The last six months or so have been, to put it mildly, challenging. Since Covid-19 first gained a foothold in the UK, the restrictions on businesses and individuals have had a huge impact on the economy. At the same time, the toll on public health has been staggering. As the UK braces itself for ‘Covid winter’, many face an uncertain outlook.
Against this backdrop, there are of course positive stories – there have been boom times for home improvement, furnishings and supermarkets. The construction industry hasn’t been quite so lucky, but it’s not the worst hit. Work continues – and for many asbestos workers, existing stocks and experience with PPE meant that it never stopped.
The pandemic is by no means over of course, and at Assure360 we’re determined to help our customers ride it out as safely and successfully as possible. I wanted to take a moment to talk about the things we’ve been doing to try and help. And, as we prepare for more disruption across the winter, flag up a couple of other things we’ve got in the pipeline.
The first and most important thing we’ve done is to offer a free upgrade to our Platinum subscription level to those who aren’t already on it. Platinum includes the Assure360 Paperless app, designed from the outset to replace a supervisor’s site paperwork with the electronic recording of safety checks and information.
In normal times one of Paperless’ main benefits is a big uplift in supervisor and back office efficiency, but during the pandemic the app’s role in cutting site traffic has become even more important.
Electronic record-keeping reduces the paperwork that has to go back and forth, and provides management with an up-to-date, remote view of any developing issues, helping them manage more effectively with less time on site. As Graham Patterson, director of GreenAir Environmental put it: “Assure360 [Paperless] itself has streamlined the company massively, but it’s helped greatly under the lockdown.”
At the same time we released a new, improved version of Paperless, which now supports Android devices as well as iPads. The most significant change is a completely reimagined Site Diary feature, designed to minimise the amount of text entry by supervisors. Now almost every imaginable entry is covered by drop down menus, and evidenced by photos when needed.
We’ve also updated our system to reflect the changed circumstances we’re all working in. For example, we’ve added Covid-specific audit questions.
More help and advice
We’ve always prided ourselves on the help we offer our customers, both when initially setting them up on the system, and with the day-to-day questions and issues that arise. During the pandemic we’ve been very aware of the difficulty of travel, and the need to cut down on face-to-face meetings, so we’ve been working especially hard to improve our support for those new to the system.
We’ve improved and added to the Assure360 Help Centre, creating more “How to…” videos to support the quick and easy rollout of Assure360 to your team. For customers adopting Paperless as part of their response to the pandemic, these have become a central part of inducting staff.
“One of the things that was a Godsend were the videos on how to use Paperless,” explains Phil Neville of Asbestech. “There’s one for supervisors – like a 10-minute long video – on how to use the tablet on site. It’s very instructional. It runs through from logging on to the system to closing a project down, very succinctly.
“We used that video as the core of our induction because we weren’t able to bring supervisors in and do face-to-face training – because we were avoiding unnecessary personal meetings.”
Phil Neville also explains how the Android tablets bought for Paperless became essential to Asbestech’s ability to support remote working. “We had Zoom put on all the tablets so that we can have training sessions and screen sharing with the supervisors remotely. Alongside Paperless, we added virtual meetings to our toolbox.”
This ability of Android and iPad tablets to support more than just Paperless helps customers increase the return on investment from adopting the Assure360 solution. In addition to the multiple benefits of Paperless itself, the tablets support other ways to work safely and remotely during challenging times. If we assume the average licensed asbestos removal contractor (LARC) has a site team of 10, then the average saving per year is in the region of £10,000 – even when you factor in the costs of Assure360. Even a micro LARC with just one supervisor would save money overall.
Despite this, we’re aware that some firms are still struggling to get back on track after a summer of disruption to essential paperwork and administrative tasks. Particularly, there are concerns for some businesses as they approach licence renewal, with paper site records yet to be processed, and vital evidence not available for easy entry on the HSE’s online form.
We’re doing everything we can to help new customers – and those upgrading to Paperless – get their existing data onto our system so it’s available to support licence applications and the proper management of their work. And we’re continuing the free three-month upgrade to the Platinum subscription level for those who aren’t yet on it.
We’re also working on new and improved versions of both the Assure 360 Audit health and safety auditing app, and the Assure360 Incident near-miss reporting app. Like Paperless, the updated versions will be available on Android for the first time, meaning we’ll support a far wider range of devices. And as Android tablets are generally cheaper than iPads, the cost of entry to Assure360 will fall further.
These are difficult times, and we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re working hard to support our industry and communities, but if there’s any way we can help you more, do please get in touch and let us know.
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