Considering Best Practice in Compliance Monitoring & Management – Would You Still Watch Black & White TV?
I hope that you will excuse a slightly daft question and short anecdote before we launch into our latest tirade about compliance and monitoring…
Would you consider watching black & white TV any more? Probably not I suspect. Why? Because it’s not as good as colour TV. Obviously.
It reminds me of a famous gaffe made by Ted Lowe, our dearly beloved snooker commentator who sadly passed away back in 2011. Way back in the 70’s, when watching TV in black & white and colour was still common, Ted famously said…
"Steve is going for the pink ball - and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green."
Our point is this. When you are considering Health & Safety and compliance monitoring, choosing last year’s technology may impact you a lot more severely than not being able to tell the difference between pink and green. Yet still, people use and buy technology that is well over 10 years old to record fire walks in Hotels.
This has all been prompted after our meeting with the Kent Fire Brigade a few weeks ago. It made us think long and hard about exactly why you would want to record day-to-day compliance and maintenance tasks and activity electronically, rather than using paper. Or, dare we say, why you might not want to record compliance activity at all!
Our meeting confirmed that keeping compliance information, per se, is not mandatory or a legal requirement. In fact, a hotel MIGHT trade forever more without ever needing to produce so much as a log book. Avoid the obvious pit-falls like propping fire-doors open with a fire extinguisher or making fire exits out of Balsa Wood, and hopefully you won’t get reported.
But the problem here is the word “might”.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, there were 596 fires in hotels or guest houses in England alone. There were 12,895 hotels in the whole of the UK at that time. This means that statistically, there was a significantly greater than 4.6% chance of anyone having a fire in their hotel in that year.
Another thing that our meeting with the Kent Fire Brigade established is that if there is a fire in an establishment with a high-risk profile (people sleeping in an unfamiliar environment is deemed to be high-risk), then there WILL be an investigation.
Last week we met a life-long hotelier who has found himself being “under investigation” in this context 3 times in his professional life (about 30 years). Simply put, the longer you are in the game, the more likely you are to find yourself there.
So what happens when you are under investigation? The law (the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) basically states that you must have chosen “suitable systems” and be able to prove that they have been maintained according to the appropriate British Standard. You will also be required to prove that you have evaluated, identified and removed fire hazards, thereby protecting those at risk, and that you have recorded your findings AND regularly monitored the risks and your findings and communicated them (via the appropriate training) to Responsible or Competent persons.
All straightforward stuff! Nothing grey, pink or even blue there then!
We should point out again that you will not be required to show this proof to anyone unless you are audited or investigated. Keeping a paper log book is NOT mandatory. But when someone comes knocking, you WILL be expected to prove that you have maintained the safety of your guests and staff. But how should you do that?
Legislation simply does not answer this question, but we at TourTraxUK do feel the need to question the validity of paper-based systems in offering the required proof. How can signatures or dates written on a piece of paper prove that anything was done, where, or when? Even systems requiring hardware to be scanned at strategic points are vulnerable to abuse and tampering if all that is produced is paper.
And what if all your “proof” goes up in smoke when the very fire that we are all trying to prevent takes hold. OK, so you keep it in a fire-proof safe, but what if someone forgot to put it in there on the crucial night in question.
Ultimately however, the point that needs to be considered is what evidence would you have at your disposal, and how reliable would it be, if the situation you found yourself in as a Responsible or Competent person centred around accusations relating to death or injury in a court of law.
Those that use electronic systems, where data is recorded with a time, date and GPS stamp at a central or remote location (“the Cloud) talk of “due diligence”. Although due diligence could mean anything, as good a definition as anything that we have seen refers to it as “reasonable steps taken by a person to avoid committing a tort or offence”. If people are injured or die because of a fire, any court of law will expect Responsible persons to go to some lengths to PROVE that they did everything they could to avoid the death or injury that has occurred. So not providing said proof may be considered to be an offence. Will paper log books cut it? Will the excuse that everything was destroyed in the fire be enough?
Our position is that anything paper-based cannot possibly demonstrate due diligence. In fact, many of the systems that are still being used are simply not “fit-for-purpose”, in our opinion. Electronic systems that will securely record, and prove, your diligence in maintaining the safety of your staff and guests exist. And they are common-place. In fact, they are easy to use and are readily available for the price of little more than a Smartphone. This being the case, how can writing (or printing) words on a piece of paper possibly demonstrate due diligence with the technology that is available to us today?
It’s a lot more than simply a question of pink or green!
For more information about we can help you to track and monitor all of your fire safety related activity quickly, easily and securely… call Richard Dickety on 01634 757 088.
Is Health & Safety Really Such a Burden?
TourTraxUK had a meeting this week with the Kent Fire Brigade which was eye-opening to say the least.
What is evident is that although the conundrum of staying on the right side of Health & Safety law in a hospitality situation is serious and NOT straightforward, it is also nowhere near as complex as some may have you believe. We will aim to clarify things in this blog by being clear, by avoiding legalese, and without scare-mongering.
What Happens When Things Go Wrong?
So let’s start by NOT assuming the worst-case scenario. If death or serious injury were to occur in any hospitality environment, a full investigation would be conducted by multiple public agencies, and criminal prosecution MAY result. There’s nothing we, or anyone, can do about that.
Instead, let’s say that an aggrieved customer or former employee has contacted the Fire Service because they believe that you are not adhering to good practice for whatever reason. Maybe they saw a Fire Extinguisher being used to prop a Fire Exit open, for example.
At this point the Fire Service would be obliged to act, and within 24 hours. This would likely result in an on-site audit being conducted by the Fire Service. In other words, a Hotel could have a fully qualified Fire Officer on-site ready to conduct an audit, within 72 hours of the Responsible Person being made aware of anything being (potentially) wrong.
What Would An Audit Involve?
So, what would they want to see? Firstly, it is NOT legally necessary for you to produce a paper log book. But, you MUST be able to prove your compliance to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 Act. Well that’s fairly grey isn’t it!
What this means is that you must have conducted a full Fire Risk Assessment within the last 12 months, and this must be up-to-date. It also means that any means of escape, any means of fire detection, or any other health & safety equipment designed to guide or protect people in an emergency, MUST be “suitable” and must be “suitably maintained”.
Again, these points could be viewed as being slightly grey, but what it really means is that any assets falling under the aforementioned categories must conform to and be maintained according to the appropriate British Standard. Such as BS 5839 for Fire Alarm Systems, for example.
How Can Activity Be PROVEN?
Digging out up-to-date Risk Assessments should be straightforward, and what was interesting in our recent meeting was that the emphasis should be on keeping these forms simple and straightforward and covering only necessary information.
But how on earth would you prove that assets are regularly maintained, or that a Fire Alarm System is fit for purpose and that it has been maintained in a way that British Standards see fit? Being aware of the legislation and of any British Standard around your health and safety equipment would be extremely wise (NB we cannot help here!) but PROVING your diligence around maintaining your chosen systems is most definitely something that we CAN help with.
So What’s The Solution?
Well we at TourTraxUK believe that we have a solution that is as good as anything on the market.
Firstly, we can supply a Fire Risk Assessment template form that can be completed on our F1 Android SmartScanner device in minutes rather than hours. It will be time, date and GPS stamped and be electronically signed by the Responsible Person. It will also be stored safely and securely in your document store in the cloud to be found at a second’s notice, or it can be printed should you prefer. But the Cloud always acts as a great (fire resistant) backup.
We can also supply maintenance forms designed specifically for the health and safety equipment that you own. We have standard templates for most of the obvious items (Fire Exits, Extinguishers, Alarm Systems) which are designed to be simple and to cover no more than what is required. They will therefore be quickly and easily completed. Each can be adapted to the exact specifications of your equipment should that be necessary.
But where our system gets really clever is that it can PROVE who has visited these assets and when. In other words, a full audit trail of activity plus PROOF of attendance. We will even generate activity schedules and alerts for you so that no maintenance activity will ever get missed.
Peace of Mind Is Great But Is There a Financial Benefit?
First of all, using the SmartScanner product would make an audit situation a whole lot less stressful. You may still get audited, but how priceless would it be to be able to prove how completely diligent you are beyond any reasonable doubt? With our SmartScanner product, you can do exactly that.
But from a financial perspective, insurers like businesses that can prove that they behave in this way, because they pose less Risk. Meaning they make fewer claims. We work with a specialist broker who is prepared to guarantee a MINIMUM 5% off your existing property and liability insurance, if you are using our SmartScanner product.
This makes the system comparable in terms of cost to the old-fashioned wand or fire-walk monitoring systems that are still prevalent in so many hospitality environments. Yet it offers genuine PROOF of activity, PLUS the capability to conduct and manage your risk assessments. And alerts!!
So let me ask the question… What price peace of mind… is SmartScanner a no-brainer?
We believe so!
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