Case Study: FH Brundle

FH Brundle

Supplier of wrought iron, mesh and other steel products

Brundles DirectorsA practical approach to Health and Safety
Mike Brundle is a partner in family business FH Brundle, the UK’s leading supplier of wrought iron, mesh and other steel products, where he works alongside his father Richard. For well over a hundred years, FH Brundle has stood by the same commercial values – courteous service, attention to detail, quality and a fast turnaround – which is why the company’s health and safety needs have to be managed properly.

What are the main health and safety challenges in your type of business today?
“We handle a lot of heavy, sharp steel here and so it is all about accident avoidance whilst we go through the processes of unloading, racking, reloading and delivery. I want to know that we are a safe ship so risk assessments, training, signage and protective clothing are all vital parts of our business.”

Why did you decide to outsource health and safety?
“We have technically been outsourcing health and safety for a long time but our original supplier was more of an advisor than a true resource that could claim to be part of the FH Brundle team, which meant that we needed to have some in house resources as well. As an example, he came into the office one day and spent a whole morning on his hands and knees checking the electrical plugs, completely missing the point that we were lifting 3 tons of steel above people’s heads via overhead cranes! That was when I made the decision to look for a new health and safety outsourcing provider; I need someone to be part of the team and take the pressure off my managers.”

How long have you been outsourcing health and safety to MBHS?
Over five years now !

Why did you choose MBHS?
“I saw a number of potential suppliers but all bar one asked me what I wanted and then agreed that they could do all of that. MBHS were the only health and safety consultants to come in and say this is what we do and this is how we can help you. And that’s how it has been ever since! Jim Benson and all of the MBHS team have been very proactive so that I now feel very comfortable with the words ‘health and safety’!”

How do MBHS work with you to make you compliant?
“What I really like about MBHS is that they look for practical solutions to problems rather than just tell you what you shouldn’t do. If we need to include something in our processes, MBHS assess the risk and find a better way to make it work. They understand our business needs to keep running a viable company and always start with the high priority risks that will make the most difference to us. Since the beginning, they have systematically worked down through the hierarchy of the business so that everyone knows their responsibility. This includes everything from conducting risk assessments, training the staff in safe working practices through to ensuring we have the appropriate signage in place.”

How does that work across your 6 geographical areas of operation?
“It feels that Terry, our main MBHS contact, is around all the time across the branches and we always know that help is only a telephone call away. I personally have a review meeting with Jim annually and probably see him or Terry every few months or if there is a serious matter to discuss. The day-to-day contact is with my branch and warehouse managers.”

Do you think that you have saved money by outsourcing health & safety?
“Definitely! We are a size of business where it is not economical to have a Health and Safety Officer on the payroll full time. A fixed fee from MBHS also allows me to budget effectively for a 12 month period. Even if we had a full-time in-house person, they could not offer all the specialist knowledge and expertise that we need so we would still have to outsource things such as training. MBHS do all that for us.”

How does the cost of health and safety impact your business?
“Whilst we are saving considerable money by outsourcing the health and safety function, we, along with every other business, are faced with the increasing burden of regulation from the government, which brings with it associated cost. If I look back ten years, we never had this burden.”

Are there any other benefits to the business from outsourcing health & safety?
“It means that we have a health and safety department on hand that can be flexed up or down depending on the business need so we do not have to worry about resource. MBHS also keep us up to date with all of the many legislation changes and ensure we remain compliant. Last, but not least, by removing this burden from my branch managers and their teams, it means they can focus on what they are there for – running the branches and improving sales – rather than health and safety details.”

So how would you sum up your outsourcing experience?
“MBHS have taken my view of outsourcing to a new level. I have also outsourced IT in the past but that was more in line with our earlier health and safety experience – a computer help desk – but now I expect my outsourced services to run exactly as if they were part of my internal team.

“I have every faith in MBHS as they manage the whole process for me. I know health and safety is still ultimately my responsibility as a partner of the business but I am confident with MBHS as my outsourced health and safety department. If anything should happen, we can easily identify where the problem came from and MBHS will conduct a full accident investigation if needed.”

Interview conducted with Mike Brundle, October 2008.