Watch out for misleading sales calls

Jul 03, 2013

Misleading sales callIt's happening again. Or still. A business receives a phone call or visit from someone checking on a compliance matter. The person may be friendly or aggressive, but either way, the business is left with the impression that it may be falling short on its legal obligations. And guess who has the solution?

To protect your business from misleading or aggressive sales tactics, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) regional director Harry Stewart offers tips below on how to ensure you're always in compliance. “Effectively managing legislative compliance can be a business advantage,” says Stewart. But first, read about one WSPS customer's experience.

Nicole Owens, owner of Cup of Tea Bakery in Whitby, ON, recently received a call from someone who asked to speak with the person in charge of health and safety. “Then he asked the status of our WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) training, and whether I knew there was an annual training requirement. He seemed to be testing my knowledge of government requirements. He didn’t specifically say he was with the Ministry of Labour, but I had the impression that somehow I had done something wrong and hit the ministry's radar. As the call progressed, I realized the person was a telemarketer and felt that I had been played.”

Owens ended the call and approached a contact at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, who explained that the WHMIS regulation does not require workplaces to conduct annual training. Instead, it requires workplaces to review its WHMIS program annually and provide training if testing reveals gaps in knowledge or when the business introduces a new hazardous material. The difference is subtle but significant.

This wasn't the first time Owens had been approached by someone who wasn’t quite what he claimed. A person who came by the business said he was representing the local fire department and had to inspect any fire extinguishers. Owens didn’t fall for it. This had all the earmarks of a known scam in which the person takes the fire extinguisher to their vehicle, ostensibly to examine it, and returns with a bill for services that hadn’t been agreed to.

Other common misrepresentations involve

  • forklift training claiming to meet license requirements that do not exist.
  • basic certification training delivered by companies that are not government-approved providers.
  • “official” for-fee posters claiming to satisfy posting requirements under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act or Occupational Health and Safety Act. Buying posters from a supplier may be convenient, but they’re often available at no cost from government websites.

In a new twist, some firms have recently received automated messages directing them to call the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) at a certain 1-800 number with their account information. Once connected, callers are redirected to a third party for an automatic fee of $3. This is not a WSIB message, nor is it a WSIB telephone number.

It’s important to note that many service providers, including WSPS, provide reputable, trustworthy training and consulting services on WHMIS, emergency preparedness, forklifts, and other topics. Not, however, by using misleading or strong arm sales tactics, or charging hidden fees.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour intends to introduce a new standard for certifying training providers. Watch for coverage of this standard in an upcoming issue of WSPS Network News or Network Magazine. The ministry already maintains a list of approved providers of basic certification training.

Turning compliance into a business advantage

All of the questionable practices mentioned above play on a common fear of failing to meet legislated requirements. “This fear is understandable,” says WSPS's Harry Stewart. “Risks of non-compliance with health and safety legislation can be costly and damaging. Beyond the considerable human costs of non-compliance, the business can face additional harm ranging from reduced efficiency, fines and penalties, risk to reputation, and even imprisonment of key personnel. These costs can impact the sustainability of a business.

“This makes effective management of legislative compliance an organizational imperative,” continues Stewart. “It will not only mitigate organizational risk but help the business grow.”

Steps to take

Regardless of size or complexity, every business can benefit from a system for dealing with their legislative compliance requirements. Here are several steps suggested by Stewart:

  1. identify all legislation that applies to your business and then access and validate the information.
  2. conduct an initial gap analysis to identify needs.
  3. ensure all current requirements are met and integrated into current business practices.
  4. implement a process for monitoring compliance. For example, identify how often you need to review legislation for changes and establish intervals to audit your compliance.
  5. use only trusted and reliable service providers.

Staying on top of existing and changing legislation is a challenge for many businesses. Having an effective system in place for ensuring compliance will protect your business from unscrupulous service providers and allow you to move forward with health and safety improvements based on validated information. Without an effective system, your operations may put workers and the business’s viability at risk.

How WSPS can help

If you have questions about specific compliance requirements, call WSPS Customer Care at 1-877 494 WSPS (9777), or visit our website. Our resource section contains accurate, up-to-date information on a wide range of topics and hazards.

WSPS consultants can also help you conduct gap analyses, hazard assessments, and implement a compliance program.