Global Edition

GBN Interview: Tom Searle of Britrisk Safety Limited

3.35pm 1st December 2017 - Interviews - This story was updated on Saturday, November 16th, 2019

Golf Business International member Tom Searle is the managing director of Britrisk Safety Limited, and has some firm and, some might claim, controversial views about health and safety management. We wanted to know more

 Everyone has a view about health and safety and they’re not all positive – what are yours?

Tom Searle

There is a debate currently raging that largely revolves around the question ‘Is health & safety broken?’ In many ways the answer is ‘yes’. Put simply, there is far too much unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape generated in the often mistaken belief that this is keeping people safe.

There are just two legitimate reasons for generating paperwork: 1, it should make it easier for people to work safely by offering clear, short, simple guidance and controls; and 2, there should be sufficient information to provide evidence of legal compliance.

I have seen policies and procedures running to 15-20 pages whereas the Britrisk equivalent is 1-2. That is an unacceptable correlation in a society where information overload is becoming the norm. If documentation is too extensive people won’t read or absorb its content. If they don’t read it they won’t do it and, consequently, if not implemented they risk serious injury, or worse, with the employer at risk of increasingly large fines and imprisonment if it all goes wrong and accidents occur.

What better reason could there be for the ‘KISS’ principle? Some people think that ‘Keeping It Short and Simple’ means cutting corners. The reality is that less is more. So-called ‘experts’ who generate health and safety documents need to put themselves in the position of the reader rather than using documentation to feed their own egos and protect their own backsides.

Oh – and the definition of ‘expert’? An ‘ex’ is a ‘has been’ and a ‘spurt’ is a drip under pressure … I’ll settle for ‘specialist’.

So much for criticism – but what are the answers?

There are two main answers. The first is outside our control. Reduce and simplify the legislation – most of which was written by people operating in the public sector who have never worked in private enterprise, let alone run a company.

There are arguably around 30 sets of regulations that commonly crop up, most of which could be summarised in two words: ‘risk assessment’. I realise this is an over-simplification, but you get the point. One hundred per cent compliance is a theoretical construct, at least in the golfing world, so it boils down to prioritising sensible, pragmatic measures that are effective and that observe the spirit of the law, if not necessarily the intricate detail of it.

The second answer is within our ability to control. There should be a fundamental shift in mind set. Let’s take risk assessment as the prime example. Leaving aside procrastination, the first thing most people do is to pick up a pen and start to write. What they should do first is to open their eyes and start to look. Accidents happen in the real world not on paper, so this ‘dynamic’ approach is what should drive the process.

Talk to your team look at what they do and discuss how the risk assessment process can make a positive contribution to everyone staying safe, rather than generating a document that is likely to be consigned to a folder at the bottom of the pile once the burden of writing it has been tackled.

The last action is to write an assessment that helps you to adopt a simple, organised approach. I could go on, but …

Britrisk Safety is becoming quite well known in the golfing industry. What is your background and what makes the company different to any other offering a similar service?

After a varied career in private industry and with 20 years’ experience of risk management, I formed Britrisk Safety Limited in 2009. To be frank, growth was quite challenging and, with the benefit of hindsight, it was because we failed to specialise. An opportunity to address that problem came about in 2012 when we acquired Jon Allbutt Associates.

Jon is well known in the industry, but his approach lacked structure. Britrisk brought a wealth of general experience and ‘best practice’ to the golfing world, which, combined with Jon’s profile and specialism, we have been able to boil down into a unique ‘Code 10 Scorecard’ that follows the theme of simplifying the problem. It is also partly born of my frustration with the negative aspects of health and safety, and the need to simplify the challenge for the benefit of non-specialists.

Specialising in golf allows us to develop, approach and documentation bespoke to the needs of our clients.

What do you think IS the biggest risk at golf clubs?

It always seems a bit incongruous to me that a green and pleasant golf course, bathed in sunlight, can actually be such a hazardous place – and it is. Flying golf balls – AKA missiles – aside, what concerns me most is lone working.

I am aware of two fatalities in golf clubs in the last few years where this has been a factor. As ever, the answers lie in controlling the risk. Identify high-risk tasks, such as working in or around water or at height, and ensure they are not carried out by lone workers. Secondly, stay in touch at regular intervals via two-way radio or mobile phone; and, finally, consider issuing a personal alarm. There are plenty on the market as a brief web search will reveal. A well-organised risk assessment process should help with this.

How much of an active part do you take in Golf Business International?

I’d like to think I’m very active. When I joined a couple of years ago it was clear that the organisation – known as the Golf Consultants Association when I joined – had the potential not only to be of benefit to any person or organisation associated with it, but the potential to offer far more to the industry as a whole. So I was delighted when the opportunity arose to join the executive and help to shape the future direction of the group.

It’s an interesting and exciting time to be involved as there is so much happening – and we’re gaining new members regularly, which increases further the skill sets we can offer together. Those members are starting to come from overseas too, which is increasing the reach of Golf Business International.

I suppose we should undertake a risk assessment on our expansion (laughs)

Tom Searle, thank you very much.

Britrisk Safety Limited

Golf Business International

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