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Flexible approach to managing health and safety

31 May 2017

Importer and wholesaler of granite memorials, George Willcox has a fully equipped factory and state-of-the-art warehouse. To help ensure that its safety needs didn't lag behind the rest of the business, the company approached Southalls in 2010 to learn more about its health and safety support and safety management system, Safety Cloud.

Staffing numbers at George Willcox had increased in recent years; warehousing and distribution had grown and investment made in specialist surface polishing and cutting machinery.

Ian Hatherly, operations director at Southalls, explains: “At the time the workforce had become set in their ways when it came to health and safety concerns; they were reluctant to change and more interested in ‘getting the job done’. Our expertise was needed to help kick-start the process of positive change and crucially, to help gain the confidence of the staff.”


Annette Bellamy, HR and safety manager, George Willcox, explains: “The first priority I placed upon Southalls was to gain the respect and trust of the staff. We had many employees who had been with us for a considerable time, some for more than 20 years.”

Another key consideration was to ensure that George Willcox was effectively meeting health and safety regulations. This meant putting the processes in place for gathering information in the event of a future claim, enabling it to be used to help notify insurers or meet regulatory requirements to report under RIDDOR. (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). 

Finding the time to conduct and review risk assessments had proved difficult. These documents were kept on the shelf, with no easy way to communicate the findings to staff for example, while training certificates and maintenance records were also stored in filing cabinets.

Bellamy continues: “The daily routine became plagued with rummaging through files, creating spreadsheets and manually renewing and devising training records. It also meant we had become reliant on maintenance contractors, hoping we hadn’t missed a training, maintenance, inspection or repair date.”


Southalls responded by devising bespoke courses to help engage staff, so they were updated not only on the legislative changes but also on their own changing work environment. Prior to any training course, for example, research was undertaken to ensure that accidents and near misses over the year were included, so that it remained relevant at all times. The introduction of job specific manual handling courses meant that staff were educated and protected in their day-to-day environment.

Southalls’ Safety Cloud, a flexible health and safety management system, was adapted to suit Willcox Granite’s industry specific needs as follows:

  • Bespoke managers’ monthly audits 
  • Health surveillance questionnaires relevant to granite dust exposure, noise, musculoskeletal disorders and skin.
  • Bespoke staff handbooks with accompanying quizzes to support granite industry needs
  • Industry specific e-learning easily accessed with staff logins

Bellamy, continues: “I have been particularly impressed with the online system which has made a considerable difference to our ability to stay in control of the numerous safety issues that continually require attention.

“For example I have a complete record on each member of staff. I know exactly what machinery they are authorised to use, and the training they’ve undertaken. Accompanying training certificates are also easily attached to each record meaning that hard copies are no longer required. Reminder emails are automatically sent when training is due for renewal.”

Records and risk assessments continue to be regularly reviewed and updated, often before the company’s management had the time to recognise it was even necessary. Most importantly, since the introduction of the Southalls’ team to the business, there has been a continued reduction in accidents. 

As a result, George Willcox has never believed it necessary to employ an in-house health and safety manager. Bellamy said: “Southalls’ responses, regardless of the importance of the questions, are immediate and effective. I have complete confidence that they have all matters in hand, they take their own responsibilities seriously as if reporting to me directly.”

Southalls continues to work closely with the management team to ensure that the business operation is considered at all times. Training remains relevant and health and safety KPIs are always met. This approach has encouraged close co-operation throughout the company and guarantees continued support by all.