The supply chain

The supply chain

3.9.1 Supply chain management


Market leaders in every industry are increasing their grip on the chain of supply. They do so by monitoring rather than managing, and also by working more closely with suppliers. The result of this may be that suppliers or contractors are absorbed into the culture of the dominant firm, while avoiding the costs and liabilities of actual management. Powerful procurement departments emerge, to define and impose the necessary quality standards and guard the lists of preferred suppliers.

In the process, the freedom of local operating managers to pick and choose suppliers is reduced. Even though the responsibility to do so is often retained, it is strongly qualified by centrally imposed rules and lists, and assistance or oversight.

In these conditions, suppliers and contractors looking for business with major firms need greater flexibility and wider competence than previously. This often implies increased size and perhaps mergers, though in principle bids could be and perhaps are made by loose partnerships of smaller firms organized to secure such business. Firms applying to tender may not always understand that large firms will usually make inquiries of other firms with experience of their health and safety performance.

Many large firms regard health and safety performance as a good indicator of the general competence of a smaller firm, precisely because it is an aspect that is often neglected. An adverse report will, at the very least, mean that a bidder must do even better on other aspects to succeed and, in these circumstances, companies generally make special arrangements to ensure that their safety standards are met by the contractors.

The supply chain

Figure 3.4  Typical supply chain.


3.9.2 Legislation


The HSW Act Section 6 places a duty on everyone in the supply chain, from the designer to the final installer, of articles of plant or equipment for use at work or any article of fairground equipment to:

•    ensure that the article will be safe and without risks to health at all times when it is being set, used, cleaned or maintained;
•    carry out any necessary testing and examination to ensure that it will be safe, and;
•    provide adequate information about its safe setting, use, cleaning, maintenance, dismantling and disposal.

There is an obligation on designers or manufacturers to do any research necessary to prove safety in use. Erectors or installers have special responsibilities to make sure when handed over that the plant or equipment is safe to use.

Similar duties are placed on manufacturers and suppliers of substances for use at work to ensure that the substance is safe when properly used, handled, processed, stored or transported, to provide adequate information and do any necessary research, testing or examining.

Where articles or substances are imported, the suppliers’ obligations outlined above attach to the importer, whether a separate importing business or the user himself.

Often items are obtained through hire purchase, leasing or other financing arrangements with the ownership of the items being vested with the financing organization. Where the financing organization’s only function is to provide the money to pay for the goods, the supplier’s obligations do not attach to them.

3.9.3 Information for customers


The quality movement has drawn attention to the need to ensure that there are processes in place which ensure quality, rather than just inspecting and removing defects when it is too late. In much the same way, organizations need to manage health and safety rather than acting when it is too late.

Customers need information and specifications from the manufacturer or supplier – especially where there is a potential risk involved for them. When deciding what the supplier needs to pass on, careful thought is required about the health and safety factors associated with any product or service.

This means focusing on four key questions and then framing the information supplied so that it deals with each one. The questions are:

•    Are there any inherent dangers in the product or service being passed on – what could go wrong?
•    What can the manufacturer or supplier do while working on the product or service to reduce the chance of anything going wrong later?
•    What can be done at the point of handover to limit the chances of anything going wrong?
•    What steps should customers take to reduce the chances of something going wrong? What precisely would they need to know?

Depending on what is being provided to customers, the customer information may need to comply with the following legislation:

•    Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 and amendment 1994
•    Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
•    Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
•    Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002.

This list is not exhaustive.

3.9.4 Buying problems  


Examples of problems that may arise when purchasing include:

•    second-hand equipment which does not conform to current safety standards
•    starting to use new substances which do not have safety data sheets
•  machinery which, while well guarded for operators, may pose risks for a maintenance engineer
•    office chairs which do not provide adequate back support.

A risk assessment should be done on any new product, taking into account the likely life expectancy (e.g. delivery, installation, use, cleaning, maintenance, disposal, etc.). The supplier should be able to provide the information needed to do this. This will help the purchaser make an informed decision on the total costs because the risks will have been identified as will the precautions needed to control those risks. A risk assessment will still be needed for a CE-marked product. The CE marking signifies the manufacturer’s declaration that the product conforms to relevant European Directives. Declarations from reputable manufacturers will normally be reliable.

The supply chain

Figure 3.5 Inadequate chair – take care when buying second-hand.

However, purchasers should be alert to fake or inadequate declarations and technical standards which may affect the health and safety of the product despite the CE marking. The risk assessment is still necessary to consider how and where the product will be used, what effect it might have on existing operations and what training will be required.

Employers have some key duties when buying plant and equipment:

•    they must ensure that work equipment is safe, suitable for its purpose and complies with the relevant legislation. This applies equally to equipment which is adapted to be used in ways for which it was not originally designed;
•    when selecting work equipment, they must consider existing working conditions and health and safety issues;

•    they must provide adequate health and safety information, instructions, training and supervision for operators. Manufacturers and suppliers are required by law to provide information that will enable safe use of the equipment, substances, etc. and without risk to health.

Some of the issues that will need to be considered when buying in product or plant include:

•    ergonomics – risk of work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD)
•    manual handling needs
•    access/egress
•    storage, e.g. of chemicals
•    risk to contractors when decommissioning old plant or installing new plant
•   hazardous materials – provision of extraction equipment or personal protective equipment
•    waste disposal
•    safe systems of work
•    training
•    machinery guarding
•    emissions from equipment/plant, such as noise, heat or vibration.


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