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Communication is essential for delivery of health and safety

12 April 2019

Complying with legislative requirements in all areas of facilities is one of the overriding areas of concentration for all FMs and these are often regarded as one of the basic aspects from which all other policies develop.

One of the most important areas within this is that of health and safety (H&S), with many FMs stating that the task of completing risk assessments is one of their main activities and essential to maintain the correct standards for their own team members, their service providers and, of course, all those who use the facility in question.

In order to provide more food for thought on the creation of effective H&S policies, we asked industry experts to provide their comments on the level of engagement required with facilities users.

One of the first to respond was Anabas H&S manager Mick Stephenson, who states that writing and establishing a H&S policy does not need to become an onerous undertaking and engagement with facility users should be included as soon as possible in the process.

“Rather than an expectation of a single individual, who may have the relevant qualifications but not necessarily the in-depth knowledge of the practicalities, it should be considered a team task from the outset,” he says.

“When considered the responsibility of a single individual who has not engaged with end users, it is not unusual to find that a policy written in this way will be considered a worthless piece of paper and demonstrates why collaboration at the earliest opportunity is so important.

"Any policy must be relevant, clear, understood and easily followed and acted upon by the users,” says Mr Stephenson.

This means participation from users, during its development, will not only produce a more suitable document, but will also promote stronger feelings of both ownership and acceptance from end users.

“In most cases the document will consist of three sections: a general policy statement which outlines the commitment to effective management of H&S; a responsibilities section which identifies who is responsible for specific actions; and an arrangements section which details the practical elements to achieve the aims within the general policy statement,” he continues.

“These sections simply detail what we are going to do, who is going to do it and how we are going to do it. This is why early collaboration with facilities users can help in a number ways including identifying workplace risks, ensuring controls are practical, increasing commitment to working in a safe and healthy way and providing feedback on the effectiveness of health and safety arrangements and control measures,” Mr Stephenson concludes.

Further thoughts are provided by Julius Rutherfoord operations director Caroline Hutchins, who says all organisations must be committed to safeguarding people and property affected by their operations, including employees, tenants, contractors and visitors.

It is vital that new or revised health and safety policies are brought to the attention of employees and any other users of the premises.

“When it comes to working with external contactors, FMs should opt for companies that can demonstrate that they have the most up-to-date, innovative approach to protecting people and buildings. The provider should not only champion H&S, but also have progressive attitudes to security, including thorough recruitment procedures and on-site systems such as biometric identification of its teams.

“Our ‘secure commercial cleaning’ company strapline gives precedence to how our staff, systems and technology support FMs to ensure people and premises are in safe hands,” she continues.

“All our staff receive thorough, ongoing training in H&S, security procedures, cleaning skills and the needs of a particular site and client.”

Solid processes that are embedded in training mean staff know what to do in every conceivable situation. Training should be carried out on-site on an ongoing basis, to ensure operatives are up to date on everything from new legislation to the latest methods and equipment.

“Operatives should also be empowered to spot and report potential hazards – the FM may not be aware there is an issue and will welcome proactivity in helping to reduce accidents,” says Ms Hutchins.

Advising on the safe cleaning of ductwork, Swiftclean managing director Gary Nicholls agrees with early engagement with facilities users, particularly in the retail environment but also for any commercial building undergoing refurbishment.

“The facilities user and their designer or shopfitter may not be aware that ventilation ductwork travels through their premises and access to it must be preserved. This is to maintain compliance with TR/19, the guidance document issued by BESA, and also with BS:9999 2017 for testing and maintenance of fire dampers.”

While FMs will be aware of these requirements, other professionals using the facilities may not, he continues, leading to instances of new solid ceilings installed to make premises more appealing visually, but which block access to the ventilation access points.

“It is quite usual for the cleaning of ductwork to require access through several other areas, often retail spaces, offices and residential units. If it cannot be accessed, this means that a potential fire risk can be present, posing a threat to all these different premises.”

Similarly, fire dampers must be regularly tested and maintained and that also requires unhindered access to minimise fire risks.

“It would be ideal if FMs could have significant input with the architect from the design stage of a property, right through to an effective and early dialogue with all its eventual users. If everyone understood the importance of ongoing compliance, it would make the FM’s life easier and the building much safer for all its end users,” says Mr Nicholls.

The application of specialist knowledge, experience and trusted management systems can bring added value to a contract, says Calbarrie Compliance Services commercial director Tim Beardsmore.

“Outsourcing FM services to a specialist provider can enable an employer to share risk and responsibility in areas of compliance,” he says.

”When establishing health and safety policies it is beneficial that FMs engage with facilities users at the very start of the process to agree the priorities.”

During a site survey the FM and facilities user can identify the health and safety risks together and agree on the control measures necessary to manage on site health and safety. The survey should take place before work can start and the risk assessment included in the scope of works.

Details of the safety procedures, site induction and any specialist training and equipment required and arrangements for site access and welfare facilities for operatives should also be established jointly and incorporated in the scope of works. The health and safety regulations relevant to the project should be documented in the method statement.

“This close involvement of FM and client representative at the pre-start stages is crucial to avoid risk of confusion and misinterpretation of the contract regulatory and performance standards at a later date,” he continues.

“Sustainable long-term contracts are based on partnership, and FMs can differentiate themselves through their willingness to understand the challenges that facilities users face. Ongoing monitoring and review of health and safety performance against policies and agreed targets enables continuous improvement and enhanced standards of health and safety to be achieved,” says Mr Beardsmore.

HS RoofClad says falls from height account for 22% of fatal accidents in the construction industry alone, so whether completing long-term roof works or short-term building maintenance tasks, it is imperative that hazards are identified, control measures put into place and solutions explored where necessary.

Before work commences it is imperative to ensure that either a collective or personal measure of protection is in place that has been tested and maintained to manufacturer guidelines before entering any roof space. Safe methods of work should be in place that have been effectively planned by a competent and experienced contractor.

It is also necessary to specify and communicate fragile surface areas to operatives, include relevant signage at the entrance of work areas and highlight fragile surface areas wherever replacement work is required.

Following commencement of work, safe methods of work should be adhered to throughout the projects, with unannounced site inspections also recommended.

The company further states that its building envelope specialists recommend referring to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) hierarchy of control, which recommends that, where possible, work at height should be avoided.

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