A guide to compliance for senior leaders

Callum Campbell, Senior Consultant at Assure Advisory, has had almost a decade of experience in making sure buildings are safe. He tackles the subject of compliance, covering the main facts senior leaders need to know about keeping their organisation safe and compliant.

Compliance. Safety. Regulations. It’s all someone else’s responsibility, isn’t it? But if you’re a senior executive, board member, or even a trustee, you may have more of a responsibility for ensuring your buildings are safe than you think.

Let’s face it, compliance can be a scary subject. There are lots of regulations and legislation out there, not to mention British standards and Health Technical Memoranda, and then there’s a whole host of approved codes of practices, guidance notes, industry good practice and manufacturers’ guidance to think about. These are regularly updated with changes, making keeping up-to-date a very difficult task. When the consequences of non-compliance include fines, individual prosecutions, and even serious incidents or death, trying to ensure your building is compliant and safe can be daunting.

As a senior leader, you’re not expected to be able to recite all appropriate legislation by heart, but there are some things you should be aware of. Here are five questions you should be able to answer about the compliance of your building.

1) Am I responsible?
Maintaining compliance may not be part of your day-to-day role, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have responsibility for safety and compliance in your building. Different legislation can have different definitions around who the responsible person or duty holder is, but ultimately, whether you’re a building owner or board member, you will have legal responsibilities to ensure that your buildings maintain statutory compliance.

There are a number of examples of this, such as ensuring you have a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment for the building, or carrying out an annual gas safety check. When it comes to water hygiene, the risks associated with legionella must be assessed and managed on an ongoing basis and the duty holder has ultimate responsibility to ensure that this happens.

The tragedy in Barrow-in-Furness in 2002, where seven people died and 180 were made ill through an outbreak of legionella at a council leisure facility, contributed to current legislation, and shows how important it is that people responsible for buildings don’t just assume that compliance systems are working correctly.

2) Am I aware of the risks of non-compliance?
If you’re not compliant, yes, you may be prosecuted as a company or an individual. But the risks go beyond this. There’s financial risk – there may be a monetary penalty or fine, or increases to your insurance premium. Plus, there’s the reputational risk – do you want your customers, clients or potential employees to read about your compliance issues every time they search for your company’s name? And finally, and most importantly, there’s the safety risk. It’s not just a tick box exercise, lack of compliance can lead to devastating consequences.

3) Are we up to date?
You may think you’re compliant, but if your maintenance regime hasn’t been set up correctly, or is out of date, you may become unknowingly uncompliant. Often our clients are told what they need to do by the contractor that is carrying out the work, but having an understanding of the various compliance requirements is important to ensure that what they’re advising is ensuring you meet your compliance requirements. Maintenance schedules could also become out of date for a number of reasons, such as changes to legislation or if there have been changes to your building or assets. That’s why it’s essential your asset register is up to date.

Not sure what an asset register involves? See our article about understanding your property and assets. 

4) Can we evidence our compliance?
Not only do you have to be compliant, but you need to be able to prove it. Having your paperwork in order is essential.

We’ve helped a number of clients manage the compliance of their buildings. Every one of them had a different method of managing the paperwork following statutory maintenance and inspections. Some use a Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) system, others store physical paperwork in filing systems. There is no ‘right’ way of doing this, but what is important is being able to easily access the paperwork and having the confidence that the evidence is available quickly should it be needed.

5) Can you see your compliance data?
So you’re compliant, and you’ve got the evidence to prove it, but that’s not the end of the story. It’s good practice to ensure your compliance information is easy to access, and visible to relevant people in your organisation. Do you report on compliance at board-level, or do the board just assume safety checks are happening? Do you have data available in compliance dashboards where you can get a quick overview of the company’s overall compliance, or would you have to spend hours trawling through paperwork to understand where your risks lie?

So, now you know what to ask about compliance. If you can answer all these questions, you’ve likely got a good handle on compliance. If not, there are ways in which we can help.

Assure Advisory can provide a full compliance audit of your buildings, ensuring your asset information is correct, visiting your sites to confirm compliance requirements, reviewing all your evidence paperwork and risk assessments, and offering advice on how you can improve your compliance.

We can also help with other specific projects, for example, preparing or updating your asset register, developing your maintenance regime, or supporting the implementation of a Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) system to give you better control and visibility of your compliance.

If we can help you become and stay compliant, get in touch.