Identifying and realising opportunities for improvement.

There are a range of financial benefits. ISO 9001 is a business development tool, with many businesses now only working with companies that are ISO-certified. The consistent production and quality which are outputs of the standard sees fewer failures, higher customer retention rates, enhances business, and financial growth. Increased revenue is a by-product of ISO 9001. It directly helps the business to develop a sustainable Quality Management System that results in better financial performance.

ISO 9001 requires the organisation, and roles within it, to be structured. Elements of the standard relate to competency and awareness, which result in higher employee motivation and satisfaction. People want to participate, grow, and be listened to. ISO 9001 facilitates this, making certified businesses better places to work.

The premise of the standard is to meet customer requirements and striving to exceed customer expectations. Customers always require quality in a product or service, and a positive overall experience. ISO 9001 increases customer confidence, knowing that dealings are with an internationally certified business. It is a key feature in allowing a business to stand out from its competitors that have no such certification. 

ISO 9001 offers key benefits across all areas of business, including:

  • Improved process management and operational planning and control.
  • Improved customer satisfaction and retention.
  • Greater quality and service levels.
  • Greater business development opportunities.
  • Using evidence to inform decisions and target efforts.
  • Improved reputation.
  • Greater financial sustainability.

ISO 9001 certification requires improvement. Improvement underpins a sustainable business. A no-brainer?

HSEQ-360 helps customers achieve certification via a UKAS (Government approved) certification body. We develop systems that are simplistic, but not simple. No complex and unnecessary paperwork, and clearly aligned to the objectives that you want to achieve. We have done this ourselves; the benefits far outweigh a nominal investment.

It is not a case of not being able to afford it. It is a case of you cannot afford not to have it. As Lead Auditors approved by The International Register of Certified Auditors and The Chartered Quality Institute, we can outline the requirements clearly and without jargon. To talk about the benefits of ISO 9001 to your business, we are happy to answer any questions you may have. Your place or ours, 30 minutes, no strings attached. 


“You can’t reduce severity”

In the last few years, particularly in renewables and construction, I’ve encountered several clients that have commented “severity can’t be reduced, only probability”, when commenting on risk assessments. Almost all insisted on using a methodology that requires severity and likelihood to be scored (interestingly the examples on the HSE website do not require scoring, and there is no requirement in law to do so. That’s a conversation for another day).

Fed up of this, I decided to call it out and challenge, from a position of care. Think about your own workplace. Can the severity of harm be reduced?

The simple answer is “Yes”, as anyone with an elementary understanding of the principles of prevention will understand.

There are examples of being able to reduce likelihood and severity. Recently, I was inspecting a wastewater treatment plant, and noticed a noisy motor, feeding air handling equipment. Noise pollution would have been caused by moving it outside, and it was not reasonably practicable (financially) to replace with a quieter motor. However, there were a range of options. A suitable and sufficient maintenance regime reduced the noise created. Changes in setting to work meant that longer duration tasks could be completed away from the motor. PPE could be used. Audiometry testing would show early signs of controls being defeated. When combined, these controls reduce the exposure (and therefore the likelihood), and the extent of the harm (and therefore the severity).   

 Severity can be reduced alone. Fall protection systems do not reduce the probability of someone falling but do reduce the consequence. Falling into a net is less severe than onto a concrete floor. At a very basic level, imagine a brick falling on to your head. And then a brick falling on to your head, but you are wearing a hard hat. The severity is reduced.  

The sentiment behind focusing on reducing the likelihood is correct and commendable. Reducing the likelihood of an adverse event, is preferred to minimising its consequences. Prevention is better than cure, but sometimes a cure is required.  

To claim that severity cannot be reduced is not just inaccurate. It is dangerous and shows a lack of lateral thinking and creativity to managing risk. This creates unjustified risk averse mindsets that hinders (and often stops) operations, due to a perceived inability to reduce the severity of the outcome. For those that insist on a matrix (and they have a place), some risks remain artificially high. This can desensitise to risk and takes attention away from where it may be better placed.  

To be credible, solution-focused and to facilitate safe and successful work requires proper risk management, targeting both the likelihood and the severity. If this is a debate you are having, let’s talk with your workers and managers, get their views, and gather examples.

By thinking differently, we can better manage and mitigate the risks in your workplace, and this is an area that HSEQ-360 can add real value to your operations teams, by targeting your focus where it is most needed and valuable. It is good to talk, and we will be pleased to do so for 30 minutes, free of charge and obligation. 


Risk assessments. Why?

Simply put, it is every employer’s obligation. Legally and morally.

Being a responsible and attractive employer is more than not breaking the law and doing the right thing. A workforce needs to be productive. Efficient. Effective. Talent is difficult to attract and maintain, and employers need to differentiate to entice, develop and improve capable people.

Ultimately, there is a legal requirement for employers to manage workplace health and safety, and this means controlling risk. And to be controlled, a risk needs to be identified and evaluated.

This identification and evaluation results in a risk assessment. Hazards in a workplace need to be systematically identified, evaluated, and controlled through actions to mitigate them.

For a business with five or more employees, the requirement goes further. Conducting a risk assessment is not enough. Findings must be recorded in writing, and subject to review.

Although there is no requirement for a business with fewer than five employees to record a risk assessment, risks in the workplace must still be assessed. However, recording risk assessments has benefits, often for convenience rather than compliance. A written report removes subjectivity, allows a focus to be honed and makes a review easier to undertake in the future.

Many businesses are unsure of the hazards present in their workplace, the harm that may arise, and the controls required to reduce the likelihood and / or severity, should something go wrong. Often, it is prudent to call in an expert, and this is a key service offered by HSEQ-360.

Things do go wrong, and it is often wise to consider the “what if” scenarios. A workplace incident may lead to prosecution, and intense scrutiny of the risk assessment. This has seen imprisonment, fines, and business closures.  

If you need assistance in completing a risk assessment, or require a review of your current arrangements, contact HSEQ-360. We will be pleased to assist, and to offer 30 minutes of free, no obligation advice.