Home Forums Quality The dichotomy between cheap and substandard and its relevance to HSE

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    Kayode Etti
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    One of the major barriers to an efficient management of Health and safety is Resources. When I say resources i mean Time, personnel and materials/equipments. Each of these resources have financial implications for an organisation.
    In the attempt to reduce the extent of this financial responsibility, organisations go for ‘substandard’ resources in the disguise of it been ‘cheap’.
    These two words have been used interchangeably for so long that organisations are beginning to convince safety professionals that they are one and the same.

    I’m sure most of us are familiar with that look on the procurement managers face when you give him your budget for safety materials. In other to save face when a safety professional get quotations from different companies he/she becomes more concerned about the amount than the actual product or service. In other words they confuse cheap for substandard.

    That brings me to the main purpose of this article which is the dichotomy between cheap and substandard and its relevance to Health and safety.
    What is the meaning of the word ‘cheap’? and what are the standards to look at before we classify something as cheap ?

    CHEAP simply means getting a particular product or service for a low price after a reasonable bargain especially in relation to similar items or services. So before you classify something as cheap in comparison to a product or service, it has to be the same product(content) or service in terms of both quality and quantity.

    Anything short in quality to a particular product or service, no matter the price cannot be consider as cheap but ‘substandard’. Therefore a substandard product or service is a product or service that is of inferior quality.

    Now that we know the difference between the two, lets talk about the relevance of thier dichotomy to Health and safety; safety professionals need to educate thier collleagues and employers about this dichotomy so that they understand that there are two different products/services , not just two product or service with different prices and the implications of working with substandard resources.

    Imagine purchasing a substandard non conductive safety gloves for your team of electricians,substandard lifting equipments, gas tester, safety harness etc. What this means is that these equipments do not have integrity and therefore they display false capacity like safe working loads.

    One of The greatest safety threat an individual can face is having a false sense of safety and this is exactly what substandard goods give its users.
    Imagine confidently working at height with a substandard harness, working on electric appliances with substandard non conductive gloves or even worst using a substandard gas tester;there is possibility of getting false results, which means whatever control measures you put in place with this information is almost useless.

    Though this article is focused on purchase of materials, employing incompetent staff for less remuneration should be considered as ‘substandard’ and not cheap.
    Substandard goods are like every other hazard in the workplace. They pose a risk of failure to the user, that in combination with false sense of safety is likely to lead to very dangerous incident.

    KAYODE ETTI

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