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Beyond the bustling trading floors and high-stakes negotiations lies a realm where the well-being of employees and the protection of assets merge seamlessly with business excellence. In this article, we unveil the essential components of a robust health and safety framework tailored specifically for investment firms. From ergonomic workspaces to cybersecurity protocols, join us as we delve into the 8 key elements that ensure a harmonious symphony between wealth accumulation and employee welfare.

Regulatory Compliance and Legal Framework

In the context of health and safety management within investment firms, adherence to regulatory compliance and a robust legal framework stands as the cornerstone of a secure and responsible operational environment. Investment firms must meticulously navigate through an intricate web of industry-specific regulations and legal obligations, ranging from financial sector laws to occupational health and safety standards. 

By rigorously upholding these mandates, firms ensure the protection of their employees, clients, and stakeholders, while fostering a culture of transparency and accountability. A comprehensive approach to regulatory compliance forms the bedrock of a resilient health and safety management system, safeguarding the firm's integrity and sustaining long-term success.

Employee Training and Competency Development

Employee training and competency development form an essential pillar of health and safety management within investment firms. For instance, the NEBOSH National Diploma course on occupational health and safety ensures that employees gain the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate potential hazards, adhere to safety protocols, and respond effectively to emergencies. These initiatives encompass a wide spectrum, including workshops on risk assessment, first aid, cybersecurity awareness, and crisis management. 

By fostering a culture of continuous learning, investment firms empower their workforce to proactively contribute to a secure and health-conscious environment. This commitment not only enhances individual capabilities but also collectively strengthens the firm's ability to maintain a resilient and protected operational landscape.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation Strategies

Effective risk assessment and meticulous implementation of mitigation strategies are paramount in the realm of health and safety management within investment firms. Rigorous evaluation of potential hazards, whether they arise from technological vulnerabilities, market fluctuations, or physical workplace conditions, enables proactive identification and quantification of risks. 

Subsequently, tailored mitigation plans are devised and executed, encompassing preventive measures, contingency plans, and crisis response protocols. By employing this systematic approach, investment firms bolster their resilience against unforeseen challenges, safeguarding not only the well-being of their personnel but also the integrity of their operations and the interests of their clients and stakeholders.

Emergency Response Planning and Preparedness

Emergency response planning and preparedness constitute a critical facet of health and safety management within investment firms. Meticulously crafted response strategies, encompassing scenarios ranging from natural disasters to cybersecurity breaches, ensure a swift and coordinated reaction in times of crisis. 

By conducting regular drills, simulations, and training sessions, firms equip their staff with the skills to effectively manage emergencies, minimizing potential harm and operational disruptions. Such proactive measures foster a culture of readiness, enabling investment firms to navigate adversity with poise, protect their assets, and maintain the trust of clients and stakeholders.

Workplace Ergonomics and Physical Wellbeing

Prioritizing workplace ergonomics and promoting physical well-being is pivotal in the holistic health and safety management of investment firms. By optimizing office layouts, furnishings, and equipment, firms ensure that employees operate in ergonomic environments that reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and other physical ailments. 

Regular health initiatives, such as wellness programs, fitness facilities, and health screenings, empower employees to maintain their physical vitality. A balanced focus on ergonomics and physical well-being not only enhances individual comfort and productivity but also fosters a culture of care, promoting long-term employee satisfaction, retention, and overall organizational success.

Information Security and Data Privacy

Preserving information security and upholding data privacy stands as paramount consideration in the health and safety management of investment firms. Robust cybersecurity measures, including encryption, access controls, and intrusion detection systems, safeguard sensitive data against cyber threats. Stricter data handling practices and compliance with privacy regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, assure clients and stakeholders of their confidential information's protection. 

Regular audits, employee training, and incident response plans contribute to a fortified defense against data breaches. By maintaining a vigilant stance on information security and data privacy, investment firms bolster trust, prevent reputational damage, and ensure the continuity of their operations.

Mental Health and Stress Management Initiatives

Championing mental health and implementing stress management initiatives is of paramount importance in the health and safety management strategy of investment firms. Recognizing the demands of a fast-paced industry, firms prioritize employee well-being through counseling services, flexible work arrangements, and mindfulness programs. 

By promoting an open dialogue surrounding mental health, reducing stigma, and providing resources for stress reduction, firms create a supportive and inclusive environment. These initiatives not only enhance employee morale and engagement but also mitigate burnout and bolster overall resilience. Investing in mental health reaffirms a commitment to the holistic welfare of staff, fostering a culture of balance and sustained performance.

Continuous Improvement and Performance Monitoring

Embracing a philosophy of continuous improvement and diligent performance monitoring forms a cornerstone of health and safety management within investment firms. Regular assessment of safety protocols, incident analyses, and feedback loops contribute to refining existing processes and anticipating potential challenges. Through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and benchmarking, firms gauge the efficacy of their safety initiatives, identifying areas for enhancement. 

The data-driven approach not only facilitates proactive risk mitigation but also enables a responsive adjustment to evolving circumstances. By fostering a culture of adaptability and refinement, investment firms ensure the perpetuation of a secure and resilient operational landscape, underpinning their commitment to the well-being of employees and the organization at large.

The comprehensive integration of these key elements in health and safety management fortifies investment firms against a spectrum of challenges. By navigating regulatory complexities, nurturing employee well-being, and diligently addressing risks, firms cultivate an environment of security and accountability. The synthesis of ergonomic considerations, information protection, mental health support, and a culture of continuous improvement not only safeguards personnel but also enhances operational integrity. As investment firms prioritize these facets, they foster resilience, inspire confidence among stakeholders, and affirm their dedication to fostering a secure, sustainable, and thriving ecosystem for their employees and the organization as a whole.

1. Consider Your Brand And Business

When trying to pick a location, always consider the nature of your brand and the message you are trying to convey. For example, if you have a high-end boutique, it wouldn’t be wise to place it in a rural area or college town. It needs to be in an upscale area where the general population can afford your products. On the other hand, a fast-food establishment would probably do well in a college town. Experiment with pop up shops until you find the perfect spot.

2. Keep Safety In Mind

Find a safe location for your business. Every business owner must strive to operate a business where they feel protected. Your business is doomed if the employees and customers do not feel safe, and your assets may also be at risk. Avoid areas that frequently experience burglary and theft. 

3. Follow The Demand

Having your business be in demand is important, but you shouldn’t place yourself at the centre of the competition. Ideally, you want a location with some demand for your products or services that isn’t already saturated with competitors. You will want to choose a location where there is high demand for your product or service. This can be determined by research and market analysis. Look at demographic data and trends to see where people are moving and what they are looking for. If you can find an underserved market, you may have found a great location for your business.

Another way to find areas of high demand is to look for businesses like yours that are doing well. If you can find a successful business in a location that is similar to the one you are considering, there will likely be high demand for your product or service as well.

You also need to consider the competition when choosing a business location. It is important to find an area that is not already saturated with businesses like yours. This can be difficult, but it is important to consider if you want your business to be successful. Once you have considered the demand for your product or service, you can begin to narrow down your search for the perfect business location.

4. Consider Your Suppliers And Vendors

Find a location that makes connecting with your suppliers and vendors easy. If they are very far from you, there may be delays in your regular tasks. You may also have constant issues with your inventory levels. When exploring your options, settle for a site that puts you close to raw goods. 

5. Stay On Budget

Settle for a business location that fits your budget. In addition to the rent, think of location-specific expenses as well. Most locations come with hidden costs such as renovations, taxes, economic incentives, and minimum wage requirements. If you are running a mobile business, you still need to consider the cost of vehicle licensing and permits. 

Conclusion

Location is a critical consideration when starting a business. Keeping the above factors in mind will ensure you settle for the perfect location. Do not commit to anything before doing your research. Speak with other business owners and find out what your target clients want. Compare a few options and make sure you settle for the perfect fit. If you get the location wrong, nothing else you do matters. A well-informed location strategy can fuel your success. It can streamline all your other operations. 

Shifting your employees to home working at the start of the pandemic may have been difficult, given the speed at which it had to happen and the less developed understanding we had of COVID-19 at the time, but going back to the workplace is even more complicated. It requires employers to balance a number of factors, which are outlined here.

You need to keep your employees safe

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to prioritise the health and safety of your employees. This is also important purely from a business perspective, especially if you’ve supported them during the furlough period, investing in the long term retention of talent. Healthy adults of working age have a low risk of dying from the currently active strains of the virus, but there is also a risk of them suffering long-term disability due to long COVID, developing chronic lung problems, or developing a mental illness or neurological problem – something found to affect one in three infected people.

You need to be ready to run a minimal-risk workplace

Before you bring employees back into the workplace, you will need to do an assessment to work out how you can best implement social distancing and additional hygiene measures across your premises. Current government guidelines are that every on-site worker should receive at least two lateral flow tests per week to reduce the chance of infection spreading between employees, and anyone who has been in contact with an infected person should self-isolate, which means it’s a good idea to keep home working as an option. These measures apply even to fully vaccinated individuals.

You need to consider the impact of lockdown

On the flip side of this, spending a long time in lockdown has had a negative effect on many people’s mental health, and getting your employees back to normal – as much as possible – can itself be important to their well-being. It will be all the more important to use drug and alcohol workplace testing because addiction rates have risen during this time. You may need additional training options to brush up on neglected skills, and a more relaxed approach to short breaks in order to help returning workers readjust.

One size may not fit all

If you have employees who are at high risk from the virus, or who live with people at high risk, equalities law may require you to let them keep on working from home. There are advantages to this which go beyond their well-being, as their absence can make it easier to accommodate workplace social distancing. Bear in mind that a lot of people have lost loved ones to the pandemic and some of those people may not feel able to return to the workplace yet but may be happy to work from home.

It’s probable that we never will quite go back to normal after all this, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Smart employers will take the opportunity to make positive changes to how they go about their work.

These days, financial stability really sounds like an elusive subject. We indeed have bills to pay, and a life to lead. But, if we don't take a seat, analyze, and create a financial bucket list, then we risk living within the shackles of our obligations. Here are eight financial tips that can help anyone secure their financial future and enjoy financial stability.

Create a passive income

Financial stability is a result of hard and creative work. And if you want to enjoy it, then you need to get creative too. That said, we cannot always control our expenses and bills, but what we can actually control is how much income we realize. Generating more revenue to offset any financial obligations one may have been an excellent way to go. A passive income is any income you generate from a job or task you are not actively working at. There are many ways to get this done, and the most popular ones are through websites, rental properties, small online businesses, freelancing, online trading, and affiliate programs.

Live without debt

Debt is one of the many obligations capable of ruining anyone's shot at financial stability. If you are still living in debt, it is almost impossible for you to be stable financially, let alone secure your financial future. Do you have credit card debt, personal loans you are paying off, or mortgage to attend to? All of these are going to hinder you from leading a financial future and becoming stable financially. Hence, you have to be rid of any debt you may have before you look to become stable financially because, without that, financial stability will continue to elude you. There are different ways to tackle one's debt, depending on the terms and duration of the debt. From the traditional debt consolidation method to the highly effective IVA scheme, debt of any kind can be addressed and resolved.

Create a 3-month emergency fund

Whoa, that's a lot of money! Once you are done breaking the shackles of debt around you, the next thing is to start preparing for the future. And a 3-month emergency fund would be a great place to start. Emergency funds are there for the rainy days, which is why you need to have one today if you really want to enjoy financial stability. Think about it, instead of going to get a loan to deal with an unforeseen event; you can dip into your emergency funds.

Open a money market account

Preparing for the future doesn't necessarily mean preparing for the next few decades ahead; instead, your future could be tomorrow. And if you don't have a robust financial platform to rely on, you may find it absolutely difficult to attend to your existing financial obligations and emergencies. In that light, having a money market account is another vital requirement for anyone interested in experiencing financial stability. A money market account is quite similar to a standard savings account, albeit with higher returns and better access to your money. Checking with your local bank is a great way to research the ideal account for you.

Create a vacation account

The best time to visit your dream country is while you are on holiday. But how many people can fulfill this dream? And how many of those who eventually achieve this do so without getting into debt? Don't be one of them! Visit your local bank and create a separate account where you can stash little cash every month for your next vacation so that your next holiday wouldn't break the bank.

Improve your Credit and FICO Score

That you don't run a business today doesn't mean you may never be entrepreneur, and the fact that you have some cash in your emergency funds doesn't mean you will always be able to resolve every financial emergency that comes your way. Hence, it is always great to have a good Credit and FICO Score as you never can tell when you might need to obtain funds from external sources to either finance your big business idea or resolve your unforeseen emergency. Your FICO Score determines what sort of risk a future creditor is willing to take on you. Having a high, and above 700 FICO Score is quite feasible if you pay all your existing debt as at when due, keep credit card balances low, and pay your bills on time.

Have a retirement plan

Start saving for retirement today with a 401k or an IRA plan. You should talk to your financial advisor to determine which plan is best suited to your needs.

Authored by Uday Tank.

Uday Tank has been working with writing challenged clients for several years. His educational background in family science and journalism has given him a broad base from which to approach many topics. He especially enjoys writing content after researching and analyzing different resources whether they are books, articles or online stuff. 

Two thirds (66%) of people rate safe and secure payments as most important in the online checkout process, with only one in ten being most concerned about speed or simplicity. Security ranked highest across all age groups, and was a particular concern for over 55s (75%) compared to just over half of 18-24 and 25-34 year olds (52% and 53% respectively).

The survey, conducted online with YouGov, also revealed a further 76% of Brits would be willing to accept a slower or less convenient checkout experience in return for greater payment security. Meanwhile, almost half (45%) said security concerns about online payment processes were the reason most likely to put them off using a particular online retailer, more so than having to create an account (14%), a confusing process (8%), or too many steps during checkout (6%).

Keith McGill, head of ID and fraud at Equifax, said: “With more than 20% of retail revenues coming from online sales*, it’s positive to see so many consumers have security front of mind when they’re at the online checkout. The latest stats from Cifas do however show an increase in identity fraud** so it’s important shoppers remain vigilant. If you have any doubts about the professionalism of a website you should always think very carefully before entering your personal or payment details.

“New European wide regulations are on the horizon which will require two stage verification for any online purchase for more than 30 euros, similar to the security checks used for online banking. While this might feel like an extra hoop to jump through, it’s an important step forward in the ongoing battle to fight fraud.”

(Source: Equifax)

The concept of sharing is so far ingrained in our everyday that most of us couldn’t imagine living in a world where we can’t share a ride, couch-surf or leave our dog with a stranger at the tap of a screen. The advancement of the sharing economy, defined by Google as an economic system in which assets or services are shared between individuals, is a prime example of this.

In fact, per the Innovation Report 2018 published by Lloyds, the global sharing economy is expected to grow to $335 billion (approximately £261 billion) by 2025. That’s considerable growth in comparison to 2014, when the estimated size of the global sharing economy was circa $15 billion (approximately £12 billion.)

This isn’t surprising when in theory the sharing economy is supposed to save resources, strengthen regional and local communities, cut costs, enable consumption for lower income groups, increase investments and provide new jobs. However, while there is a plethora of benefits to the sharing of assets and services, there is also countless risks.

In analysing Lloyd’s innovation report, British marketplace OnBuy.com wanted to share how American and British consumers feel toward the sharing economy and what they believe the risks and benefits are.

To achieve this, OnBuy designed graphics to showcase data collated by Lloyds from more than 3,000 US and UK consumers as well as representatives from 30 sharing economy companies.

In terms of benefits, both American and UK consumers believe ‘it can be cheaper for users’ - the number one benefit to the share economy, at 60% and 58% respectively.

Thereafter, it is clear American consumers are more enthused with other benefits, such as ‘it is more convenient for users’ and ‘it provides more flexibility for users’ at 52% apiece.

Comparably, just 39% of British consumers believe ‘you can earn money from your assets when you aren’t using them’. While 43% of American consumers would say the same.

In terms of risks, American consumers believe ‘there’s a risk to personal safety interacting with strangers’ which is cited as the number one risk to the share economy, at 60%.

While British consumers are caught between ‘there’s a risk to personal safety interacting with strangers’ (44%) and ‘there is no guarantee of the quality of the service or facilities (44%) in sharing their opinions on the number one risk.

Other risk factors to consider include ‘people sharing their assets could have them damaged’ (American 46%; UK 42%) and ‘people sharing their assets could have them stolen’ (American 43%; UK 41%.)

Lastly, 37% of American consumers and 33% of British consumers agree ‘there aren’t sufficient safeguards or protections in place for users’ in the sharing economy.

Cas Paton, Managing Director of OnBuy.com, comments: “If the sharing economy is to reach the proposed $335 billion mark in 2025, the industry needs to thoroughly consider the opinions of consumers. Today, the way people spend money and interact with the everyday is changing. Companies need to match this change with innovative products which meet the needs and expectations of their customers.

To combat risk, Lloyds recommends sharing economy companies partner with insurers to enhance credibility, instil confidence and build trust to drive business growth and gain a competitive advantage. I truly believe this is the way forward. Especially considering 58% of American and UK consumers currently believe the risks outweigh the benefits of using sharing economy services.”

(Source: OnBuy.com)

These injuries resulted in a whopping 3.9 million working days being lost, costing the UK both money and productivity. It is naturally beneficially for both employees and employers to ensure that workplace safety is a top priority within their company in order to avoid any expensive accident at work scenarios.

Looking at safety equipment

For 2017/18, the construction industry suffered the highest amount of fatalities in its workforce, with 38 deaths recorded. Agriculture had 29 deaths, and manufacturing suffered 15 fatalities. These industries in particular often require certain safety equipment to abide by health and safety regulations – and wearing the equipment could separate your employees from a near death experience and a non-fatal injury.

One example is using a hard helmet on a construction site to avoid head injuries. If your staff fail to wear the required hard hat, any of those injuries could be a direct cause of not wearing the correct safety equipment. Protective glasses should also be worn by employees that are exposed to debris, dust and bright lights that could damage the employee’s sight.

There are so many protective pieces of clothing available now. These include steel toe cap boots, hi-vis clothing, safety gloves and noise cancelling headphones. Implementing a work policy that says your staff are required to wear safety clothing and equipment is the first step to preventing workplace injuries that could lead to fatal deaths or long-term work absences, which cost your company money.

Correct training for employees

For reducing risk in any industry, training your staff should be high on the list. Every employee should be briefed on the safest fire exits around the premises, as well as what the procedure is in case of an emergency. In fact, many premises are permitted to carry out practice fire drills to ensure all members of staff are aware of the routine.

There are a number of other safety areas to consider too. In the manufacturing industry, which is the third most dangerous environment for fatal injuries in the workplace, some job roles require particular training and qualifications to use machinery. Where hazardous or dangerous machinery is involved, staff must be trained on how to use it – and must use the correct safety equipment and clothing at all times. 135,000 of the 555,000 non-fatal injuries in 2017/18 led to over 7 days of work absence — providing your staff with the appropriate training could save you a big cost seen through a loss of working hours due to workplace injuries.

Individual employees may require further training too. For instances, some processes will need employees to gain the correct certification to be able to carry them out with reduced risk of injury. For example, in the construction industry, any employee who will be navigating a crane will require a Construction Plant Competency Scheme (CPCS) licence.

The benefits of audits

Internal audits are a beneficial way for companies to monitor the processes within their workplace in order to continuously improve them and look out for developing risks. For example, slips, trips and falls caused 31% of non-fatal injuries in the workplace in 2017/18. The main causes of slips, trips and falls in the workplace are uneven floor surfaces, unsuitable floor coverings, wet floors, changes in levels, trailing cables and poor lighting – all of which can be prevented or marked out safely if the proper regulations are followed. Legally, businesses must follow The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which stipulates that employers must ensure that floor spaces are in good condition and free from obstructions. Furthermore, the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 legally require businesses to provide and display the appropriate safety signs when there is a potential risk too – whether that is a wet floor sign, or signs indicating loose cables or exposed electric cables.

Safety measures are important for employee welfare, but they are also important in terms of protecting a company as a whole.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1718.pdf

http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1516.pdf?pdf=hssh1516

Digital transactions do not end at simple purchases. Cryptocurrency, online betting, and sending cash via the internet have all become popular recently. With the amount of money changing hands online, it is no surprise that hackers see this as an opportunity for identity theft.

Privacy was once the only concern for web browsers, but financial data security has taken a place on the list of essential things to consider when roaming the internet. Digital shopping and online transactions are not going away, so it behooves everyone to learn ways to protect private information.

Seemingly becoming more challenging by the day, internet security is possible. Hackers regularly find new ways to attack their victims but practicing internet safety and putting safeguards in place will help keep your information out of the hands of a cyber-criminal.

1.       Protect Your Privacy Using a VPN

The first thing any mobile device user should do is download a VPN app. While a VPN can be used on other devices like laptops or tablets, it is important to protect mobile devices, too.

People frequently connect to Wi-Fi in public places to conserve data costs, leaving themselves vulnerable. Hackers roam unsecured networks hoping to find an easy target. A VPN can create a more secure environment by encrypting data to and from your device.

2.       Practice Internet Safety

Social media has created an environment ripe for malicious cyber-attacks. Facebook and Twitter alone often provide hackers with all the information they need to infiltrate the privacy of an individual.

Being safe online is more than avoiding “sketchy” web areas. Avoid putting too much personal information on social media sites and keep your profile restricted to those you know. Decline unknown friend requests and think twice about liking every post you come across.

Hackers prefer easy targets, and many users make themselves very vulnerable by providing so much information online. These details can give hackers tips to decoding your passwords or usernames, which opens you up to a world of digital trouble.

3.       Pay Attention When Purchasing

Online transactions are here to stay, and it would be ridiculous to recommend someone avoid digital purchases. However, when buying online, you should pay attention to where you are shopping.

Small online businesses are popping up everywhere, and while they may offer unique and trendy items, it is important to validate their security. Never enter financial information on a site missing the “HTTPS” at the beginning of its URL. The “s” means secure and any site without it should be considered unworthy of your personal information.

Internet security is possible by practicing a little diligence and understanding that your information is valuable. Hackers prefer the easiest targets and creating a few blockades may prevent you from becoming a victim. Practicing safe internet behaviors can help you enjoy your online shopping experience safely.

Commuting to work has been a topic of many conversations. We all discuss and explore our options: walking, cycling, driving, car sharing, or staying with the good old public transport. For people working, offshore choices are limited and safety concerns are high and many. Reflex Marine Ltd, a company founded over 25 years ago, dedicates all its time and resources to developing and facilitating safe crew transfers by crane. FROG, Reflex Marine’s main product, found its way to all continents and their many offshore platforms, vessels and installations. FROGs helps transfer over a million offshore workers each year; it’s a simple yet safe, efficient and flexible way to reach your work post on the sea.

Earlier this month, we sat down with Sandra Antonovic, Chief Operating Officer for Reflex Marine and we talked about revolutionising marine transfer.

 

Maybe we could start by quickly summarising what is it that you do at Reflex Marine?

The role of Chief Operating Officer is a very complex and layered one in any company, maybe more so in Reflex Marine, because we are small in number of people (less than 20), yet we cover the market globally and are involved in all stages of product development, product testing, product manufacturing, product marketing, positioning and placement, and finally post-sale client support and service. The very essence of my job is understanding the market and the ways it grows, changes and/or shifts; creating a space for our company in that market and then making sure we deliver in the most efficient and effective way possible. It is an incredibly interesting, eclectic and multi-faceted job covering anything from designing, negotiating and closing a fleet deal with a major client, to looking at the cash flow or projected earnings.

 

How do you ensure you can effectively do your job without feeling overwhelmed?

People reach corporate or C-suite positions because they have the ability to stay focused regardless of what goes on, they can filter through the noise and they are able to make decisions in matter of seconds, if necessary. These people perform best in high-paced, very demanding environments, and they are able to deliver in the most strenuous circumstances. Their motivation, their drive and their stamina comes from within, not from the outside. Once your motivation starts depending on other people or circumstances, you are limiting yourself and what you can achieve. At the very beginning of my career, almost 25 years ago, I understood that growth, both personal and professional; but also the growth of a business; is all about willingness to accept responsibility and accountability, as well as about being comfortable outside your comfort zone.

 

A lot of people in the offshore industry, particularly offshore safety, say that Reflex Marine revolutionised marine transfer. What is it like to work for such a company, and how do you see that ‘revolution’?

Yes, you are absolutely right, Reflex Marine very much revolutionised the way people think about offshore crew transfer; and it certainly revolutionised marine transfer. Almost singlehandedly, Reflex Marine transformed marine transfer from an obsolete and risky operation to one of the safest methods of crew transfer offshore. We remained revolutionaries over the years, in how we do business, in how we approach the market and in how we keep reinventing ourselves; never forgetting our prime purpose: designing and delivering products that ensure the highest level of offshore safety.  Working for Reflex Marine has always been a great honour for me.

 

You say that Reflex Marine remained a revolutionary over the years. Could you please expand on that?

Reflex Marine has always been and always will be a company that pushes the boundaries and explores the unexplored, not just in what kind of products we design and manufacture, but in how we do it. When we talk about offshore crew transfer, it often sounds “either/or” – either you use helicopters, or you use crane transfer; either you use crane transfer, or you use gangway. In practice, in real life situations, things are never that black or white. Commuting to work onshore looks simple in comparison. Every morning we make a choice how to get to work – walking, cycling, taking the metro, or a bus, or driving a car. Going to work offshore doesn’t give us that many options, and the way of commuting is predefined by the operator. Helicopters are good for getting people from the port to remote installations in deep water; gangways are useful when we need to get large number of crew from a vessel to the platform; and then there is transfer by crane, which gives flexibility and cost effectiveness.  Thirty years ago, transferring people by crane had its challenges – people were transferred in net ‘baskets’, unprotected and exposed. “How can we keep the cost effectiveness and flexibility offered by crane transfer while ensuring people are safe and protected from impacts and harsh weather?”, was the question Philip Strong, Reflex Marine’s CEO and the person behind the FROG idea, kept asking himself as he embarked on a journey of improving safety of offshore crew transfer. Several years later, the first FROG was sold. The original FROG range was launched in 1999 and fifteen years later, the re-designed and re-engineered FROG-XT range was introduced to the global market.

 

Would you say that design and technical features helped your product differentiate itself on the market and would you say it helped you define the unique selling proposition?

Very much so. The FROG-XT Personnel Transfer Carriers (PTCs) are personnel transfer device designed to provide increased passenger protection when carrying out the transfer of personnel between vessels and installations. Crane personnel transfers are carried out for a wide variety of reasons including routine, urgent operational and emergency reasons. The FROG-XT can accommodate a stretcher to transfer injured personnel in a protected environment. ‘The FROG-XT comprises the following two main assemblies: firstly, the stainless steel outer framework containing polyethylene buoyancy panels; secondly, a spring-dampened seating assembly mounted on a central column. All materials have been selected specifically to minimise corrosion in the marine environment. The outer framework protects passengers from impacts and contains the buoyant elements which ensure the FROG-XT floats and is self-righting in water. The outer shell lands on four feet that provide shock absorption and ensure that the FROG-XT is stable on uneven surfaces or when landing on a heaving vessel. The outer shell also has four large open accesses that allow rapid unimpeded entry and exit. During transit passengers are seated and secured with full harnesses to protect them against whiplash and falling. Seating is mounted on a sprung carriage to provide protection against heavy landings. The lifting assembly is of a special design to prevent rotation.

Each Reflex Marine personnel transfer product is specified within the following controlled documents: » Build Manual – A controlled document with all relevant manufacture and assembly instructions and quality and documentation requirements; » Drawing Package – A complete listing of all pertinent drawings (in all pertinent to the model and revision); » Design Dossier – A controlled document with all relevant, design calculations and standards, risk assessments and compliance testing data; » User Manual – A controlled document with the required end-user information and maintenance and inspection requirements for use throughout the product life.

 

Safety of the transfer operation is both a function of the design and of the operation of the FROG-XT unit. The FROG-XT Design Dossier sets out to establish the performance expectations and define the safe operating envelop of the design and to understand the risks of operation and how these might be operationally mitigated and controlled.

There are large number of factors that affect the safe conduct of marine personnel transfers. These include crew skill and experience, met-ocean conditions, landing areas, vessel station keeping capability and response to sea conditions, visibility and line of sight. A combination of many factors will determine the risk involved.

 

What is the situation in the offshore industry generally, when we talk about safety in crew transfer?

Before Reflex Marine’s work began, there was no central database for marine transfer incidents. By collecting and analysing data spanning a 20-year period, the company was been able to isolate when and where these incidents happen. Crucially, this allows us to consider how best to protect personnel with the carriers we create. As expected, the study showed that most incidents happen on the vessel itself. Less predictable was the high level taking place during pick-up, which can result in serious injuries or fatalities, compared to those caused by heavy landing, which are more likely to result in minor injuries. From detailed analysis, it was found that many incidents are caused by the pendulum ‘swing factor’: an often unavoidable misalignment between the crane line and the transfer device. The research showed that the pivotal risk factors in transfers are equipment design and crane operating error. Very few incidents relate directly to the condition of the transfer device or crane; instead, the design of the equipment often has a powerful effect on its safety. A lack of training, planning and preparation was also a concern in a considerable number of the incidents studied. Using these findings, Reflex Marine tailored their carriers to address the specific risks crews face. With falls during pick-up causing serious injuries or even fatalities, Reflex Marine developed devices that offer additional safety measures. Passenger fall restraints are a design essential in all of their carriers, preventing loss of grip or dislodging. A protective outer frame and buoyancy panels reduce the dangerous effects of side impact, which frequently results from the pendulum ‘swing factor’. Reflex Marine also put in place comprehensive training programmes to encourage safe practice.

 

We touched a few times on a new market approach the company developed. Tell us a bit more about that.

Reflex Marine Ltd designs, engineers, manufactures and markets crew transfer carriers, also known as FROGs. The company was founded 25 years ago, and our dedication to safety and efficiency earned us over one million transfers per year, with over eight consecutive years without a lost time incident. We were always very focused on the quality and safety. The last oil price downturn, a few years ago, showed us that we need to be equally focused on the market and The Client.

Our core market has always been offshore oil and gas. IOCs, drilling companies, supply vessel companies. We never really looked elsewhere, at least not in the strategic, long-term way. The oil price was stable, purchase orders were coming through, market share sounded okay, and we carried on for years. Our main ambition was to improve our original FROG range; and we certainly did that with our FROG-XT range, launched back in 2014.

We were proud of our work and product innovation, delivered by our in-house designers and engineers. We were then, and still are today, the only manufacturer of personnel transfer carriers delivering the products developed and rigorously tested taking into the account different body types, impacts different operational transfer situations might have on a human body, human behaviour and weather conditions. FROG-XT range was tested using techniques and approach very similar to those testing a VOLVO car. We were keen to deliver the safest crew transfer option, and we succeeded. One question remained, though – how do we make sure we can continue our work amidst severe market fluctuations that are impacting our bottom line?

Looking back, the answer now seems obvious, but back in 2015 it raised a few eyebrows and meant the entire team had to get outside of their comfort zone. We decided to diversify to other offshore sectors. We started researching merchant shipping, tankers, VLCCs, ports, navy and coastal guard, and yes, LNG. The potential was enormous. Our decision to diversify triggered many changes in how we work and with whom. We were actively pursuing the market and we started creating our own opportunities through layers of activities: editorials and interviews; attending and exhibiting at large expos; speaking at conferences; organising webinars and using any and every other opportunity to share our knowledge and experience. We never chased contracts, we chased opportunities to share what we know, for free. We chased opportunities to discuss and debate; but most of all, we chased the opportunities to listen and learn.

The narrative became very important – the context – why did something happen, how did it happen, what caused it and so on. The company used to look at numbers only, revenue, expenses, manufacturing costs, overheads. Having a more corporate finance angle and approach the entire team started to appreciate the need and importance to have narratives accompanying every report, and to have an understanding of the context. We focused on analysis, on market research, on understanding our weaknesses and on working hard to mitigate the risks they could have created. We became very bold in our thinking; and it helped with the general attitude and team’s confidence.

We recognised that the market conditions changed. While that change started long before the oil price drop, it became evident and emphasised during the last oil price crisis. The cost of oil production offshore has always been high, so it comes as no surprise that oil operators and the industry’s supply chain generally made a lot of effort to reduce the time of exploration and production. What used to take two years, now takes eight months, and so on. For suppliers that meant only one thing – adapt, and do it fast. You have to reduce your lead time, your transit time, you have to lower the prices and you have to be available 24/7. Flexibility and responsiveness are the key ingredients.

Reflex Marine reduced the number of its employees by 30%, but increased productivity and responsiveness by 50-60%. We have a much better understanding of the global markets and we are able to see and comprehend the fine layers of the industry. We moved from a company that operates from 9-5 in one time zone, to a company that operates almost 24/7 in all time zones. It doesn’t mean people don’t sleep; it just means we do things in a very different way than we used to. The focus is on the outside, on the market, on the client, and on our role in helping them solve their problems. The change in focus changed everything for us.

Defining and developing a strategy for any region inevitably includes understanding the wider geopolitical context, market volatility, currency fluctuations, and inevitably, the oil price trend. Having that context helped us define and deliver the strategy that improves, strengthens and facilitates the operations of our clients.

 

What is the role of international agreements, regulations and bodies in understanding SWOT analytics and strategy planning?

International agreements, regulations and regulatory bodies can have quite a significant role in strategy planning and looking at SWOT analysis. One of the most recent examples is when Brazilian regulatory body for offshore operations changed the regulation on what types of carriers can be used to move people back and forth while working offshore. That change stipulates that people have to be seated, and we are one of two companies that manufactures personnel transfer carriers for seated passengers. Needless to say this change had and will have a huge impact on our strategy, from supply chain, manufacturing, post-sale approach, market communications and general focus.

 

What is next for Reflex Marine?

Keep innovating. Standing still is a terminal illness. We have a very defined idea on where we want to be two years from now, but also five and ten years from now. I see Reflex Marine as a company that will always be an innovator, both in products we place on the market, but more so in the approach we take and particularly, in how we execute our ideas. Execution will be the key, understanding the market and behavioural change is essential, without those things there is no real progress, no real revolution (laughs). I am confident and excited about Reflex Marine’s future.

 

Website: https://www.reflexmarine.com/

The chances are your organisation is adopting cloud computing in one way or another. Moving to the cloud can help you accelerate IT delivery, realize immediate productivity and financial efficiencies, and ultimately, drive business agility. But it can also open up the attack surface, leaving the entire organisation exposed to security threats. Here Andrew Lintell at Tufin explains the ins and outs of cloud security and offers valuable insight on making it as tamper proof as possible.

The adoption of cloud services is continuing its rapid upward trend, and the market is expected to rise 18% this year to $246.8 billion. Networks are becoming more and more complex as the modern IT infrastructure adopts private and public cloud platforms to make better use of an array of cloud services.

Yet public and private cloud services can present many challenges to chief information security officers (CISO) as they struggle to keep up with ever-evolving technologies and enrol multiple vendors to cater to different departmental needs – all in addition to the associated security risks against their businesses. Security leaders are aware that achieving business objectives depends on adopting security best practice across all levels of IT, including the cloud.

However, one of the problems is that some cloud services are being used without the knowledge of the IT department, bypassing security policies, and therefore the reach of enterprise security - otherwise known as Shadow IT. In fact, Gartner has predicted that by 2021, 27% of all corporate data traffic will bypass perimeter security (up from 10% today) and flow directly from mobile and portable devices to the cloud. This causes untold sleepless nights for CISOs and makes their job of managing and securing the use of rapidly multiplying cloud services across an entire, and often global organisation, a continuing battle. And to make things more complicated from a security point of view, many CISOs lack a single pane of glass view into their networks through which they can see and address risks.

With security now top of the agenda for organisations of all sizes, here we consider the primary challenges that CISOs need to address in order to close the security gaps that exist as they move to the cloud.

Improving visibility

While most enterprises have already adopted private, public cloud, and hybrid network technologies, one of the biggest resulting challenges for CISOs is that cloud environments are dynamic, with limited visibility. That lack of visibility is likely the result of ownership over virtual infrastructure in public clouds now being held by central enterprise IT teams. With the inclusion of the public cloud, networks are increasingly large, fluid in change, and complex, and so are the security policies needed to manage across multiple platforms and technologies.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that surveys consistently show that cloud security is an on-going struggle for IT security professionals, with many organisations reporting that it is difficult to get the same level of visibility into cloud-based workloads as they have on their physical network. Good data governance is key, and CISOs need to know where information is being shared and stored, and what cloud services the company might be using. One department might be daily users of Dropbox, for example, and another department might prefer to communicate and share files using collaborative tools such as Slack. Regardless of who is collecting the data, the points of data aggregation and storage need to be well documented and protected given the impending requirements, and penalties of non-compliance, with GDPR.

More often than not, enterprises decide to migrate their on-premises systems over time – a kind of ‘dipping a toe’ approach to public cloud platform adoption. Alternatively, they may also take to migrating to a private cloud (or hybrid network), to maintain a higher degree of control. Regardless of their choice between the public or private cloud – or some cases, both – the problem is that cloud migration adds to the complexity of the network and inhibits visibility across the network when introducing new vendors that bring with them increasing east-west traffic. To seamlessly map and consolidate the management of these platforms to avoid business disruption, enterprises must enrol the help of network security policy management across the corporate network to ensure visibility and consolidate the management of multiple tools.

Without visibility, it’s impossible for CISOs to enforce consistent policies and mitigate risks. Traditional security tools, like firewalls and intrusion detection systems, work effectively within an organisation’s four walls, but continuous manageability becomes difficult when it comes to adding additional tool providers necessary for the cloud. With a centralised view and management over a network through a single console, organisations can overcome the lack of visibility often associated with cloud adoption and simplify the management of security policies across multiple tools, mitigating risk and ensuring compliance across the entire enterprise.

Visibility also benefits from creating a risk ranking of the cloud services in use. This should include an assessment of whether a particular service has been breached recently, whether they encrypt data in transit and if their system has been patched or configured to address high profile threats like the infamous Heartbleed, WannaCry, or ExPetr, for example.

Ensuring compliance

As part of the process of moving data from a company’s internal system to the cloud, organisations are forced to examine closely how that data will be kept so that they remain compliant with laws and industry regulations. This raises a whole range of questions for security professionals. Where will our data be stored? Who is looking after it? Who will be able to see it and can we control that access? How secure is that cloud platform? Have we ensured that our deployments have been effectively and securely configured?

The type of data organisations is storing could be anything from intellectual property, to payment information, to personal data. Each data type has regulatory requirements to comply with. For example, the payment card industry data security standard (PCI-DSS) is a proprietary information security standard for organisations that handle card data, and the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the new legal framework in the EU covering personal data.

Data must be classified and organisations must understand what data is allocated to the cloud, and what may require a higher degree of storing in-house. Organisations must also know how - and where - data is being protected and backed up.

Gaining control

The complex IT environment that CISOs have to contend with today includes multiple endpoints subject to the fluctuations brought on by a wide range of mobile devices and desktops. End users are choosing multiple cloud vendors, but many of the features that make cloud-based applications so attractive, such as sync, share, and ease of collaboration, are the very things that put corporations at risk when it comes to cloud usage.

Securing hybrid environments requires CISOs to gain control of their security configurations in the cloud. Best practice revolves around developing a unified security policy with a detailed snapshot of the entire network, defining what type of data is in use and prescribing the appropriate measures for each type. When enterprises can quickly and accurately apply a policy – regardless of the environment – control and business agility is gained.

Finally, organisations need to control who has access to specific data sets. This means that as people come in and out of an enterprise, revoking access credentials is very important for former employees. The danger is that when people leave, they still have access to information stored through cloud providers.

Organisations need a seamless way to bring infrastructure, people, and processes together - a “single pane of glass” that can manage security policies and configuration across the whole network. With cloud infrastructure now increasingly commonplace, it’s important that organisations follow best practice such as this, to make the cloud security experience as safe, sound, and secure as possible. The alternative would leave infrastructures exposed to the security threats that lurk around every corner.

Turning our attention towards manufacturing, Finance Monthly reached out to Ray Torres – the President & CEO of Checkers Safety Group, a manufacturing business headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, dedicated to protecting people, assets and environment by providing revolutionary product designs and visionary safety solutions.

 

How would you currently describe the US’ manufacturing landscape, and what about in the safety product segment?

 The prognosis looks encouraging, we are seeing more products being “on-shored” and a focus on quality and reliability. Manufacturers that consistently perform are being rewarded with additional business opportunities from key customers. The importance of safety in the work environment is being elevated, which bodes well for safety product manufacturers.

 

What would you say clients look for as a priority in the products they look for, and how does Checkers safety meet those needs?

Our products are safety-oriented so they must perform their intended purpose at all times, without exception, meeting a high level of quality and durability. We are the only manufacturer of our specific niche products that has its products third-party tested and certified to perform as designed. After that, the next priority is availability, because when our customers need the products, they must have them now!

 

As a thought leader, how does Checkers intend to improve on those standards, and change the status-quo of this manufacturing segment?

We are always working on the next generation product, improving the performance while making them more user-friendly. For example, we have made our products lighter weight, while maintaining the strength and durability, so the workers can more easily manage the products – to avoid injuries and strains - while simultaneously improving their work environment and decreasing the environmental footprint on the manufacturing side. We use recycled materials, when we can, accounting for approximately 30% of our product sales.

 

 

How has the vision of the company changed over the years, adapting according to the markets and needs of clients?

We intentionally decided to expand our product offerings, by acquiring other manufacturing companies to offer a broader suite of products. Our focus is primarily to manufacture “ground-based” safety solutions, i.e., products that are typically on the ground and provide some element of safety for either people, assets (such as heavy duty vehicles and aircraft) and the environment. We have expanded our safety offerings to protect people, with our mats for professional use (Notrax®) and the environment, with our products for ground and Turf protection (TuffTrak® and Terraplas®). Our other two power brands, Monster® and Linebacker® provide safety solutions for assets and people, through our traffic safety, vehicle safety and cable management products.

 

As a thought leader and CEO of the firm, how do you believe you have had an impact on safety product manufacturing, and its market, in the US?

 We are viewed as the category leader in our product niches, usually setting the standard with the next generation products. Our competitors often try to emulate our products, without the requisite testing, product knowledge and manufacturing expertise, which only reaffirms our position in the market place.

 

What precedents would you say you and the company have set in the industry, and how do you intend to raise the benchmark further?

 We have the lightest weight products in wheel chocks, cable management systems and heavy duty mats that still provide the highest level of performance and durability. We continue to push the envelope with new technology, by incorporating LED and photoluminescence into new products. Our NoTrax® products are constantly evolving, to ensure the maximum comfort against fatigue and avoidance of slips and falls, while meeting the ever-changing needs of our customers.

 

Are there any regulations you would see changed to better the benefits of your products/services?

 We believe the move away from barricade lights in construction zones is a mistake. While reflective tape and barrels might be suitable when weather conditions are fine, they do not perform as well during poor weather conditions and create unsafe conditions for the workers and drivers. The cost of one accident, both from a personal and financial perspective, does not justify the “cost savings” to move away from barricade lights. In addition, we believe all electrical cables and wires should be protected in work areas where people are present, which is not currently the case, and the protection should be standardized, i.e., covering the cables with duct tape or draping a carpet over them is not enough and is extremely unsafe for everyone.

 

Outside of business formalities, how does Checkers support communities and society through partnerships and non-profit projects?

 We are passionate about being a responsible community leader and ensuring growth opportunities for our employees. We believe our social responsibility encompasses both the local and global community and model our social responsibility by partnering with non-profit organizations. In Colorado, we partner with A Precious Child, a non-profit that provides basic essential needs for disenfranchised and abused children or children living in poverty. Globally, we partner with Institute Univers, a K-13 school in Haiti, where we send mission teams for a week at a time to work on specific projects for the school, as well as provide clean water systems for the community around the school. These partnerships help the non-profits but simultaneously provide tremendous growth opportunities for our employees. Checkers provides the funding for these projects and allows its employees to volunteer without having to use PTO and vacation time.

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