The property, construction and housing sectors in the UK have endured significant challenges over the past few years; a talent shortage in the industry, high demand for housing and more recently, heavy scrutiny of the processes being followed in regards to health and safety.
The last year has served as a tragic reminder of why stringent health, safety and fire compliance regulations are so important in the industry, and as a result, throughout 2018 we can expect to see an increasing focus on compliance, commitment to health and safety, and engagement with clients and housing tenants.
The outlook for 2018
Helen Ware, Senior Consultant at Michael Page Property and Construction interviewed Paul Sultana CMIOSH, Group Head of Health and Safety for WM Housing Group. Paul has over 20 years’ experience in quality, health, safety and environment management. He is a proactive leader in the industry and believes there are a number of exciting upcoming changes and challenges regarding health and safety in 2018:
“The current Health and Safety Management standard OHSAS 18001 will finally be superseded by the new international, and more rigorously tested ISO 45001 standard bringing some important changes. Health and wellbeing initiatives will continue to play a larger part in most organisations’ health and safety remit, particularly with the rise of reported mental health and occupational stress absences. The HSE is getting to grips with their internal manpower and funding challenges, and are leading on three major topics of concern: work-related stress, work-related lung disease and work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Of course quite rightly, there will also be major repercussions from the dreadful tragedy at Grenfell.”
As the release of the preliminary review of the official investigation has stated that the system of regulation is not fit for purpose, Paul has said that as a result, he believes: “The Government will change legislation to ensure that some of the present ‘shortcuts’ are closed off.”
Some of the changes that Paul predicts could be introduced include:
- Compulsory fitting or even retro-fitting of sprinklers to high rise properties.
- Amendments and strengthening of relevant building regulations.
- Improved competency assessments for Building Trade operatives and specifiers with regard to Building Regulation work.
- Changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and other statutory regulation.
- Improved communication between landlords/property managers and their tenants.
Paul also hopes that Government policy and investment in social housing will be dramatically improved. Not just in funding, but also through increased recognition of the true value of the provision and the great work that is already taking place.
What does this mean for employers?
In line with Paul’s outlook for the year, our recent skills research and article ‘The key skills for property and construction in 2018’ has identified fire, health and safety compliance as a key skill for 2018. Professionals who are skilled and experienced in managing compliance have never been so crucial, and at a time when organisations are under increasing scrutiny, it is important to not only ensure compliance but to demonstrate a commitment to quality and safety.
The effects of these changes will mean that budgets and asset management strategies will need to be adjusted. There is an increased need for organisations to ensure individuals who are experienced in asset management with a focus on fire, health and safety, are being employed, and more importantly, retained. Professionals skilled in stakeholder management will also be vital for successfully navigating the year ahead.
In addition to the increased demand for such professionals, there may also be a need to adjust team structures and create new highly specialised HSE roles to manage new legislation and keep up to date with changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. We might expect to see an increase in the number of fire risk assessors and project managers.
Housing providers should consider partnering with their local Fire & Rescue to put standard policies and procedures in place to ensure best practices are being followed in terms of HSE such as; fitting sprinklers, and that the most effective prevention and response plans are developed for each site.
It is important to secure talent as soon as possible. The increased demand for fire, health and safety professionals has increased significantly which means competition for talent is fierce. Upskill your current staff to ensure you are ahead of the curve. Considering a longer-term solution, apprenticeships and internships are a great way to attract and secure top talent early.
By putting in place these changes now, you will reassure your clients and tenants that you are committed to quality and safety at a time when there is an increased focus on the actions of property and housing associations.
Hiring health and safety professionals
When hiring for a health and safety position, Paul believes that very often, managers are too heavily focused on technical ability and that while this is crucial for such roles, he looks for much more when recruiting.
“I view health and safety professionals as the communicators and engagers. They need to be seen as approachable and human, so to be truly successful one needs to have charisma, affability, be likeable, but not a push-over. An H&S professional needs to have the tenacity and above all the integrity to stand up for what is right – regardless of how difficult or unpleasant this might be.”
Paul also added that in addition to these qualities, he places a high premium on those who are creative with the ability to think outside the box. Someone who is brave enough to “shake the tree” a little.
If you would like any more information, or to discuss how we can help with your recruitment needs, please get in touch.
Senior Consultant, Housing
Michael Page Property & Construction
T: +44 115 948 6496