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How to choose a consultant

An extract taken from Victorian WorkCover Authority website:

Why Use Consultants?
Sometimes a problem will defy the best efforts to solve it. At other times it might be difficult to define the actual problem. The right skills or knowledge to handle the problem might not be available within the workplace. A reasonable course to follow may be to get some outside assistance.

Health and Safety consultants can be a useful resource for an organisation. They can provide specialist advice and services for both the public and private sectors.

What can a Consultant offer?
This depends on the workplace needs. Organisations are changing; they are becoming more complex and are using new technologies. Occupational health and safety laws are in place, and new codes of practice and standards are being developed all the time. Productivity pressures, increases in costs and competition mean that it can be difficult to keep up with new developments in health and safety, and the requirements set out in legislation.

Consultants who can help organisations cope with these changes can assist in many ways by helping to solve difficult health and safety problems and establishing mechanisms for preventing workplace injuries.

How can the suitability of a Consultant be assessed?
After documenting the areas in the workplace, or the health and safety problems requiring attention, the following factors are among those which should be considered when deciding which consultant is best for the job:

  • Previous work or experience tackling similar issues. Has the consultant worked with other clients with similar problems? How long has the consultant been doing this type of work? What evidence can the consultant supply of successful programs initiated in other workplaces? Are there clients who can be contacted as referees?
  • Education and Qualifications. What qualifications does the consultant have? When and where were those qualifications obtained?
  • Professional affiliations. Is the consultant a member of any professional associations.? Is there a code of ethics which the consultant follows?
  • Special capabilities. Does the consultant specialise in particular areas?
  • Business practice. What is the fee structure? Does this include administrative and other project costs? Are there any additional fees? What types and level of insurance does the consultant have?

What legal and ethical issues should be considered when engaging a consultant?
The following issues should be addressed when contracting a consultant:

Code of Ethics
Many professional associations have a Code of Ethics and their members are expected to adhere to this code in their work.

It is important to check the level and types of insurance – for example professional indemnity, copyright, personal and public liability – held by the consultant or the organisation the consultant represents.

Ownership of material
Written material produced under contract may be regarded as the property of the organisation engaging the consultant. The initial contract or agreement should specify this.

Goods produced may involve ingredients or processes that are trade secrets and workplaces may wish to protect their activities by specifying the nature and the extent of confidentiality in contracts or agreements.

Conflict of interest
Consultants should be asked to declare any matter that may result in a conflict of interest.

How can workplaces be sure that the consultant does the work required in an effective, appropriate way?
The best results from a consultant’s involvement in health and safety management will be obtained if there is a close relationship between the workplace parties and the consultant. Getting value from the consultant’s contribution will depend on:

  • clearly defining and documenting the problem to be worked on;
  • giving the consultant access to all the necessary information;
  • involving Health and Safety representatives and employees;
  • establishing a reporting and meeting schedule where progress reports and emerging issues can be discussed;
  • monitoring the progress of the consultant’s work and adhering to the timetable established when work begins; and
  • regularly checking that the consultant’s work is consistent with the requirements of the contract.

From the Victorian WorkCover Authority Website


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