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Only Loos and Outsources?

18 March 2011

Although health & safety is no laughing matter, Greg Davies tracks the development of the FM’s role in providing safe workplace against the fortunes of TV’s famous family of rogues, the Trotters from ‘Only Fools and Horses’

Del Boy and Rodney from BBC's Only Fools and Horses.

THERE ARE MANY PARALLELS WITH H&S AND FM. Both are business centric, both can be misunderstood and both have seen significant changes in the environments they work in and the requirements they place on the organisation, and the organisation places on them.
Big brother (Series 1, Episode 1)
There are also parallels with popular culture and how our understanding of each topic has grown, rather like that of Trotter’s Independent Traders. This is not to draw a direct comparison between FM or indeed H&S, and either Del Boy or Rodney but in the journey they have made over a similar timescale.
The Long Legs of the Law (Series 2, Episode 1)
The Lord Robens’ report of 1972 facilitated the way for the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The year before, the Fire Precautions Act 1971 had also come into force. Each placed a duty on organisations and employers to consider and manage aspects of its activities in relation to the premises it works in and the employees working there.
At the same time, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), two further events changed the role of office services/facilities. These were the introduction of computing and all the associated issues (wiring, lighting, acoustics, space) and the move from freestanding dividers in offices to more sophisticated systems furniture. By 1979, and following the 1978 ‘Facility Influence on Productivity’ conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the concept of facility/facilities management as we see it today was born.
These events were also shaping the principles of people, place and process that have become fundamental to facilities thinking and operation. With these foundations laid, the effects H&S and facilities have had on organisations in the past 25 years has more than overlapped. They are like brothers Derek and Rodney - at times in tune and at other times at odds - with what often seem common goals.
Go West Young Man (Series 1, Episode 2)
During the 1980’s the US influence filtered across the Atlantic and saw, in the UK, the formation of the AFM and IFM, as well as the establishment of an industry trade press through PFM magazine. It also saw the screening of the first episode in the uniquely British lives of the Trotter boys from South London.
For H&S, bans on asbestos use (blue and brown) and legislation such as
● The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 1988,
● The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
● The Noise at Work Act 1989, and amendments to the Fire Precautions Act, impacted on ‘office services’, to varying degrees, but the discipline itself was still finding its real position in the organisation.
Perhaps one of the first real examples of the link between FM, the business and H&S was the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at Stafford District General Hospital in 1985. With 28 deaths and over 100 people made ill, it tragically illustrated the extent to which harm could be done where things go wrong. The subsequent investigation identified multiple failures, from system installation, the performance of contractors, the hospital’s management of services and the responsibilities for that management.
Who should be assuming the role to properly fill these gaps? It clearly wasn’t just building services, office services or H&S. It was a combination of all and more.
Trotters’ Independent Traders spent most of its time working from suitcases in markets or on street corners. Many of the FM’s suppliers were also prone to carrying cases, but rather than to ‘hooky’ aftershave or dolls of various descriptions, they contained tools to repair ventilation plant, vending machines, photocopier parts or assorted samples and equipment. FM could at this time be compared to Boycie,Trigger, Mickey or Denzil, consistent to the series but peripheral characters to the main plot.
Sickness and Wealth (Series 6, Episode 5)
The 1990’s more than any other, epitomised the combined development of FM and H&S. The backdrop was not a stately mansion and falling chandelier, but recession, property/space rationalisation and staff losses.
The EC Framework Directive 89/391/EEC laid the foundations for the introduction of the ‘six pack’, a series of regulations first implemented on the 1st January 1993. These were:
● Management of Health and Safety at Work
● Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare)
● Provision and Use of Work Equipment (PUWER)
● Personal Protective Equipment at Work
● Manual Handling Operations, and
● Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment)(DSE)
Not only did their requirements impact on most organisations, but they also helped reinforce the understanding of people, place and process, with all of these regulations touching elements of this philosophy. If not recognised directly at the time, they certainly were significant influencers.
Additionally, the introduction of more laws including
● The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations (1992)
● The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (1994)
● The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations (1996)
● The Confined Spaces Regulations (1997)
● The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) (1998), all served to strengthen the link with the employee, place of work and work activity. The management aspect of the regulations looked at the need for risk assessment and arrangements to be put in place.Compounding these needs, The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (1996) and The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations (1990) also came into force.
The decade also saw the AFM and IFM combine to become the BIFM, the formation of the FMA, the trade press flourishing and the multi-disciplined nature of the job consolidate around a broad taxonomy. Total FM and the PFI arrived as well.
Finally, the 1990s saw the birth of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the reporting by organisations of activity in the more philanthropic areas of operation, such as environment, community/charity and workplace (of which H&S again impacted).
FM and H&S finished the decade offering a range of tactical and operational compliance solutions for the business. Del Boy having struggled for the early years, hit millionaire status in 1996 with the sale of an 18th Century Harrison marine watch. The ‘millionaire’ aspiration for FM was to turn the now recognised problem solver role into one of strategic management support. FM could now be likened to Mike Fisher, landlord of The Nag’s Head, responsible for providing an environment for the action to take place, but not directly influencing it.
Healthy Competition (Series 3, Episode 2)
The Millennium decade continued to show further progress and development for FM. Many of the structures around vocational and job function training improved, chartered/certified status came into being and CAFM became more sophisticated. For support service companies it was the age of the intelligent customer, and for the FM one where the visitors wore suits,
carried briefcases and discussed property strategy, strategic partnerships and preferred supplier status.
H&S saw the increased defining of the ‘responsible person’ occurring in for example Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (2002) and for fire through the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RR(FS)O) (2005). Corporately, this responsibility was further highlighted with the introduction of Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act in 2007. In 2004 Part III of the then Disability Discrimination Act posed further issues for FM around accessibility and reasonable adjustment. While not directly H&S, a lot of parallels still existed and common solutions found.
By comparison, the Trotter’s, having reached their fulfilment and achievement aims, made only the occasional Christmas special appearance. Their job and time was over.
Who wants to be a Millionaire (Series 5, Episode 6)
For FM and H&S the story continues, popular culture has made way for the compensation culture and in 2010 Lord Young produced his Common Sense, Common Safety report to address this and the position of H&S in today’s society. Ironically, the report and its recommendations come at a time when we are again in, or just out of (depending on who you believe), a recession. Organisations are again re-evaluating their property, process and people needs.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) contend that saving lives and preventing injury and ill health is still, and always will be the aim of H&S and the only real change is the environment in which both the HSE and business, now operates. Who is best placed to manage this? Who has coped with such an environment before. Who has the breadth of business understanding to deliver? The answer of course is the facilities department.
Factor in the continually growing CSR agenda and the environment/carbon dimension and the opportunity is clear. Perhaps the time really is right for FM to take that final step to millionaire status, albeit metaphorically.
Greg Davies, Head of Service Development at Elementus
2011 marks the 25th year anniversary for Elementus.
As a leading authority on health, safety and environmental compliance for the built environment, building relationships has been an essential part of our business ethos since 1986.
There have been many changes within the industry, and we have re-branded from Environmental Monitoring Services (ems) to Elementus, but we continue to operate with the same key values we started with.
Elementus is are still privately owned and completely independent – offering no remedial services, allowing us to provide accurate, relevant and cost effective advice. We are proud to work with such great people and we look forward to working together with them for the next 25 years.



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