By Jacob Ewens, Recertification Manager, Safesite Limited
We’ve heard it all before – “sorry but you lost out on price,” or “we went for a cheaper option.”
This approach may work when buying some goods, but when it comes to something as safety critical as fall protection, competency, training and experience should always be the deciding factor rather than the appeal of the lowest priced solution.
Another important point to remember is that when purchasing fall protection services, a system will only ever be truly effective if it is installed and recertified by competent people.
We’ve discussed the issue of competency in a previous Blog – Checking on Competency but it is a very important issue so I thought I’d expand on the topic and outline some additional things to consider when choosing a company to work for you.
Competency is essential
Just because a company is not offering the cheapest solution, don't rule them out straight away; think about the added benefits that the company can give you. For example quality product, experience, good customer care and technical support can be invaluable. If a company is unable to help with a technical enquiry or provide you with sufficient product specification details, then are you really prepared to trust them with someone’s life?
Similarly training. Always ask for proof of training for each individual contactor to ensure those carrying out the work are fully trained and that their training is up to date. NVQ Level 2 and CSCS and accredited training certificates on areas such as work at height, rescue, COSHH, asbestos awareness, MEWPs, risk assessor and first aid are essential for any work at height.
Additional training may also be required depending on what the work entails, for example, abrasive wheel training is required for those installing or recertifying guardrails while anyone installing and inspecting lifelines must have the appropriate manufacturer training certification.
All communication from your contractor should be clear and concise throughout the entire project. If it isn't then question why, could it be that they aren't competent or qualified?
You should be sent a detailed risk assessment and method statement whenever work is being carried out. If a system is being installed then you should be given a full O&M manual for the product/system and installation certificate once the work has been completed. The risk assessment and method statement should be detailed for each individual task and not just the generic “Work at Height” documentation. This information is essential not only for safe installation but also when it comes to annual recertification of a system or product. If you don’t have the correct information, a system can’t be recertified properly.
Why do we go for the cheaper option?
An easy trap to fall into when trying to stay within a budget is acceptance that the cheapest option is the only way to go. This is a common and understandable misconception. However, in some cases it is much better to go with what isn't the least expensive option. If you always buy the cheapest solution, you are likely to find that it’s not installed to standard, doesn't work as well, or the company inspecting your systems is unable to offer a professional or competent service and does not hold adeqaute insurance.
Inexpensive solutions or companies do tend to be of lesser quality, this is simple economics, but it could mean that you find the total cost of ownership of an economy solution or service to be much higher over time. If you find that what you buy is consistently in need of repair or simply not up to task, then you need to rethink your buying patterns.
It is a delicate balancing act; at what point does the reduced cost of something make up for the reduced quality? This is something that varies from project to project and which everyone will have to determine for themselves on a case by case basis
So is cheap really best?
A company that doesn’t invest in its people or processes is unlikely to be able to provide a proper service. They may be cheap but that doesn’t mean they are the better choice.
Value based selection really should be the only consideration when it comes to fall protection but if price really is your deciding factor – remember you’ll always be able to find it cheaper somewhere else.