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New Year resolutions

06 January 2011

The head of one of the UK’s six main business groups has warned that smaller companies face a ‘challenging’ year ahead. In his New Year statement, Forum of Private Business chief executive Phil Orford writes that many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will continue to experience tough times in 2011 for a variety of reasons, not least being the spectre of reduced public spending, the increasing costs that businesses have to bear while attempting to maintain prices for their customers, and that cash flow demon - late payment.

Mr Orford also warns that the government must fulfil its pledges to cut red tape in the workplace if it wants smaller businesses to replace the jobs that will inevitably be lost in the public sector, adding that a long-overdue simplification of the tax system would also encourage more companies to expand. He argues that, despite current levels of unemployment, many SMEs still struggle to recruit people with the right skills and knowledge, so a refocusing of the education system would also come as a boost to smaller firms.

While Britain crept out of recession in 2010, Mr Orford believes that many small businesses will find the year ahead even more challenging as they try to grow, creating the jobs lost in the public sector and driving economic recovery. “Removing the barriers to growth created by tax and red tape must be a cornerstone of emerging enterprise policies,” he says. “We are pushing for the UK’s complex tax system to be simplified and complying with regulation to be made more proportionate for small firms. Employment law, in particular, must cease to be a barrier to job creation and should be rebalanced more in favour of employers – and the majority of the workforce – not just individual employees.”

The Forum is about to launch a campaign for 2011 aimed at improving the fortunes of both its members and the wider SME community. ‘Get Britain Trading’ will highlight the huge contribution smaller businesses make to the British economy, and will call on SMEs across the UK to get their voices heard and help the Forum lobby top-level decision-makers on their behalf. Mr Orford wants the contribution small firms make to the economy to be recognised and urges government to place their interests and concerns at the heart of its enterprise policies for 2011. He promises a truly interactive campaign so look out for more information on the website.

Social media for engineers
PDC Internet Solutions is urging engineers to embrace social networking. The company is currently delivering a series of Internet marketing and social media training workshops aimed at engineering professionals who may either harbour a degree of scepticism about such things or who are interested to learn what social media can do for them and their businesses.

The workshop presents tips and methodology for the promotion of products and services, and includes demonstrations of Internet marketing techniques, many of which are free and easy to use once you are shown the ropes. PDC managing director Paul Bromby – an engineer himself – says these 'hands-on' workshops are designed to teach participants how to manage Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and ultimately achieve success through the use of these resources.

Social media sites are the fastest growing on the web, doubling in traffic over the last year. According to Mr Bromby, social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are having a major impact on the way people build business relationships and make purchasing decisions. Review sites like Qype, for example, are becoming increasingly popular with engineers and technicians and can have a significant influence on customer decisions. And search engines such as Google are now using sites like these to contribute to web site rankings.

So why should engineers who aren’t already hooked, resolve to participate in social media in 2011? Mr Bromby suggests three reasons: they generate more exposure in chosen business sectors; they build new and existing business relationships and, as a result, increase traffic to the company web site. For more information about PDC and its workshops click here.

A New Year message from the HSE
Health & Safety recruitment consultant Allen & York reminds us that employers across the UK are being urged to make health and safety their top priority in the New Year. The call comes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has issued the alert to regions throughout the country, outlining the number of injuries and fatalities per region. The regulator is warning that despite the total number of work-related fatalities being at a record low, there should be no room for complacency.

Speaking at a regional event in Torbay on New Year’s Eve, HSE South West regional director Terry Rose said that employers cannot be complacent. “They must stay vigilant and learn the lessons from the past to ensure they protect their workers in the future....Putting in place simple, straightforward health and safety measures can save lives. It is not good for companies or their workers if they are off through an injury or ill-health.”

Across the nation in 2009/2010, 152 workers were killed while at work, a rate of 0.5 per 100,000 workers. Some 121,430 other injuries were reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), a rate of 473 per 100,000 workers. According to the Labour Force Survey, 233,000 reportable injuries occurred, a rate of 840 for every 100,000 workers.

Commenting on Lord Young’s recent report, which sets out views on how to make health & safety less bureaucratic and less time-consuming, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) honorary vice president Lord Brougham and Vaux would like to see greater clarity on how this might be achieved without compromising health and safety standards. “Here, the devil is in the ambiguity,” he says.

And it is spending cuts enforced by the new government that have been suggested as making it difficult for employers to enforce tighter health and safety protocols. As Bruce Phillips, chair of the IOSH’s Public Service Group points out, while the government’s review of health & safety is to be welcomed, it comes at a time when workers in the public sector fear for their livelihood. There is concern that spending cuts alongside the review of health and safety could potentially mean a decline in standards.

Les Hunt

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