The networker16 May 2023

SAFed pressure lifting equipment networking Caroline Hamilton, chief executive of the Safety Assessment Federation

If society could be described as a network of connections between individual people, industry is defined as connections between companies and organisations. Facilitating relationships with government and information exchange at a higher level than individual businesses are trade organisations. Here, Caroline Hamilton, chief executive of the Safety Assessment Federation (SAFed), explains its approach to networking

SAFed is the trade association representing the independent engineering testing, inspection and certification sector and works collaboratively with many bodies and trade associations, in order to consider different stakeholder views, according to chief executive Caroline Hamilton. The association’s members perform statutory inspection work, such as that required for in service pressure or lifting equipment, and also has members from approved bodies that conduct product conformity assessment before a product is placed on the market.

Hamilton observes: “A lot of what SAFed does is driven by our members; they are the main body of resource working within technical committees [that] we host and manage. On the periphery of them, the secretariat – myself and the technical manager – manage other interactions, which will be activities and actions that we need to take away and bring back for the purpose of a technical committee activity. I’ve started to compile a stakeholder breadth and depth database.

“We work with for example the SOE – and other professional engineering institutes – because their members are the individual employees of our member organisations. The individuals will be a member of a PEI if they want to work towards professional registration. For our sector, SAFed members are better recognised as they are supported in the attainment of competency, via structured management systems and a recognised scheme for achieving competence. In turn, a professional registration route is an excellent means of demonstrating professional competence. So we have these links; sometimes they are not obvious or tangible, but really they are there once you start to have a good look at them. The amount of interactions we have with other organisations isn’t just to do with engineer surveyor work; it’s to do with them and their competency.”

Hamilton adds, “We’re always trying to work with others that can bring the views of alternative stakeholders to our technical committees.” In relationship to its pressure equipment work, other organisations it works with include the British Compressed Gas Association, Liquid Gas UK and the Engineering Equipment and Material Users Association. In the area of lifting equipment, close working partnerships have been forged with bodies including the Lift and Escalator Industry Association, Construction Plant-hire Association and Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association.

Also, Hamilton herself recently took the role as chair of the policy advisory council and policy advisory forum of UKAS, the country’s sole independent verifier of companies conducting inspection, testing and certification bodies working to the associated ISO17000 series standard. SAFed also participates in UKAS’s topic-specific technical advisory committees, in engineering inspection and non-destructive testing.

Says UKAS operations director Paul Greenwood: “I see the role of trade associations to gather that information and bring it to UKAS in committees, forums, councils, and that is what [Hamilton] and her team are doing.”

Describing UKAS’s certification work, Greenwood says: “There are so many different systems in operation and so many different environments.” This includes work for the UK gambling commission on e-gambling internet sites, healthcare, oil rigs, doping in camel racing in the Middle East, a potato library in Uruguay, banking, forensics, drinking water. He continues: “All of these have KPIs and we use top-tier standards. It’s not just technical compliance, but also how the body is formed. Have they got integrity? Have the people impartiality? What about finances? Do they have the resources to do what they need? How do they interact with the whole sector?”

He spoke at a SAFed conference in autumn 2022, as Greenwood explains: “Not just to give a presentation, which was quite generic. It was more in outreach, and providing an opportunity for social situations, and [to provide] a chance to collar someone in a senior position and bend their ear. It gives people an opportunity to feed back at a higher level, in case information was not getting through to the top.”


Indeed, Hamilton contends that, in addition to being informed, top-of-the-tree organisations such as UKAS also need to be held accountable.

And, she goes on, a trade association is an ideal organisation to do this job, because it sets standards for the industry and directs its members to abide by them. As such, it puts forward a collective industry approach, rather than a single company view, that is accountable also to the law.

Also invited to the event was a representative of the HSE. SAFed also has a close working relationship with the UK enforcement body as a result of HSE attendance and participation in the SAFed technical committees. And the benefits work both ways, Hamilton adds. “I think that because enforcement is what it is, it’s after things have happened; the HSE presents a particular set of skills in post-incident investigation. We’re an industry that appreciates that aspect of the HSE, because we are part of the approach to keep people safe; our members’ activity is for continued safe use. Therefore, what we are keen to work with them on this; what do they know that we don’t? They are seeing the enforcement activities, so they are seeing it when it goes wrong, and therefore what can we learn from information they are allowed to share on themes and topics that we can take back into our committees and consider in our work.”

Hamilton adds that these cross-group communications can help prevent misunderstandings. “When you add into discussions different stakeholder opinions, you can understand how things are implemented or delivered from different points of view. You are then able to reconsider your position or your thoughts.”

Sometimes, Hamilton adds, these conversations remind every actor of their part in the bigger play of industrial safety. “It’s reminding people that they have a particular role and so have we. Enforcing authorities have a duty, the authority and responsibility to enforce the law and do so by responding to breaches, via investigation, possible prohibition notification and potentially enforcement actions. Whereas SAFed members undertake inspection activities as competent persons, interpreting the relevant regulations on behalf of clients, in order to ensure their legal compliance, regarding periodic equipment scrutiny. The law [sets] the parameters within which we all have to work.

“That’s the thing about being held to account; everyone is mindful of their role and what part they have to play in the bigger picture. But actually if we all work together it can work really well.”

Caroline Hamilton

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