Safety rules are godsend to consultant

HEALTH and safety rules pouring out of Whitehall have been manna from Heaven for a firm based in a church

A challenge to employers and a boon for workers, they are also a godsend for Personnel Health and Safety Consultants (PHSC), operating from a disused 19th century Methodist church in Aylesford.

Stephen King, formerly with Reuters, founded PHSC in 1990 and moved into the Grade 2 listed 1851 building three years ago. It had become too small for its previous owner Albatross Travel. The former Sunday School area is used for training.

The company advises on all aspects of the subject, from legislation to posture and ergonomics, from asbestos to the design of work stations and reduction of workforce stress.

The emergence of conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) -- King is an expert on the subject -- and the growing awareness of risks from asbestos and computers have helped the firm to grow.

The firm's wide client base even includes a lap dancing outfit with understandably complex health and safety issues. "You try doing it with no clothes on," said Paula Green, business development manager.

Mr King says that "just about everything" is covered by H&S legislation. He does not expect any imminent rules affecting occupational safety but laws are on the way affecting product safety and residential care.

He wrote the first guidance booklet on RSI and was deluged with requests for advice.

But Mr King, widely consulted as a leader in the field, is worried about the lack of control over health and safety consultants. At the moment, anyone can set up in the business.

PHSC acts as an outsourced safety advisor to several clients. Mr King said: "An external pair of eyes can bring additional credibility to what you're doing. If they are paying, they are much more likely to take notice and do something about it."

The firm employs 18 staff and is looking to expand by organic growth and acquisition. Turnover has grown to £1.2m and the firm is looking to take on about four more staff.

It recently joined the Ofex share exchange with a market capitalisation of £3m. Mr King claims it is the first health and safety consultancy to do so.

He recently appointed Graham Webb, the Kent-based heathcare entrepreneur, as a non-executive director to "bring a fresh perspective on the way we operate."

Mr Webb, a Kent Ambassador, said he was delighted to "play a part in the continuing growth of PHSC. It is a well-run company and I will have the opportunity to exercise my entrepreneurial skills in a new environment."

He told Kent Business that he had been offered other directorships but PHSC had especially appealed to him. "I hate doing anything 90 per cent," he said.

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