SafeHire is a BSI private standard created by and written for the hire industry with the help and guidance of British Standards Institute. It was originally written following a disastrous ‘Which’ report in 2010 that outlined everything negative about the industry. The association took a positive stance and determined that it needed to reverse the perception created by ‘Which’. Members fully supported this proactive action to mitigate the impact of the report but also to enhance confidence in the hire sector for the longer term.
SafeHire is a continual Business Improvement programme that both sets and helps maintain the standards of operation for HAE members, and the standard itself is the guarantee of consistency of approach during assessment. It also provides a greater degree of transparency and reassurance to clients and customers, and to trading standards.
One of the principal benefits of achievement of the standard is that it provides the differentiation between members and non-members and is designed for companies of all sizes. Originally written by HAE, its members, HSE and other corporate bodies, it endeavours to level the playing field between members large and small and enables them all to compete locally on an even ground. Additionally, we have negotiated with several other PQQ assessors, such as CHAS, and they have recognised the benefits of our program to the extent that we can add our SafeHire members to their register without further assessment; a cost benefit to HAE members. Members have the choice about inclusion on the CHAS register, a register that is 80% populated by SME companies.
Operated along UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Services) the system is designed to produce fairness for all. The certificate lasts for 3 years but is subject to an annual review visit to ensure compliance is maintained. Multi depot operations are subject to random assessments of depots based on the square root of the number of operational depots, and this is a calculation that ensures consistency across the board.
All assessors are independent of HAE and are selected on the basis of their knowledge and experience of operating within or around the UK hire industry. They are subject to strict recruitment requirements and have regular standardisation meetings to ensure ongoing consistency of approach, maintain training levels and highlight some of the trends occurring as outcomes of assessments. These trends are reported on a regular basis at the HAE Technical Group meeting and invariably result in the issue of a SafeHire Bulletin to members to advise them on prevention.
Another objective of SafeHire is to reduce the duplication experienced by many members who are constantly bombarded by a cacophony of PQQ forms. We have already had success with CHAS, we are in discussion with Construction Line and more recently with Build UK to ensure that SafeHire provides the answer to the time consuming and expensive myriad of requests from clients of our industry. SafeHire addresses a multitude of standards such as ISO 9001, 14001, 18001 (45001), 27001, PAS 91 plus, much more importantly, we pay careful attention to product inspection - both process wise and physically - something entirely unique to SafeHire.
Most membership organisations introducing new mandatory requirements face a certain amount of reluctance and questioning, and sadly some members decide to depart. In the case of SafeHire, this has amounted to a small number of businesses (under 2%). We have dealt with this by running an extensive series of seminars, conducting face to face visits and working with our members to explain and demonstrate the real benefits to both individual companies and the industry at large. In fact, HAE recently delivered a series of workshops and presentations as part of a SafeHire Information Zone, held within the Ricoh Arena’s Jaguar Suite, on the second day of the Executive Hire Show 2017.
It is a recognised role of trade associations and federations to look ahead on behalf of the membership and to help them identify and mitigate any potential threats or challenges or risk to trust. Part of this role can be to enable standards of good practice and transparency which benefit the conduct of the sector and members. Trade bodies are uniquely placed to lead on such work without impacting on competition between businesses.
It is important to emphasise that during the same period over 150 new members have joined the association and undertaken SafeHire assessment, including some returning members. A new member based in the South West (new start-up business) joined HAE because they felt the annual assessments would mean they have the opportunity to discuss and learn from industry best practice along with being signposted to the benefits and services that would help grow and sustain their business.
The certification process is uncomplicated and consists of a desktop assessment of written procedures in operation within the business and compliance is required ahead of the site visit by an assessor. The Assessor will use the desktop outcome to create an individual assessment plan for his visit to test systems and processes. An onsite visit lasts up to 4 hours during which the assessor will ensure that the written word is understood by employees, and more importantly is implemented correctly across the organisation before going on to carry out a site and product inspection. The outcome could be a simple positive pass, but in most cases organisations face up to a series of non-conformances which are graded by, major, minor and opportunities to improve.
A positive example of this approach is provided by small company D & H Plant, who whilst been in business for 30 years have only been HAE members since 2012. They commented: “Since the beginning, we have seen numerous changes affecting the hire industry, which has significantly increased in recent years. Therefore, in November 2012, we made the decision to join HAE and we have never looked back!
The friendly, knowledgeable staff at HAE have assisted us in keeping up-to-date with a variety of key regulation changes from Health & Safety to Human Resources, allowing us to focus on more effective working practices and a safer working environment, giving us more time to concentrate on our customers’ requirements.
We are now delighted to have received our SafeHire Certification recognising our machines are maintained and serviced to a high standard, giving our customers peace of mind that they are being provided safe quality equipment”.
Additionally D & H were keen to point out that an identified ‘opportunity to improve’ has resulted in significant savings and by changing their lighting in the workshop they are saving circa £500 p.a.
At the end of each assessment the assessor will create an individual detailed report, which includes relevant photographic evidence and requests the company to submit a plan to deal with the non-conformances. Only on receipt of a satisfactory plan will certification be confirmed, on rare occasions has it been necessary to re-visit before awarding the certificate. This corrective action plan then provides the basis of the next assessment visit in 12 months.
Many of our members are extremely surprised at the thoroughness of the assessment and really value the help and guidance it provides. Mark Wilson - Director of CW Plant Hire comments: “The development of this new BSI Private Standard clearly shows how the SafeHire scheme model has been successfully improved upon to provide HAE members with a more robust and in depth assessment of their business. SafeHire members can confirm to existing and prospective customers that they run a professional rental operation that has been assessed by an independent third party body. I believe that the new SafeHire Private Standard is a truly excellent scheme that represents very good value for money.”
Whilst Stephen Dorricott of Astley Hire in the North West says: “SafeHire is the ideal standard for our company as it incorporates Health & Safety, Quality, Training for the staff, the customers and the equipment. Other standards are generic to industry whereas SafeHire is specific for the hire industry, and ensures we meet the requirements which our customers come to expect from a well run equipment hire business.”
Recently certificated organisation AFI-Uplift were equally impressed and Dawn Hubbard - Quality and Environmental Manager said: “Having been involved with a number of audits by different auditing bodies I found this audit very practical and beneficial to the business. It looked at the grassroots of what we actually do as a company, ensuring that both customers and employees are safe and looked after. The audit has given us information that we are now able to approach suppliers with to ensure that we always receive the standard and service that we are paying for. The assessor, whilst being professional and thorough at all times, was also very approachable and practical with relevant experience, which was extremely helpful and provided a good working relationship in all of the depots audited.”
As the end of the window for all members to achieve certification approaches we can reflect on a successful project with almost 75% completed, and the balance either with planned assessments or in the process of agreeing assessment dates. As with most scenarios whereby an end date is quoted there is always a good number that will leave it to the last minute. This does present some difficulties in accommodating all before the end of December, however those that are not completed only need to confirm an assessment date by then. For the last 2 years all new members have had to complete the process within 6 months of joining to prevent suspension of their membership, fortunately that occurrence is extremely rare. For existing members who decide that SafeHire is not for them we will continue to speak and try to demonstrate how they will benefit. Failure to adhere to the membership conditions will ultimately result in a few companies losing their membership and the great range of benefits it offers.
One of the real benefits that these members will miss out on will be the major promotional campaign already in preparation for 2018 about the industry and the benefits of dealing with a SafeHire Certificated organisation. We have worked for many years to quietly promote the certification, but now that all our members will be certificated we can really highlight the program. Already we are working with HSE, raising awareness at both local and national Government, communicating with Trading Standards, agreeing forms of mutual recognition with other PQQ organisations and as members of Build UK talking directly to the construction industry.
A strong, positive and well regulated industry has a great future and HAE is intent on providing that leadership.
Written by Graham Arundell, Managing Director, Hire Association Europe (HAE)