For decades, the HSE’s requirements have not been well communicated, or have been described in terms frequently misunderstood by the industry. The license holder (or the prospective one) has too often been left to work it out for themselves.
It takes a courageous removal company to stand their ground when presented with the opinion of the inspector on the spot. To be fair, there is no manual that the HSE can pull off the shelf describing the perfect asbestos removal company. But this ad hoc, local, opinion-led approach has produced a host of different solutions:
- How do you manage H&S?
- How do you ensure Competence?
- What do you do for exposure monitoring?
- And the follow up question – how do you use that to improve methods?
Whilst some of these questions are new to the last few years, exposure monitoring has been causing licence holders problems for my entire career.
But why is this so difficult? The LARCs – licensed asbestos removal consultants – do manage health and safety, producing method statements and documentation far more detailed and considered than their construction counterparts. They spend vast sums on training staff, and ensure levels of supervision beyond what other industries would even consider. Exposure monitoring has been a challenge, but the tests are done in line with guidance and by skilled analysts, perhaps just not frequently enough – but done.
So why do these questions become so difficult to answer in a licence renewal meeting?
First, there is no 100% right answer and nowhere to look for advice, beyond asbestos specialised health and safety consultants (like myself). The trade organisations can also pitch in with this, but the independents are too few and far between to help everyone. However, as all industries can tell you, parachuting in a consultancy to ‘identify and solve underpinning problems’ sometimes leads to superficial solutions. The way I have always approached it is to become embedded in that company – almost as a part time H&S manager or officer. This degree of understanding is vital for crafting solutions.
Second, the nature of licence renewal is often adversarial, with the future of the company on the line. This does not lead naturally to a relaxed environment where ‘business as usual’ can be showcased.
The solution – managing health and safety
So, how can Assure360 help?
Firstly, all reputable asbestos removal companies conduct audits. These are sometimes conducted on Excel, or iAuditor (an interface with Excel) but often on paper. The problem with these solutions is that they tell you little beyond high level non-conformances and it can be challenging to extract meaningful trends. The paper version (or a PDF) is often a cul-de-sac, with non-conformances trapped on the paper, hidden in a file.
When asked – ‘How do you manage H&S?’, too often the answer is a jumble of files, hard to decipher Excel spreadsheets, and in worst case scenarios un-actioned paper audits.
Not so with Assure360. The audits completed on the free App are the most comprehensive available, developed by me over the past decade.
- They are uploaded directly to a database in the cloud, where the system interprets them for you.
- Non-conformances are presented to the designated managers for them to close out. It even reminds them if the due date expires.
- The high level dashboard not only shows the immediate information required to spot trends, track close-out and develop strategies for improvement, it also allows a structured walkthrough so that you can showcase how you go about managing H&S.
A warts-and-all approach, where ‘challenged’ sites are discussed, becomes real evidence of proactive management.
One client, Rob Wasson from Delta Services, recently contacted me after a licence renewal. He told me: “When I demonstrated the Assure360 system to the HSE, it made me proud of all that we had achieved.”
That degree of confidence and enthusiasm can only be massively influential at renewal time.
The solution – competence
The new question that the HSE can nail us with is how do you ensure the competenceof your workforce?
Competence is a tricky customer and can be a complex thing to measure – after all, just showing them the training certificates is not enough. I’ve written previously on our blog about what to look for in a good competence scheme. Assure360 however does it all for you. The same comprehensive audits are just interpreted in a different way.
- At the touch of a button you can bring up Competence assessments and Training Needs Analysis for anyone in your organisation.
- The system covers everyone from the most senior Contracts Manager to the newest apprentice, it even covers agency staff.
The beauty of this is that you have already done the work. So instead of one more job that your overstretched team are asked to do – it is a matter of moments.
The solution – exposure monitoring
In my experience when helping a licence holder prepare for the HSE, the one thing that they are least confident with is exposure monitoring. Often there has been plenty of ‘personals’ done (though sometimes not). Sometimes these are compiled into an Excel spreadsheet, though often not. When asked ‘how are these used?’ it is frequently met with a pregnant pause.
In some ways, the LARCs have been led up an exposure monitoring blind alley. People in asbestos removal often only have a vague understanding of what exposure monitoring is for (you can read more on this in my earlier article here). They get provided with dozens of 10-minute ‘personals’ that tell us next to nothing. The feeling of ‘what is the point of this beyond keeping the HSE happy?’ has some justification.
The approach that Assure360 has transforms every personal monitoring test into an assessment of how successful the method was.
- Any result above what was expected is investigated, root cause assigned and underlying issued rectified.
- The high-level dashboard allows trend spotting and highlights if there are gaps in the coverage.
With 360, ‘the point’ is clear – it has a direct impact on the improvement of methods.
The solution – licence assessment
Assure360 is specifically designed to address all the challenges I have identified in my nearly 25 years in the industry. For the past two years, it has been helping LARCs improve themselves and with that, the industry.
Ken Johnson from Delta Service recently told me: “The moment I saw the system demonstrated I knew it was an absolute must for us. It ticked so many boxes – all the areas that the entire industry seems to struggle with.”
The central theme is simplicity, Assure360 is a system, one that you follow, implement and operate yourself. Just by doing so you gain greater understanding of the management of your company. You operate it yourself (no expensive consultants) and everyone contributes – this simultaneously saves money and strengthens your health and safety culture.
To find out more how we can help, contact us today on 0845 226 4318
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