Assure 360

East Coast Insulations

Written by Nick Garland on Thursday March 14th 2024

Paperless asbestos site management case study


East Coast Insulations was established in 1983, becoming one of the first licensed asbestos removal companies in the UK. Today the company provides asbestos surveys, removal, management and training, along with insulation, fabrication and reinstatement works.

In 2014, East Coast Insulations was a founding member of the Assure360 system. From the product’s earliest days, East Coast was able to benefit from features including training needs analysis, helping it to focus its investments only on the necessary training courses. At the same time, East Coast’s feedback was invaluable during Assure360’s early development.


Despite being a longstanding Assure360 customer, East Coast Insulations was still using a paper-based system for its mandatory record keeping on licensed removal projects. With paperwork typically remaining on site for the duration of a project, managers needed to make frequent visits to monitor progress and check for issues. Given the very rural nature of the business’ operating base in East Anglia, this involved valuable time lost to travelling every day.

However, East Coast’s rural operating environment also presented a potential hurdle to the adoption of new technology. With much of its catchment areas prone to patchy mobile communications, the company was keen to avoid potential issues with unreliable data synchronisation in a cloud-based system.

Additionally, many of East Coast’s supervisors are industry veterans with decades of experience in using conventional paper systems. It was imperative that any solution to remove paper should be both reliable, and easy for workers with sometimes limited digital experience to learn and use.


Towards the end of 2023, East Coast Insulations and Assure360 conducted testing to ensure the stability and reliability of the Paperless solution throughout East Anglia. With this successfully established over the course of the trial period, the company rolled out Paperless on Android tablets, transferring its supervisors from a paper-based system to the app in January 2024.

East Coast immediately began to see the benefit of moving away from paperwork. Supervisors were able to keep their site diary electronically through a simplified interface, designed to minimise the need for typing, and allowing photos to be taken and attached directly from within the app. Each supervisor now carried a tablet on a holster, allowing them to complete safety checks and update personal and job records while mobile on the site – rather than on paper in the welfare unit.

The introduction of Paperless also gave managers far greater oversight of their projects, seeing at a glance who was onsite, how the job was progressing, and whether there were any issues that needed their attention. In turn, this dramatically reduced the need for site visits, recovering managerial time that could be focused on income-generating work such as bid preparation. Managers are also now saving additional time at the post-completion stage of each project, as the Paperless solution also removed the need to recover, audit and file site paperwork when closing off a project.

What the client said

Some of the boys we work with have been in the game for 24 years and all they know is paperwork, so the new system is a bit of a jump for them. I’ve been an iPhone man since they came out, I’m not an Android guy, so it’s taken me a bit longer to get used to it. I wouldn’t say I’m the best at computers at all, really, but it is mega easy to get, really. And if there are problems you can text Rick [Garland] and he’ll get back to you in about 30 seconds.

Before, we had a folder with all the certs, your standard procedures, your licence, so that was always a nightmare to try and find one. It was all in a big folder, which wasn’t the best really.

Now it’s more being a supervisor than just doing the paperwork, because you can add pictures. It’s dramatically helped me time-wise, and also just the professionalism of it. Asbestos strippers aren’t known for their spelling or writing, but now if you have a visit from the HSE or anything someone can always read what you’ve written. They can go through the site diary and you’ve just got everything there.

Everyone agrees that it’s a better system, completely. I just keep the tablet round my shoulders on the little strap thing and then if anything comes up just add to it. At the end of the shift you haven’t got anything to fill out: just click all the buttons and sign it off.

Client name

  • Joe Cooksey
  • Supervisor

I’ve only been using it these last six weeks and I haven’t used it every day, but I do think it’s a good system, and it looks quite professional. And it’s easier managed than a load of paperwork.

In the early days – maybe sometimes if you got back late and then on the next day you had an un-notifiable job – your certs could slip, and before you knew you were getting on site and you had certs that were out of date. This, now, rectifies that problem, which is very professional, and quick and good.

It’s definitely saving time, and especially after the first day when you load it all up with everything, then it’s just a matter of pushing the buttons after that – it’s all been stored. I do think it’s a very professional tool, there’s no doubt about it – and easier.

Client name

  • Adrian O’Neill
  • Supervisor

With a paperwork system you spend a lot of money on paper, then you’ve got to audit the paperwork; you’ve got to file it. There’s a lot of post-completion work after the actual removal job has been done.

So it wasn’t that Paperless wasn’t appealing – it was really appealing to us because it would just save us so much time. But there are quite a few rural areas up here where it’s hard to get a signal, so we were a bit worried about how that could impact our operations. We did a trial period to check how that would work, and then we went with Paperless after.

It does save me a lot of time as a manager. For example, this week I’ve got three jobs running. I know I don’t have to run around to these sites because I can have a quick look on Assure360, I don’t have to go there and I can concentrate on seeing clients, preparing quotes. I can spend more time on the plan of works.

The industry’s so busy at the moment, but you can’t be everywhere at once – and you don’t get anywhere quick in Norfolk. Instead of doing a site visit and making sure everything is alright, we can actually do that from our office, which saves us a bit more time. 

And for the supervisors, they don’t have to come down to the seating area, the welfare or to the office to do paperwork – they can do it on the move. They’re loving it because it saves us a lot of time. The guys are more hands-on, so they’re better at managing the operatives, and it makes it easier for me to manage the jobs.

Assure360 Paperless does all that work for you as the job starts and progresses and finishes. So all I’ve got to do is just close jobs out in the end, then that’s uploaded and stored for the HSE’s audit for our licence renewals. So it saves us a lot of time with paperwork.

Client name

  • Adam Lubach
  • Associate Director

Better Asbestos Removal – what to do when perfect isn’t possible

Written by Nick Garland on Wednesday February 12th 2020

The Health and Safety at Work Act underpins everything we do in the asbestos sector, yet within it – and in copious Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance – you’ll find unnerving  phrases like ‘so far as reasonably practicable’. These create room for interpretation, with the result that people can be unclear how far they should go when removing asbestos. Even the way that some of the direction is framed can lead us into tricky territory: I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been told ‘it’s only guidance’.

So after a recent thread on the HSE’s forum, I thought it would be worthwhile analysing how the regulations are structured, and what we should be doing when designing a job. Particularly, if ‘perfect’ isn’t possible, what do we prioritise?

Chasing perfection

First let’s look at the ideal conditions for asbestos removal. We have an enclosure that is small, but big enough to allow efficient and safe removal of the asbestos. The air in and out is sufficient and balanced. The enclosure is perfectly sealed, and it’s designed in such a way that there’s no working from height. The combination of method, suppression and local exhaust ventilation (LEV) ‘eliminates’ all fibre release at source.

Obviously it’s a rare job indeed where we can get all of our controls by-the-book, so often there’s a need to find compromise. First up, I should stress that compromise should only come with need – you can’t just miss out controls. Where there are good practical or safety reasons why a control isn’t possible, you need to design others to mitigate. 

To track back and answer that common response when people depart from the direction, it is not ‘guidance’; it is ‘Guidance’. Project design should be in line with the ‘Guidance’, or be equivalent to or better than it.

The Health and Safety at Work Act is not a tick box set of regulations. It’s written with an understanding that no two jobs are identical, and is specifically designed to harness our imagination as professionals in ensuring safe working practice in all circumstances. To that end we need to really understand the hazards, the resultant risks, and the controls we implement to eliminate or minimise them.

A clear view of the risks

We, as asbestos professionals, are also guilty of being rather blinkered. We’ve got our specialist subject, so asbestos risk is all too often the first and last thing we think about. But take a step back and reappraise our typical work environment: while asbestos is complex, many other risks such as height or electricity pose a more immediate threat. In other words, we have to think of the whole project.

The particular example raised in the HSE forum was a small-to-medium metal frame shed with an asbestos insulating board (AIB) ceiling, and asbestos cement roof. Roof, frame and AIB were pinned together with J-bolts, and the building was in close proximity to neighbours.

  • The AIB couldn’t be removed in isolation without a lot of breakage
  • Cropping the bolts would uncouple the roof
  • Crosswinds made external sheeting prone to catastrophic damage

The conundrum posed was whether you would build a full enclosure – with the high cost and the risk from crosswinds – or crop the bolts and remove the cement and AIB at the same time with no enclosure, but with perimeter air monitoring. Because of the breakage, removal of the AIB alone was discounted as an option.

Consider the first option. A full scaffold enclosure would create a rather large working at height issue. Just constructing the canopy has a risk, but then sheeting internal ranch-boards would involve working above a fragile roof. This risk is difficult to control and can have an immediately fatal consequence. And if the winds get up, it could all be for nought.

My argument is that the overall risk is lower if we build the enclosure internally, and control the increased asbestos risk that we create. Controls in this case should include strongly over-specifying the negative pressure ventilation (or over-neg if you’re in the industry) . The considerable breakage of AIBs needs to be mitigated with surfactant, shadow vacuuming and increased respiratory protective equipment (RPE) provision, for example air-fed RAS masks. As Paul Beaumont pointed out, there would be the potential of AIB fibre / fragments to become trapped within the corrugated sheeting, too.

The four-stage safety clearance certificate would identify this likely residual risk, mandating further  controls when removing the cement sheets. As this is now a small asbestos risk, we may be able to approach the remaining stages of the project with a roofless enclosure, bringing the cement sheets down into the building.

Balancing the risks

This example distills a common problem, where we are faced with a choice between one or more risks that are potentially controllable, or another that is very difficult to control. I would go with the former – and this extends into all other areas of asbestos removal where we are too used to controlling the asbestos risk at the expense of ignoring or exacerbating others.

There are other examples. A classic is working in a loft in the summer. The new confined space guidance makes it clear that the heat makes this a confined space, yet often what I see when auditing is a cube at the bottom of the loft access, a three-stage air lock, and a negative-pressure unit (NPU) with roving head passed up through the single access point. This gives excellent control of the small AIB debris risk, but massively increases the risk of death from heatstroke.

What to do instead? You won’t find it in the books, so again it’s down to our professional creativity. Why not dispense with the roving head, harness the natural leakage of the tiled roof and over-neg the enclosure? Even in winter, this might be a good idea as the common setup would hinder an emergency evacuation, for example if there’s a fire in the building.

My argument is that the asbestos risk is complex and difficult to control, but we can’t let it blind us to the rest of the job. It must be properly balanced against the other risks of the working environment: addressing one risk in isolation may leave the site team in danger, or raise their overall risk. Training and refreshers for managers should therefore cover all construction hazards and how to control them. It’s important to remember this at the time of auditing or assessing performance: peer reviews must look at all hazards, rather than just how well the manager has dealt with the asbestos.

Indeed, if asbestos is the only hazard that a contracts manager understands, are they truly ‘competent’? I’m sure that being ignorant of other construction hazards would not be seen as a defence.

As professionals we are responsible for looking at the whole project, and balancing the hazards and risks against each other. Our controls should then be crafted to mitigate all of them. Some controls may elevate the risk from other hazards, which then have to be looked at again. Designing safe working environments and procedures requires the application of knowledge, experience, and imagination. As no two jobs are the same, the latter is not only crucial – but demanded by the Health and Safety at Work Act.