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How SMEs can afford essential health and safety training

The one-year anniversary of the new global standard for health and safety in the workplace is a reminder of the importance of this area of business operations. However, compliance comes with a price tag. Alternative finance can help small business afford the cost.

Just over 12 months ago, ISO 45001 was launched as the first globally-agreed standard for health and safety management in the workplace. It replaced OHSAS 18001 and is aimed at helping to decrease the number of work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses.

The process of ISO 45001-adoption is ongoing, with all businesses expected to eventually migrate to the new standard. One of the main benefits of the new certification is its status as a truly international standard.  This is particularly pertinent for UK businesses given the current chaos surrounding Brexit and the uncertainty over the future application and value of UK standards (OHSAS 18001 is a British standard).

In short, a UK business is in a stronger position it is has ISO 45001 certification, in particular if it is engaged in international trade activity. Indeed, as time goes on, the failure to hold this international standard is likely to have an increasingly detrimental impact on doing business – more and more companies, especially large organisations, will only consider partners that hold the most up-to-date certification.

The effect on future trading opportunities aside, the introduction of the new standard is an opportunity for small businesses to review their health and safety framework and upgrade it if needed. The benefits of ensuring a safe working environment go further than trading opportunities – for example, more and more businesses are recognising that high standards of health and safety translate into more engaged, more productive employees, which has a tangible impact on company performance.

Of course, reviewing and upgrading health and safety frameworks, and complying with standards, comes at a cost. For instance, a review may identify a skills gap that requires staff training to fill. While large organisations have the resources to take such steps in their stride, the process can be more financially stressful for smaller firms.

This is where alternative finance can help.

In the wake of continued caution from traditional lenders, alternative finance services such as invoice finance, asset finance, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding are providing small businesses with an alternative means of accessing capital for essential investment, such as in health and safety training.

This is how a Sussex small business used peer-to-peer lending, through a commercial finance broker that specialises in alternative finance, to raise the capital to invest in new resources.

Illustrating the important place alternative finance has in the small business finance landscape is news that invoice finance and asset finance returned to growth in Q4 2018. Total advances rose by £100 million compared with the previous quarter and by 2.4% with Q4 in 2017.

It is essential that businesses of all sizes maintain high standards of health and safety, and the value of ISO 45001 is being increased by the current confusion surrounding Brexit. For small firms to position themselves strongly, they need to be aware of all the finance options available to them, including alternative finance.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact Steve Bowles on 01903 602211 or steve.bowles@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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