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Case study: Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a Facilities Management company

Facilities Management is described as “the integration of processes within an organization to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities,” according to The Professional Body for Facilities Management. This sector has grown rapidly and is now worth billions of dollars to the U.S. and world economies. Given the combination of buildings, grounds, equipment, and staff management, it stands to reason that OHSAS 18001 is a vital business tool to ensure that employee, stakeholder, and client safety is maintained for such companies. The sector does, however, bring certain challenges, as I discovered recently when being asked to advise on a Facilities Management project.

Facilities Managements – Why, and what to consider?

It quickly became clear to me on meeting the client that the portfolio of a FM (Facilities Management) company can be very diverse, and risk can be present in many places. It came as no surprise then, that the CEO had identified OHSAS 18001 as the correct business tool to protect both his employees, his client base and, by extension, their property. So, what shape did the process take from there?

In the previous article, How detailed should your occupational health and safety policy be? we looked at the OH&S policy, which is a mandatory requirement of OHSAS 18001. After consultation with employees, a legal consultant, and a selection of stakeholders, an OH&S policy was constructed and employees were consulted further. The article How to perform management review in OHSAS 18001 gave details of how to perform the management review, and despite an annual  management review not strictly being a mandatory requirement of OHSAS 18001, it was decided that a meeting to set objectives and frequencies for certain mandatory actions like risk assessments was preferable both for clarity, and to establish the correct culture. As we saw in a previous implementation in How to implement OHSAS 18001 in a car repair center, the implementation steps for the FM company were very similar, with particular attention paid to elements such as consultation, competence and awareness, and critically, legislation. But, there was one major element of the standard where the activities of the FM company differed from other sectors, and that was “risk.”

Dealing with risk in a Facilities Management environment

The article How to perform risk assessment in OHSAS 18001 offers guidance on how to perform risk assessment, and one of the main challenges in this sector was that the identification of risk needed collaboration from stakeholders, clients, and employees alike. Let us consider some of them:

  • Employees had to perform maintenance on all aspects of clients’ buildings and grounds, tasks that required specific training and skillsets, but also presented a unique set of risks, where both client and employee input had to be considered during risk assessment.
  • In some cases, equipment and engineering systems had to be managed, such as air conditioning and heating. Working knowledge of these systems was vital; therefore, basic training and competence were required to ensure that risk was mitigated. Establishing and maintaining “documented information” can also help with this.
  • Type of site managed – this could vary from an office block to parts of a chemical plant, where risk of mismanagement of any system or building could have heavy financial and economic penalties. Assessing this type of risk proved time consuming, with environmental officers, client representatives, employees, and external consultants required to provide the correct input for correctly assessed risk, with due consideration given to local people and neighbors.
  • Understanding legislation in the context of the client – in some cases, the FM organization had teams of cleaners and service workers to manage. A risk was identified should these teams not have training, competence, and knowledge of company objectives and decisions, and of legislation and good working practice. Therefore, after consultation, it became clear that the FM company had to be able to deliver training and record these training events formally to ensure that the correct knowledge existed amongst the service teams to perform tasks safely and efficiently. This is particularly important in this sector, as it is normal for FM services to be contracted out to an external organization, especially where many companies share one building or business location.

What compliance looks like for your Facilities Management company

During this OHSAS 18001 implementation in the Facilities Management sector, several things became obvious that could certainly assist other organizations in the same sector:

  • OHSAS 18001 takes the same shape as with organizations in other sectors, but due to the wider range of stakeholders, extra consideration may need to be given to gather information before policy decisions can be made.
  • The element of risk assessment can be very demanding in terms of time and resources, and expertise required, again due to the wide variety of sites and business sectors involved. It may pay for a Facilities Management company to engage professional assistance to complete the risk assessment phase.
  • Stakeholder engagement and communication is key; in some cases, it may pay to appoint someone responsible for this – the amount of communication and stakeholder involvement can be massive in this sector, and requires very intensive work and engagement to involve and gain input from all parties, without which an ongoing safe working environment cannot always be guaranteed. This also requires extensive knowledge of legislation, which must be considered.
  • This OHSAS implementation took longer than expected, an issue we considered in the article How long should it take to implement OHSAS 18001, simply due to the complexity of the elements considered above. This should be factored into the initial project plan. Extra time means extra costs, too, which must be factored in.

Despite the extra considerations outlined above, the OHSAS 18001 implementation proved to be a success and certification was gained. An engaged and educated workforce and supporting staff are now helping to meet OH&S objectives, and the clients – who are regularly consulted – are happy. Consider these extra factors, and you can also ensure that OHSAS 18001 is delivered for your FM organization, and within the budget and time parameters you set, with the benefits being passed on to all the organizations you serve.

Use our free OHSAS 18001 implementation diagram to manage your OHSAS 18001 implementation.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.