Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chocks away

February 2016

P1340559

Well this year we are 20 years old …. doesn’t seem more than 50 :)

To celebrate, we are sending out these aircraft models to customers old and new as a ‘Thank You’ for supporting us over the years.  If you’ve yet to receive yours, drop us a line, we’ve still got a few left.

Here’s to the next 20 years !!

 

Beware the Beancounters

NH_beans_print

July 2015

Today we’ve just come back from another site where the client is tearing his hair out because he has a survey report that has failed to locate significant quantities of asbestos containing materials.  In this instance, amazingly, over 100 metres of asbestos lagged pipework has been completely missed from the report.  The delays and extra costs involved will be enormous for him and of course he will need to have the survey redone.

Last month we started work on a large quantity of public sector buildings where deficiencies in their existing batch of surveys suddenly came to light.  This has caused great alarm to the staff in these properties.  Our surveys are revealing roughly 20 – 25% of asbestos materials have been completely missed.  These surveys had been conducted by a fully UKAS accredited organisation  (who still hold that accreditation today).  Again, the costs being faced by this client are staggering and it is yet unknown how staff disquiet will play out.

Is there anything linking these two examples?  Yes indeed.  In both instances when the original surveys were tendered, M3 were told that we had not been successful because an alternative supplier offered ‘better value for money’ (this is beancounter speak for ‘cheaper‘)  In truth of course, M3 were actually the ones offering the best value for money.

So what’s the solution ?

You should form strategic relationships with your asbestos consultants and not just select the cheapest supplier on an ad-hoc basis.  You should satisfy yourself that they have enough time to do the work properly. By all means test their costs from time to time by inviting comparative quotes.  4,000 people die a year from asbestos exposure and yet too many people are treating asbestos consultancy procurement as though they were ordering a box of biros.

Saving up for a Crisis

Asbestos Management can be a bit of a pain.  There are annual costs associated with maintaining it in good condition – regular inspections and remedial works and sometimes it’s no surprise that it slips down peoples agenda.  For a start it never seems to have the immediacy that more sudden injuries or deaths have.  It can be difficult to equate exposure to asbestos that might lead to a death sometime in the future to deaths from electrocution or falls from heights.

So it’s no real surprise to us when some clients start to let their asbestos management systems slip – they see it as pouring money into a black hole and consider it an area ripe for savings.  If we just let it go this time then nothing serious is likely to happen … and then next time …. well, nothing did happen so let’s cut back again, or a bit more.

Yet of course exposure to asbestos is a much more significant threat.  While deaths as a result of falls from heights or electrocutions are in their tens per year, deaths from asbestos exposure run into thousands a year.

So of course, inevitably, something does go wrong and suddenly the organisation is exposed.

bbc story

The questions start pouring in ……

Was the organisation following HSE guidance ?

Was the organisation managing asbestos properly ?

Will they be prosecuted for failing to maintain a safe workplace ?

How will their insurance company react when they find out ?

What reputational damage will they suffer ? – from their own staff especially

What claims will there be from people who believe they were exposed ?

A crisis point is reached.  All those savings made over the last couple of years pale into insignificance as the organisation scrambles to put it’s house in order.

It’s as though they were ….. Saving up for a Crisis

So a message for all you accountants out there who think that putting asbestos management on the back burner is a money saver – think again.  It could cost you a fortune.  In all the jobs I have been involved in over the years the starkest example was an organisation we were working for (known to all of you) who decided to save £400.  That decision cost them over £6 million and lost over 100 people their jobs.

(A recent example asbestos falling off the agenda in schools has just been reported by the BBChere )

The History of an Asbestos Mine in Italy

29th October 2014

Picture1

For those interested in a little bit of ‘asbestos history’ – M3 consultant Laura Gentile Garofalo has provided us with a power point presentation that she compiled as part of her MSc at Turin University.  The pictures show the Chrysotile Mine at Balangero, near Turin in it’s operational days and then pictures of the site remediation works that started in 1998 after asbestos was banned in Italy in 1992. In the 1970’s, 60% of production was exported … so maybe that corrugated sheet you have on your garden shed has Italian origins?

For those of you who ‘pale’ at the thought of a thermoplastic floor tile containing minute amounts of asbestos, the pictures of men working amongst sacks of crushed pure asbestos fibre may well have you dashing for the drinks cabinet.

Laura’s power point slides are reproduced here.

Asbestos: Don’t keep it in the family

2nd September 2014

StateLibQld_2_104176_Crown_solicitor,_Hubert_James_Hungerford_Henchman,_1936

A guest commentary from our friends at Carrs Solicitors – click on the link below the article if you are affected by any of the points raised or wish to find out more about their services

Asbestos exposure is more often than not associated with those working in industrial environments. It is not uncommon for construction work to unearth the hazardous material, which was frequently used in the past as it provided a versatile and economic solution.  The fire-retardant characteristics of the material, alongside its exceptional insulating properties, made it perfect for building work.

Despite such accolades, the inhalation of the material is associated with a range of serious diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. The dangers posed to those working with the substance led to its complete UK ban in 1999.

While it is fair to say the majority of those exposed do work in the construction industry, there is a lack of awareness associated with the risks posed to their friends and family. As anyone who has undertaken a spot of spring cleaning will know, dust settles wherever it can and the same can be said of Asbestos. While fibres may not necessarily be breathed in, they may be carried on clothes, bags, coats or even exposed skin. The unwitting carrier may transport them to an entirely new destination, where those in residence are unlikely to be wearing the personal equipment needed to protect them.

In the past, it was common for work clothing to be taken home to be washed, posing a risk of contamination to anyone in close proximity. Wives would shake out their husband’s overalls, exposing themselves to the deadly fibres, subsequently developing asbestos-related diseases.

Cases for asbestos exposure have been fought and won on this basis. Where exposure has caused a disease which has significantly reduced the quality or duration of life, regardless of whether or not they were employed directly by them, those employers who neglected to inform their workers of the dangers posed can be pursued for compensation.

Thanks to strict rules and regulations, those working around, or removing asbestos are governed by comprehensive guidelines to protect everyone involved. For anyone who does come across any substance that looks remotely like asbestos, don’t investigate further and risk exposure, call the professionals.

Author: Linda Williams works for Carrs Solicitors, a Law Firm who help the victims of work-related accidents claim the compensation they deserve.

Mesothelioma deaths up 10%

5th August 2014

mesothelioma blog header

Recently released Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics have shown an alarming 10% increase in deaths from mesothelioma between 2011 and 2012.  Total deaths in 2011 were 2,291. This had risen to 2,535 in 2012.

It is notoriously difficult to assess the effectiveness of current asbestos control measures given the latency of cause and effect.  Exposure to asbestos can cause fatalities years after exposure so all that can be said from the figures above is that during an unknown period in the past, asbestos control measures were not sufficient to protect workers – or those control measures weren’t properly adhered to.

Presently, the best employers can do to safeguard their employees (and other third parties) is to follow HSE guidance and legislation scrupulously and ensure that corners are not cut.

Here’s hoping the 2013 figures show a better trend.

Asbestos Management back in focus

15th July 2014

Managment Plans blog header

Asbestos Management has been on the back burner for quite a while over the last few years and a number of organisations are now beginning to review where they stand.  One of the main tenets of Asbestos Management is that you have the status and condition of asbestos containing materials regularly monitored and it is often this element that has been slipping.  Budgets were tight and a lot of annual inspections missed.  Inevitably this has led to a loss of control and put some people at risk as materials deteriorate.

Of course the rules don’t help sometimes.  The frequency with which re-inspections must be carried out often depends on the material itself.  So for example, composite pipe lagging should be re-inspected every few months whereas other materials only need inspecting once a year.  This multi-track inspection regime inevitably leads to confusion and most often to the compromise of an annual inspection.

Clients of ours that are in the public eye have been the most rigorous in adhering to the re-inspection timetables while others who are less visible have been leaving it for up to three years without attending to asbestos management matters, risking severe legal censure and potential exposure of staff and visitors.

One simple approach to help you stay on track is the Asbestos Management Plan.  This is a legal requirement and is drawn up to help you organise and keep on top of Asbestos Management.

It is intended to provide procedures and work methods to organise, arrange and carry out their duties in a controlled and safe manner in accordance with legislation.  The document will comply with the requirement in Regulation 4 (8) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to prepare a written plan that identifies where asbestos is, or may be located and the measures taken to manage risk.

The document will encompass details of all known asbestos containing materials at the site(s).  It will also include recommendations for the ongoing management of the materials in relation to any planned works, emergency procedures and for the prevention of exposure for all those who may come in contact with the materials

If you would like M3 to help you develop a Management plan for your business or portfolio drop us a line today at enquiries@m3associates.co.uk or telephone 01582 866800 and one of our consultants will talk you through the process.

The Asbestos Management Plan translates aspirations, budgets and goals into a working plan for ensuring that asbestos management becomes ……. manageable.

 

HSE latest

8th July 2014

hse header

An interesting report on an ‘asbestos’ related school inspection programme carried out by the H.S.E.  It showed that almost 1 in 3 schools were not up to standard in terms of their asbestos management and 13% needed enforcement action.  You can read the HSE bulletin here

A chap got caught re-selling old asbestos sheeting … a contender for the ‘Desperate Business’ cartoon in Private Eye.  Unfortunately it took a death to bring his crime to light.  Details here.

 

‘Technical debt’

Technical debt blog header

It can be very difficult to explain ‘best value’ against ‘lowest price’ sometimes.  Most asbestos consultancies have the same sort of overheads, staff are on similar salaries, they make similar profits and they carry similar levels of accreditation…  so why are there such varieties in pricing?

 We’ve seen computer generated reports that clients can’t make head nor tail of, poor customer service, areas not properly surveyed, inadequate detail etc. etc. etc. These all can lead to unplanned and costly follow up works making the original ‘competitive’ price very expensive indeed in the long run.

“You get what you pay for” seems a tired old cliché.  An IT friend of mine directed me to this article recently which I found very interesting.  Although it is dealing with computer programming costs, it is easy to see how it can also apply to most other purchases too.

Best value is something we know instinctively in our personal lives, (who amongst us has got the cheapest possible house, car, tv or hifi?) but somehow that common sense seems to desert us when we come to work. The articles argument basically says that organisations that buy in work too cheaply are often accruing ‘Technical Debt’ which is a term I had not heard before.  Here is a short excerpt from the article.

“Technical Debt is a wonderful metaphor developed by Ward Cunningham to help us think about this problem. In this metaphor, doing things the quick and dirty way sets us up with a technical debt, which is similar to a financial debt. Like a financial debt, the technical debt incurs interest payments, which come in the form of the extra effort that we have to do in future development because of the quick and dirty design choice. We can choose to continue paying the interest, or we can pay down the principal by refactoring the quick and dirty design into the better design. Although it costs to pay down the principal, we gain by reduced interest payments in the future.

If you are an IT buff or just interested in the topic, the full article is here

So if your report contains omissions or too many exclusions, if the report is hard to read or understand, if it is incomplete, if the report takes longer to arrive than you had planned or raises more questions than it answers then you have acquired technical debt – and putting that right can cost a lot more than you thought you had saved when you took that lower price.

Economic Outlook

Economic Blog header

Good news from the IMF that the UK is predicted to have the highest growth of all G7 countries this year.  We certainly have noticed a bit of an upturn lately.  Back in March 2013 – when it would be normal to see an increase in activity as organisations spend up their budgets- sales remained stubbornly flat.  One year on however, things are back to normal with March being a top performer for the year.  Activity this April is also looking positive with almost all consultants fully booked for the month.  Long may it continue.