This article originally appeared in the autumn 2017 edition of Telegraph magazine. Read it online now.
Reducing and removing risk is a core priority for organisations of all sizes. Lucy Mowatt speaks to Thea McCormack about how the services of Alan Boswell Risk Management helps to keep Potters Resort on track
It’s mid-July, the sun is shining and Potters Resort is buzzing. The popular Norfolk holiday destination can accommodate more than 800 guests at capacity, while also catering to visitors at its Black Rock Grill restaurant, on-site theatre and conference centre.
And with nearly 600 members of staff on-hand to attend to their every need, each guest is guaranteed the perfect getaway 365 days a year.
Overseeing the smooth running of this well-oiled machine is Managing Director John Potter and Director of Human Resources Thea McCormack. Having worked for the family business for more than 16 years, Thea is responsible for the health and safety of every individual on site.
To manage the scale of the job, Potters Resort has enlisted the services of Alan Boswell Risk Management, with specialist advisers John Neil and Gavin Dearsley heading out to Hopton-on-Sea at least once a quarter to provide ongoing support and advice.
“Outsourcing to Norwich based risk management business Alan Boswell Group [ABG] is definitely a weight off my shoulders,” Thea explains. “It gives us more confidence and a robust approach to our risk management. Yes, there are things we need to complete day to day, and yes, we try to stay on top of changes in legislation and updates to best practice, but ABG gives me confidence, because I’ve got someone at the end of the phone with the expertise I need to ensure everyone at the resort is safe.”
Outsourcing risk management to Alan Boswell Group is definitely a weight off my shoulders. It gives us more confidence and a robust approach
With so much to oversee, Thea’s biggest challenge could be any one of 100 things, but when asked what it is, she doesn’t hesitate to respond.
“People!” she laughs. “We’ve always got to take the human factor into consideration; you can never quite account for what might happen when that’s involved.
“Plus, the risk assessment process for a resort of this size and all of the activities we provide is hard. Ensuring that documentation doesn’t go out of date, or that we don’t miss anything is a key challenge – it’s an ongoing process for a business of this size.
“Thankfully, we get step-by-step guidance from Gavin and John,” she continues. “They’re very good at putting it into layman’s terms, so when anything is technical, they help us find practical solutions. John sends us an action plan that we distribute to our team and make sure that it’s actioned. They support us and ensure that our audit trail is complete.”
Although Thea is responsible for risk management overall, she explains that the whole resort has a proactive approach to maintaining health and safety standards. Not only does each department manager take an active role in the health and safety of their teams and areas, but each department also has its own health and safety representative. Plus there is a monthly senior management meeting focused on removing risk.
“We have a structured agenda for each meeting and we’ll cover off mandatory training and updates,” Thea explains. “The managers are very much involved in the risk assessment process, so at least once a year we’ll sit down and go through them in detail. We talk about any processes, procedures and equipment to make sure everything is up to date. And the health and safety rep or manager will be involved with that process, so they can implement training and update the rest of the business.
“The teams help us to keep risk management alive within the company. We communicate with them at all times; we share information and make sure everyone is notified of any relevant changes to processes.”
When asked about the training requirements of a business of Potters’ size, Thea explains that much is completed in-house.
“We do outsource some of it,” she adds. “John and Gavin have given us guidance on the types of training needed and pointed us in the direction of companies and contacts that can provide specialist education.”
No business is standard
Of course, there are instances when advice is needed between John and Gavin’s visits. Having expert advice at the end of the phone is essential because new scenarios play out every day.
“We don’t have to call them often, but advice is available if we need it. For instance, we’ve recently installed a giant swing at the resort,” Thea explains. “Although we were confident that it met British Standards, we had some queries about the set up and whether there were any other precautions we needed to take. We called John straightaway and asked him to review it. He sent out a member of their engineering inspection team, who assessed it for us and gave us some feedback. We’re now happy that we’re exceeding the regulations.”
Of course Potters Resort is different to other companies, not least because it is open 24/7, all year round. In spite of the demands this places on the business, Thea is confident that guests can arrive on their short breaks and not see anything that would give cause for concern – and if there is, it gets followed up the minute it’s reported.
“We have a very positive health and safety culture as a business and that’s reflected in the claims we’ve had. We’re very transparent. Health and safety can have an impact not just on an individual, if they were to have a serious accident, but it can also damage our reputation.
“Plus, if you look at it from a cost and asset point of view, if we were to have a major incident it could cause millions of pounds of damage. I sleep much better at night knowing that there are people supporting us and making sure we’re doing what we can to ensure it never happens. And if it does, it’ll get sorted.”
Potters Resort is host to a number of events throughout the year, bringing a range of additional risks with them. The biggest event in the calendar is arguably the annual World Bowls Championships, which takes place every January.
“The bowls attracts an older clientele,” Thea explains. “We do have more trips and falls with that audience profile. Not only that, but we have a higher volume of people in quite a compact area, so that has to be taken into consideration.
“John Neil has reviewed our World Bowls Risk Assessment and we work closely with our third-party suppliers to ensure they’re compliant too. For instance, we have a company that comes in and sets up all of our stadium seating. They have their own risk assessments that we check and sign off.”
All sewn up
The services of Alan Boswell Risk Management sit alongside the commercial insurance provided by the wider group, covering any risks that the business can’t mitigate.
Says John Potter: “Alan Boswell Group has been so supportive both in placing risk and managing it for me. They studiously looked at our overall sums insured and identified some areas of the business that were potentially under-insured.
“In fact, I was unaware of the risks and potential shortfalls I was carrying. They took the time to explain it to me in simple terms and make suggestions to improve that situation so that, in the event of a major disaster, they would have saved my bacon.”
Ultimately, insurance is there as support in the event of an incident, which is when the quality of the cover comes into its own. Often with delegated authority, ABG can usually resolve claims quickly, without reverting to the insurer, streamlining the entire process.
“The other person I speak to is [Claims Consultant] Sharon Theobald,” Thea states. “She is my liaison on any claims that need to be made – not that we
“The claims process is really easy. I’ll ping Sharon an email with a brief overview of the incident, along with any relevant paperwork. She will work with her colleague Paul to do all of the follow-ups. They deal with anything from our point of view.
“I’m confident I can get hold of someone if I need to. Sharon has given us permission to give her details to anyone who may make a claim. She’s happy to have conversations with them if needs be. She sits between us as a company and the individual when it comes to injury claims.
“I would absolutely recommend using Alan Boswell Group. An insurance broker and risk management company based in Norwich, they are approachable and a great group of friendly people. As I’ve said before, they put things into terms that you can understand, that are useful for the business, and they offer practical solutions while also ensuring that we’re compliant with legislation. I would recommend them to anybody.”
An exceptional approach to health and safety
With more than 40 years’ experience in the industry, Risk Management Adviser John Neil has seen his fair share of risks and accidents. He gives us more background on working with Potters Resort
Our relationship with Potters Resort began in 2010. I was asked to prepare a report into risk management when we started to handle their insurance.
They weren’t getting that service from their previous insurance broker and there were a few changes to be made at the outset.
Since then, we’ve carried out a quarterly safety review across the site for the whole gamut of risks, including trip hazards, hygiene and machinery.
Our engineering inspectors, Gary and Terry also go out to complete their statutory checks on machinery to keep them compliant with legislation.
In fact, when they had a giant swing installed they asked us to make an additional visit. Although it met with British Safety Standards, Gary spotted that there were further adjustments to be made to make it even safer. Thea and the team didn’t think twice about making the changes.
They’re superb to work with. They follow our recommendations and over the past seven years the number of incidents has declined. Thea and the team understand that not only is individual safety at risk, but also the reputation of the resort.
They follow our recommendations and over the past seven years the number of incidents has declined
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: it takes years to build a brand and seconds to destroy it – risk management is an important part of maintaining a positive reputation.
Potters Resort takes an exceptional approach to health and safety. There are always challenges, especially on a site of its size, and there are costs involved, but they’re proactive. They have a scheduled plan and they prioritise effectively, so the biggest risks are handled immediately.