Are you prepared for the new building safety standards?

If you’re in facilities management, are you ready for the new building safety standards? Regulatory bodies expect the sector to be ready to undertake the remedial activity and meet compliance needs ahead of new legislation. These are the measures FM's should be considering immediately.

Building safety: measure, review, improve

Not every building currently falls under the remit of the Building Safety Regulator. Developing an asset management plan will help prioritise works in line with new best practice guidelines.

As a result of the first phase of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, key recommendations and guidance have been issued for safety related measures and necessary remediation. These include:

- Removing unsafe materials
- Remediating unsafe wall systems
- Updating fire risk assessments with particular focus on fire resistance of external cladding and fire doors
- Testing fire doors every 3 months in order to confirm that self-closing devices are working correctly
- Reviewing and testing fire fighting equipment and systems
- Reviewing emergency fire procedures including personal evacuation plans for any residents who need assistance

New statutory functions and duties

The new regime will see the creation of the statutory roles of Building Safety Manager and Accountable Person. And while these roles can be performed by legal entities, competent individuals will be required to perform the BSM role. In addition, the accountability of the AP is non-transferable.

Both roles will be required to be registered with the BSR, requiring your facilities management team to have the capacity and expertise for these roles.

A competence framework for the BSM role has already been developed. But your FM team will need a person with the skills and expertise to meet the specified competence requirements.

It’s well worth investing in upskilling and training for your entire team to raise awareness of the new liabilities and responsibilities. You’ll need to have sufficient funding and resources available to build the competence and capacity to fulfil the new statutory requirements.

Systems and information

- Sufficient information will be cascaded to the relevant people. They will then plan and implement actions that can be measured and evidenced to demonstrate that they meet the needs of the new regulatory body
- New information requirements include the safety case for fire and risk management, the digital ‘golden thread’ of building info and the emergency services information box.
- The implementation of a clear engagement strategy for residents and building users. This should include relevant fire safety information

If your FM team isn’t yet engaged in an information-gathering exercise, this is the time to start. You should also revisit or start developing and implementing an engagement strategy that meets the requirements of the new regulations.

Stay up to date

It’s vitally important that your facilities management team stays up to speed with all the developments as the new regime is implemented. The initial focus will be on structural and fire safety in all multi-occupied buildings exceeding 18 metres or six storeys.

Facilities management teams in the sector will need to focus on developing capacity and skills, engagement and information gathering exercises before the full implementation of the new regime.


fire alarm on the wall

UK Government releases new fire safety bill

New government legislation is set to improve fire safety in England and Wales. Put in place to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the new bill places a legal requirement on the owners of residential buildings to inspect all fire doors and cladding. This comes in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the subsequent inquiry.

Grenfell recommendations

The proposed change to the existing legislation is a result of recommendations made by Sir Martin Moore-Bick during phase 1 of the inquiry. The initial report recommends that statutory checks be made at not less than three-monthly intervals. Under the new bill, fire and rescue services will be empowered to hold building owners to account and enforce the checks if necessary.

There was some initial reluctance from the government to make fire door checks a legal requirement, seeming to recommend only that routine checks be made. But the new bill is intended to swiftly implement the Grenfell recommendations and significantly increase fire safety.

Other recommendations from phase 1 of the inquiry include:

- Regular lift inspections
- Ensure entrance doors where unsafe cladding is in place comply with fire safety standards
- Clear and easy to understand fire safety instructions
- Review and regularly update evacuation plans

This bill is seen as a stepping stone towards implementing secondary legislation to fully implement these recommendations.

Does the bill go far enough?

While industry bodies cautiously welcomed the legislation, others feel that the checks don’t go far enough when it comes to high usage fire doors in public areas or those that have a vital role in fire safety. Should fire doors at risk of damage or in particularly vulnerable and high risk areas be subject to a risk based approach rather than a time limited one?

By throwing the responsibility for fire door checks onto building owners and FM professionals, it remains to be seen to what extent government will play a regulatory role in fire safety going forward. A Building Safety Bill has been promised with provision for a new building safety regulator but in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis it’s uncertain when such legislation will make it onto the statute books.

Implications for facilities management

So what are the implications for FM managers and how can industry professionals implement fire safety in their buildings? Responsibility for fire door inspection looks set to become a statutory duty for all managed residential buildings which is why implementing best practice for fire safety now will put you ahead of the game.

Routine maintenance should already be in place, ensuring that building assets don’t deteriorate and present a fire risk. Regular and consistent fire drills and other safety routines will ensure that you and your team have access to safety equipment and be skilled in its deployment should the worst happen. Storing relevant information in the cloud so it's accessible to professionals and residents alike is another smart step in implementing best practice in fire safety for your building. Planning for emergency traffic flow through your building will help residents move safely towards emergency exits.

Taking a risk based approach to fire safety in your residential building will ensure that you’re already future proofed. And building owners and managers now have the clarification they need to better safeguard their residents.


lady wearing a mask

Should FM managers be classed as 'key workers'?

Who is a ‘key worker’? It’s a question that’s critical where FM is concerned. With the need to keep buildings secure, well maintained and above all clean, facilities management is arguably now more important than ever.

Safe and operational

In these unprecedented times, FM has a critical role to play in keeping essential buildings operational and safe. But that’s not currently reflected in government thinking and facilities managers are not currently listed as key workers along with cleaners and waste management operatives. Fears are that if facilities management and associated roles are not recognised as critical workers now then hygiene standards will drop when FM should have a positive role to play in the response to COVID-19.

Essential buildings, essential workers?

Buildings that are essential in the crisis include hospitals, schools and banks, all of which need to be kept clean and well maintained. Even temporarily unoccupied buildings need to be kept secure and operational to in readiness for business continuity. In addition, waste management and HVAC maintenance are critical to ensure that infestations and the threat of Legionnaires disease are minimised.

So if buildings can be considered essential, why not the facilities managers who undertake this critical work? While tighter social distancing and isolation measures are quite rightly in force, should FM managers maintain the right to work and access their buildings to provide these essential services? That’s the question the IWFM is asking of the government.

Critical to the COVID-19 response

In a letter to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis makes two urgent demands:

- That facilities management professionals be considered as key workers under the latest government guidance
- That these professionals and their contractors be able to attend their buildings and continue to ensure they are safe and well maintained even in the event of stricter social distancing measures

The bigger picture is that these professionals play a critical role in keeping buildings clean and well maintained in sectors regarded by government as key to the Covid-19 response. In some cases, this essential maintenance and repair work fulfils a statutory duty. The industry body is also asking that facilities professionals be allowed to determine the teams and contractors that are critical to achieving safe and healthy outcomes for those key workers using these buildings.

The IWFM is asking professionals to share their experiences of managing the coronavirus crisis by email to policy@iwfm.org.uk. This information can then be used to support and inform other facility managers across the profession.

Professional resources

If you’re a facility management professional looking for the latest guidance and information to stay ahead of the curve, the IWFM has put together a set of Covid-19 resources which can be found at https://www.iwfm.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-resources.html. Alongside the latest advice from government and public health authorities, the industry body has collated a range of valuable resources from across business and other partner organisations.

To help you keep delivering essential services, you’ll find information on business continuity plans, shutdown, partial occupancy and restarting plus security, stress and wellbeing and best practice guidance. Sound management of the critical infrastructure that business and key workers depend upon demonstrates beyond all doubt that FM professionals deserve to be included as part of the UK’s critical workforce.


Stress at work

5 causes of office stress

We’re all more aware than ever as to the harmful effects of stress. A recent report claimed that over 70% of FM managers admit to feeling moderate stress during their working day, while 14% describe themselves as very stressed. It’s hardly surprising, considering the variety of challenges that facilities management personnel face on a daily basis. These are the five most common causes of stress in the workplace:

1. Overwork

This is one of the most common causes of workplace stress. In fact, 59% of FM managers said that feeling that they never had enough hours in the day was their primary cause of stress. The pressure to overwork doesn’t always come from your boss, either. In some cases, you can be the one who decides they just have to keep the pressure on and keep working.

2. Coworkers

Bullying and harassment from coworkers can make your life a misery and are a major contributing factor to stress in the workplace. This kind of behaviour can also lead to mental health issues that can be challenging to overcome.

3. The wrong job

Facilities management can be an incredibly varied and challenging career that has something for everyone. But if you’re feeling stressed out for no reason, you could be working in the wrong field. If you’re happier interpreting data but your work mainly involves scheduling maintenance it could be time for a switch.

4. Work environment

Most FM managers are used to working in challenging environments. But there are plenty of everyday frustrations that can lead to work stress including not having the most up to date tools and equipment for the job. 50% of facilities managers complain of a lack of resources, while 34% deal with unreliable building systems that contribute to stress.

5. Lack of support network

Working in facilities management can sometimes be isolating, leading 24% of managers to describe their job as a thankless one. A lack of resources can leave you dealing with complex problems alone which can lead to further stress.

Is all stress bad for you?

If you’re thinking that the solution to your work stress is a good long holiday, then think again. Science has revealed that the moments when we are happiest are the moments when we face big challenges and overcome them. When we tackle something right at the limit of our abilities and pull through. In fact, a certain level of moderate stress, otherwise known as eustress, can be an energising and beneficial force.

But how can you avoid the kind of chronic stress that can really take a toll on mind and body?

Stress reduction in FM

Stress reduction for facilities managers is often a question of being aware of three things: being clear what’s required in your job, having the skills to do it and feeling in control over the way you achieve your goals.

Focus upon creating a work environment with clear lines of communication where people are both comfortable in asking for help and empowered to create their own ways of working. As a manager, you need to be able to motivate your team in the face of a challenging situation. By encouraging them to see what lies ahead not as stressful but as exciting and fulfilling, you can harness stress for great outcomes.


hands holding a heart with medical white cross

These healthcare trends are changing FM

In this time of economic uncertainty, the healthcare industry is not alone in facing the dual challenges of change and increasing costs. Taking a strategic approach to the often extensive real estate portfolios owned within the healthcare industry and optimising the efficiency of facilities management is vital in order to stay ahead.

Here, we take a look at some of the current healthcare trends affecting facility management.

1.      A high level of merger and acquisition activity is changing the approach to construction and real estate

In the past few years, the healthcare industry has witnessed unprecedented M&A activity, which has led to several cross-industry collaborations with non-traditional healthcare providers, faith-based organisations and pharmaceutical companies. Such consolidation is creating mega health systems, all of which will require a fresh approach to facilities management.

2.      Operating margins are tightening as costs-per-patient increase

While it is a constant source of political debate, it remains the case that healthcare providers are continuing to face cost pressures and the continuing need to balance patient care with tighter and tighter budget constraints. Improving outcomes for those at the receiving end of healthcare services, of course, remains the key priority across the industry, off-set against the need to find creative ways to reduce costs wherever possible. Facilities management is not immune.

3.      As the healthcare system evolves, traditional hospital networks could become obsolete

The many changes happening across the healthcare sector will undoubtedly mean changes to the approach taken towards real estate and its future management.

For example, the merger of different institutions combined with an increase in service provision from other providers is likely to mean a reduction in large all-encompassing hospital buildings as we see a move towards greater use of ambulatory surgeries, emergency clinics and micro-hospitals based within local communities.

With the aim of reaching local residents easily and addressing their health issues early within their local community, the hope for the future is to reduce the number of people developing acute illnesses which then require expensive treatment in a large, centralised facility. From a healthcare perspective, prevention is better than cure and most patients would prefer to receive treatment near their own homes. As such, the provision of localised facilities is likely to be a welcome progression for the future.

In addition to, most importantly, improving the overall patient experience, smaller outpatient centres are less expensive to build and maintain than traditional, larger hospital buildings. However, the management of such a diverse portfolio of buildings in various locations brings with it new challenges in terms of the ongoing management of each facility.

4.      The risk of hospital-acquired infections is still real

While receiving treatment for other health issues, there remains a risk of patients picking up further infections through simply being in a healthcare environment. As a result, there is a duty on those responsible for the management of buildings to look at what can be done with the physical environment to reduce the risk and spread of infections.

This may include the design and maintenance of buildings, from ventilation systems through to interior design.

Fresh thinking and embracing new technologies will be key to the future of FM in this industry as it supports the health of the population.


Engineers in the sun

How to protect workers when the temperature rises!

Employers are expected to provide a reasonable working environment for their employees. The recommended temperature should be set at a minimum of 16°C, or 13°C for work requiring heavy lifting. Heating and cooling systems should be provided if a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained, for example, fans should be used and windows should be opened to allow air to circulate if needed.

Employees should never be in a situation where they are too hot. The appropriate shade should be added if any team members are sitting in direct sunlight or in the vicinity of objects that give off heat, for example, machinery or other equipment. engineers working in the sun

In a warm atmosphere, sufficient breaks should be provided to allow staff to cool down. They should also have access to cold drinks, for example, many businesses provide water coolers or vending machines for the comfort of their workforce. Depending on individual circumstances, it may also be appropriate to introduce a system of working in order to limit exposure to extremes of heat. This could include job rotation or moving workstations. It may also include flexible working patterns.

Heat-related illnesses can increase the number of accidents at work. High temperatures in the working environment can cause lethargy and lead to poor concentration, which increases the potential for personal injury in the workplace. Extremes of temperature can also give rise to poor judgement and this is especially risky when employees’ jobs require them to operate machinery or work with tools or harsh chemicals.

Facilities management can oversee conditions in the workplace and can make recommendations for improvement. Some companies may require specific advice, particularly if workers are exposed to extremes of temperature. If employees are experiencing ill effects due to the working environment, then the situation requires urgent review to ensure that the relevant precautions are taken.

Conditions may require close monitoring and any incidents must be recorded as outlined by health and safety legislation. Monitoring or medical screening may be needed for workers who have certain illnesses or disabilities, in addition to any women who are pregnant. This is of particular importance when exposed to extremes of temperature and medical advice may be necessary.

A visible focus on the safety of all employees can only serve to enhance the firm's reputation and employer branding. This, in turn, may enhance applicant volumes for new positions. For those already in-role, there will be a sense that their welfare is regarded as a high priority and retention rates should improve as a result. Overall, a strong focus on working conditions creates a more positive working environment for everyone within the organisation.

It is important to remember that illnesses caused by temperature increases can affect office workers too, in addition to drivers and staff who are based on site. It is essential to ensure that all workers, whether exposed to sunlight or extremes of temperatures, benefit from safe and comfortable working conditions and that any risks are managed.

Ultimately, it is vital that any firm is proactive when it comes to temperature management and that the in-house risk assessment systems are fully effective.


office and computers

The link between good office design and productivity

Open plan is the design of choice for many facilities management companies, but new studies have shown that these large open spaces can have a negative impact on productivity.

Those workers whose roles require a quiet environment can be disrupted, which results in an output decrease. The study also shows an increase in absenteeism and a costly high turnover of staff. So what makes a good office design and happy and productive staff?

Here are 7 things to consider:

Ask your employees
Your employees know best, so involve your staff in design decisions. Once you learn more about how they work and how they think, they could work smarter, and improvements can be made to encourage maximum output from the whole team

Little things can go a long way
Whilst your staff may dream of bean bag seating and games consoles aplenty, this is not a suitable workspace for most businesses. There are some small luxuries you can offer, however, that will make your staff feel listened to and appreciated, as well as improving their experience at work:

-       Childcare services
-       Vending machines
-       Subsidised canteen
-       Doctor / Dentist clinics
-       Green / Outdoor areas
-       Games rooms
-       Communal couch areas
-       Massage chairs
-       Dress down Friday
-       Bring your dogs/kids to work day

Renew your tech
Use software to automate systems, freeing up more time for staff to do more productive jobs. Make sure you have a dedicated IT person or team to fix software and hardware bugs, so your staff don’t waste valuable time trying to work things out.

Consider noise levels
If ten employees are on the telephone, ten phones are ringing off the hook and ten people are trying to have a meeting, is this a productive workspace or pure chaos? Consider separate meeting areas, soundproofing ceiling tiles and using fabric screens to offer privacy to those who need it. Glass walls may be the solution for your accounts team or anyone else who may require a quiet environment to reduce distractions and improve concentration.

Make light and airy spaces
Make sure your staff have access to fresh air and natural light. This will reduce fatigue, eye strain, the spread of viral infections, headaches caused by artificial lighting and absenteeism. Introduce plants for better air quality.

Movement breaks
Ask your staff to relocate some of the items they use often. This will force them to get up from their workspace frequently and move around. Sitting or standing in one position for prolonged periods can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health. Simply moving around will rejuvenate fatigued workers.

Ergonomics
Speak to your facilities management department about reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. Some of the usual methods are as follows:
-       Wrist supports for use with mouse and keyboard
-       Screen/monitor supports for posture
-       Footrests for comfort and blood flow
-       Replace telephone handsets with headsets
-       Ergonomic seating to encourage an improved sitting position and posture

Feeling happy and contented at work is contagious, and these simple steps could have a significant impact on your working environment, resulting in higher productivity and more satisfied staff.


woman working on a laptop at desk

Sitting too much at work is damaging office employees' health

Whilst countless studies have been undertaken to highlight the dangers of sitting for long periods of time at work, very little attention has been dedicated to studying prolonged standing and the serious health risks involved.

A recent study by The Institute for Work and Health has discovered that both sitting and standing for long periods of time whilst at work could be a serious health risk.

Whilst most employers and their workers assume health problems are limited to musculoskeletal issues, the study contradicts this. Two separate studies were carried out by postdoctoral fellow, Dr Aviroop Biswas and senior scientist, Dr Peter Smith. They discovered those who are seated at work for prolonged periods are placing themselves at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, coupled with a higher chance of dying from these serious health conditions.

The chances of suffering from heart disease are 2.2 times higher for those who stand at work than those who sit. The doctors state their independent studies are not, in fact, contradictory, explaining that sitting at work instead of standing is not a better option for you nor vice versa, but that in any event, employees must be encouraged to move around more.

A further study, published in the Occupational Medicine scientific journal, highlights that exercise outside of working hours does nothing to counterbalance health issues for workers. The 343 employees involved in the study were not aware they were still at risk of life-threatening illnesses if they conducted exercise outside of work and they thought that uninterrupted sitting would not cause serious health problems if they were undertaking regular exercise alongside it.

One solution to consider is for your company’s HR and FM departments to collaborate, putting a plan in place to encourage sedentary employees to get up from their desks more and for those who stand at work to take the opportunity to sit down whenever they can. This could mean deciding when your staff take breaks and including standing and moving. If yours is a fun working environment, playing music at set times throughout the day is a way to get your staff to stand up and move around. For those with a more conservative working environment, ‘take a walk’ breaks could be introduced.

In order to interrupt your standing employees, break out areas with comfortable seating may be a beneficial option. If your standing employees are customer facing, consider introducing chairs and inform your customers of the reasons for this and the health implications involved for your standing staff. This is also a great way to raise awareness among the general public.

Your facilities management team should have more creative ideas on how to achieve a more active and healthier working environment. They may be able to introduce more innovative desk and working area designs and technologies that allow employees to work standing up in a different location within the office at certain times of the working day.

In conclusion, being sedentary in the workplace, whether standing or seated, is bad for your health. As companies introduce more flexible ways of working, we may start to see a reduction in the adverse health effects of prolonged sitting and standing in the workplace.