Compliance famously keeps Facilities Managers awake at night. And for good reason. Fines are increasing, customers are more litigious and regulation is becoming more far reaching. What can you do to mitigate the risk of harm, protect your business from fines and get a good nights’ sleep? 

In 2021, the compliance burden of facilities management includes everything from general H&S to fire safety, asbestos management, ventilation, water hygiene and legionella prevention. In recent years you can add COVID management and new environmental protections to that list.

What’s the cost of non-compliance in FM?

The cost of regulatory non-compliance can be extreme. First and foremost is the risk of personal injury and death of workers and customers that can result from running a careless operation. Then there are the risks of fines and imprisonment that hang over businesses and employees who break the law.

In 2020 the average fine levied for Health and Safety breaches in the UK rose to £106,984, while the number of fines handed out to companies in the service sector rose by 80%.

As the government paved the way for levying ‘unlimited fines’ for fire safety breaches in the new RRO, one restaurant in Berkshire received a fine of £85,000 for having insufficient fire alarms, detectors, and fire doors in place in their property. 

Legionella control is another area where big fines are regularly handed out - notably BUPA’s care homes who were fined £3m following the death from legionnaires of a pensioner in their care. 

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Modern compliance requirements are complex and wide-ranging

But it’s not just the risk of immediate injury and harm to customers and workers that legislation is attempting to control. Following COP26 and stiffer ‘net zero’ targets, we can expect tighter regulation of air quality, emissions, energy use, recycling and the disposal of waste by business. Legal controls and penalties in these areas are likely to be a new focus for FM in the years to come.

Regulation and legislation are not static, they are being changed and tightened all the time. New areas (like COVID control) come into scope and facilities managers are expected by their companies to quickly respond and adapt to the new requirements. 

Sometimes internal teams can stay on top of servicing and inspections, in other areas such as HVAC maintenance and legionella inspections, you may need specialist teams to help you with compliance requirements. But while you can outsource the task you can’t outsource the liability.  

Facilities management need to be across a whole range of compliance requirements - and ready to communicate with internal and external teams to:

  • Conduct risk assessments
  • Inspect and service equipment/facilities regularly (to set timetables)
  • Train workers in the latest compliance requirements and procedures
  • Ensure that compliance risks are contained through action
  • Document and evidence compliance in real time
  • Support internal and external compliance audits

It’s not easy to take these steps and keep up to date with new legislation when you are busy trying to implement and police these compliance activities manually.

And in fact, many businesses are still struggling with spreadsheets and email to oversee complex compliance regimes.

Use FM software to control the chaos

But the compliance headache can be eased by using dedicated software to focus on three key areas. Facilities Managers should be looking for software support that can help them:

  • Build and automate robust compliance records and processes
  • Ensure remedial action takes place
  • Build documented evidence for compliance audits

But what should these solutions look like?

1. They should streamline and protect your compliance process 

If you’re trying to organise your compliance process with Excel sheets and Outlook, the chances are you’ll quickly lose the plot. It’ll be hard to keep track of what needs to be done and what has been done - you’ll waste time and resource collating evidence that key tasks have been completed. 

As with all manual processes there’s a very high chance of gaps and omissions creeping into your work. 

A good piece of FM software should give you the tools to easily upload compliance tasks into a system, and then see the output within a dynamic compliance calendar. 

  • It should let you easily add and edit compliance tasks/workflows to keep your process compliant
  • It should let you schedule automatic reminders and notifications for scheduled work, while flagging when items are complete, over due or where further action is required.
  • It should give you an ‘at a glance view’ of required compliance activities, showing you what needs to be done over the next month/year.

2. Prevent remedial action from slipping

When there are recommendations or requirements following a compliance visit, these can often slip through the net. If FM are trying to collate feedback manually from compliance visits, detail can be lost and vital next steps not scheduled.

When businesses are using external contractors for specialist jobs, you need to give them the power to update records within a central repository, triggering further actions as required:

FM software with a dedicated contractor portal should allow specialist contractors:

  • To report on the status of asset they have inspected
  • Specify required work to make asset compliant
  • Trigger linked work order creation as necessary
  • Allow FM to specify due dates for remedial actions

Allowing contractors to initiate remedial action for review will reduce the administrative burden on the FM team, but ensure FM’s complete oversight and control of the process, so nothing can be overlooked.

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3. Automatically capture and store compliance data for evidence

Without FM software, collating evidence for compliance inspections can be difficult and time consuming. FM teams can waste time and resource pulling together documentation to prove servicing, inspections and remedial actions have taken place by the appropriate people at the right time

Without this evidence you can face fines, your business may be open to prosecution or private litigation. And if you can’t prove you have the processes in place to regularly check assets for compliance you may face higher insurance premiums, too.

Your asset register, therefore, should give you a complete and uneditable audit trail showing:

  • All scheduled compliance activity
  • Complete service/maintenance records
  • Remedial action triggered and taken
  • Appropriate certification and other documents evidencing compliance

It should be easy for auditors to access these records and verify appropriate actions have been taken. It should also be easy for you to investigate the causes of compliance failures when called upon.

Keeping control of compliance risks in your organisation entails:

  • Documenting requirements 
  • Creating the workflows and processes to automate compliance activities
  • Having tools flexible enough to update workflows when needed
  • Trigger and track remedial actions following inspections
  • Capture the data and evidence that all this has been done

If FMs don’t ensure that checks are regularly made, equipment is properly serviced and teams are accountable for the upkeep of their processes, the consequences can be expensive and, even, lethal. 

Investing in the tools to automate and digitise these processes, will reduce the risk of omissions and mistakes. It will reduce the amount of manual work required for day to day compliance and help you focus on the bigger regulatory picture. And with greater peace of mind and less administration to distract you, you should finally be able to get a good night’s sleep.

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