Nick Garland is CEO of Assure360 and he has 25+ years of experience in the industry. He tells the story of where the vision for Assure360 came from, the hurdles along the way and what’s coming next.
Where did the idea for Assure360 come from?
It was effectively a happy accident.
For a long time I had been struggling to fulfill my role as an embedded H&S Manager for several licensed removal companies. I was designing and participating in audit schemes, completing training needs analysis and competence systems, analysis of exposure results … again and again. The Assure360 system already existed – but it was a series of interconnected Excel spreadsheets. I was repeating the same tasks over and over again which was incredibly time consuming and prone to error.
In the space of a month or two I met an App designer (Matt Glover, who still works on the project) and a Database company that I was reviewing for the Royal Mail. The penny dropped – what I needed was an App to record the data quickly and a database to do the clever legwork.
What was it about your experience and background that fuelled this idea?
I have been working in the asbestos industry since 1992, firstly as an analyst and then in 1999 I retrained into H&S. At first this was just an extra string to my bow, but I quickly realised the obvious – asbestos removal was just a construction project with a complex and highly regulated hazard attached. In 2004 I made the switch that most consultants never do – started working with licensed asbestos contractors – advising them on H&S. It was this that really completed my education. Without direct experience of both sides of the industry we professionals can be very blinkered.
Working in the licensed sector – and for several different companies simultaneously – has given me a deep understanding of how the HSE think and what they require.
Smaller removal contractors – especially ones that go to the expense of hiring a H&S manager – also taught me something else that makes all the difference. They recognise that looking after their people and, that precious licence, is of critical importance. They don’t want to pay for advice couched in clever terms or so caveated that it is opaque. They want clear advice that represents your opinion – even if that is a hard truth.
How has Assure360 developed over time?
The solution has evolved – adding additional functionality – ticking off all of the tasks that the HSE have demanded, but are very difficult to achieve and remain commercially competitive.
Training and competence
We started with competence and training needs which ordinarily would be a massive additional task to add to an already busy team. By making the audit smarter we created a tool that could do this task for you at no extra effort.
Recording exposure testing was next. This always seemed a fruitless task that only kept the HSE happy to no practical use. The Assure360 database changed that, so that every test and daily exposure became an audit of the removal method – driving improvements.
Paperless safety checks
The Assure360 Paperless app is the latest addition. A huge amount of time is spent by Supervisors recording safety critical checks – preventing him or her from actually supervising. We’ve streamlined this process, but at the same time added disaster recovery and remote management. The app constantly chirps back to the database updating the office on what stage the job is at. Following the principle that one bit of effort ticks off many tasks – the exposure data automatically syncs with the Exposure module, eliminating days and days of data entry.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Paperless has been the biggest challenge without a doubt. The seemingly insurmountable twin requirements – offline data capture meaning that it was not susceptible to the vagaries of poor signal and what happens if the iPad is lost – do we lose all the paperwork?
We solved this by using data – rather than forms – so we only ever deal with tiny snipits, rather than whole files. The information stays on the iPad, but chirps updates back to the Cloud whenever it has a little signal.
Any lucky moments along the way?
The birth of Assure360 was in a way lucky happenstance – the need was always there, but meeting both the app developer and the cloud database designer in short order – led to a lightbulb moment.
Secure data entry (the app) and powerful automated analysis (the cloud database) was the answer I was looking for.
What’s new on the horizon?
The Assure360 Paperless project is only half done – currently it eliminates some 50% of the forms that the supervisor has to complete. All of the ‘People’ driven checks like exposure monitoring, personal air tests, RPE checks, time sheets etc. are taken care of. The next phase is the plant, equipment and enclosure checks. That will be the last of the really difficult nuts to crack. Paperless is out now – but the complete package will be done by the summer.
We’ll then move on to some of the easier tasks – trackers for employee training and equipment maintenance.
What keeps you interested in this work?
It’s important. In the words of Martin Gibson – Britain was the first to have an industrial revolution, we were the first to start importing asbestos, we have imported the most asbestos, in fact – we imported 40% of the worlds capacity to produce amosite* in the 50s, 60s and 70s. We have so much asbestos we have to manage the problem.
* amosite is the most common of the highly dangerous amphibole asbestos
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