As well as serious implications for people’s health and the healthcare services, coronavirus (Covid-19) will have a significant impact on businesses and the economy.
The primary focus, as we write this article is following the governments advice to limit the effect of the virus by ‘Staying at home, protecting the NHS to save lives’, but it does provide time to reflect and consider the future.
Some businesses will come through this stronger, others weaker and many, unfortunately, will not survive.
As a small business we are considering and focusing on our sector of the health and safety industry, the management of asbestos.
Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to serious diseases such as asbestosis, asbestos related lung cancer and mesothelioma and continues to kill thousands of individuals each year.
Despite these risks there are still thousands of businesses and properties that do not comply with the basic legal responsibilities to manage asbestos and protect workers. Unfortunately, these businesses are unlikely to suddenly spend money to comply with their legal requirements unless it is raised on a health & safety audit or it prevents the sale or lease of a property.
The more worrying impact will be the inevitable drive for cost savings once businesses start to return to normal trading, whenever that may be. The health & safety sector is not immune from such cost saving requests from business leaders and generally forms part of an overall strategy.
When considering these measures, we ask you to ensure you maintain the key elements of the legislation and guidance, to prevent the spread and exposure to asbestos fibres. Preventing asbestos materials being disturbed generally relies on individuals being aware of its presence ‘Asbestos Registers’ whether that be those who occupy the building or contractors working within/on a building. There is always the risk that materials will be accidentally disturbed so having a plan to deal with such emergencies is also critical, your ‘Asbestos Management Plan’.
When considering cost savings, be careful not to fall into the trap of just looking for an overall reduction in a contractor’s rates, either by requesting an overall percentage reduction or starting a bidding war between rival companies. Yes, you will make a small saving, but you may also pay for a reduction in service and quality which as a consequence could result in increased costs in other areas of your business. Poor service leading to delays to your timescales. Poor quality resulting in multiple visits or the work needing to be carried out again in the future. Bad advice resulting in costs for work that did not need to be carried out.
A way to make more significant cost savings is to ensure that you ‘manage’ your asbestos correctly including any future removal works or emergency works. We have produced various articles and materials offering advice on the key areas (available through our blog page and downloads page), but we will use a few examples to highlight our reasoning:
Asbestos Removal – Whether this be part of planned works or an emergency, defining and agreeing the scope of works is critical. If you don’t you could leave legacy, in other words, asbestos materials which could have been removed at the time at a fraction of the costs as opposed to removing on future visits or as a result of them being left in situ cause operational issues in the future, maintenance contractors requiring access to an area. In terms of emergency works, if you do not define the area and scope of the removal/cleaning works then you could end up paying for contractors to work on the same area twice.
Asbestos Air Monitoring – This relates to asbestos removal works and a balance of having a robust strategy that proves that the works are being carried out in line with the control measures and excessive repetitive monitoring that provides no useful information. Remember not all asbestos removal works requires air monitoring, for example some non-licensed removal works where risks are minimal. Periodic air monitoring could still form part of your overall strategy, but having the correct tests and historical information is key.
Asbestos Surveys – Again a clear scope of work and an ability to update and maintain the information through a live asbestos register. The consequences are; an initial survey, then a targeted survey to one room, then another targeted survey to another room, then another to a ceiling void. Think of the overall cost as opposed to the cost of the initial survey. If the asbestos register can’t be updated then you could find yourself resurveying the property in two or three years’ time, again more cost.
Asbestos Reinspections – Based on the information contained in the register combined with the risk of the materials contained, not all properties will require inspection on an annual basis. A risk based monitoring strategy will save money. Further costs could be saved if you make the most of the visit, for example, accessing previously inaccessible areas could prevent a future visit where works are required in that area.
Obviously with all of the above you need to be working with the right consultancy, one that looks after your interests.
Rather than asking the question ‘Have I got the cheapest rate for that service?’ ask yourself ‘Am I working with the right consultancy who will look to save me money?’.