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.