Written by Chris Davies, Chief Executive, HSS, 2008With the ever-increasing need for specialisation in the FM industry and the unwavering need to guarantee compliance, it's no wonder that managers are looking for reliable, UK-wide networks to act as channel partners to outsource work to. Chris Davies outlines a safe option.
With the ever-increasing need for specialisation in the FM industry and the unwavering need to guarantee compliance, it's no wonder that managers are looking for reliable, UK-wide networks to act as channel partners to outsource work to. Chris Davies outlines a safe option.
- Why is it important to choose a hire partner with industry-recognised accreditations?
- How can hire providers continue to improve their offering?
When you need not only standard equipment for recurrent jobs throughout the year but also one-off bits of kit for seasonally specific projects, guaranteeing compliance has the potential to be a weighty and time-consuming issue.
One way to make this easier is to hire the equipment and develop a coefficient partnership with someone who specialises in offering guaranteed compliance and let them take over the reins.
Collaborative partnering is seeing a surge and for very obvious reasons: outsourcing reduces costs significantly, increases business flexibility and allows greater access to specialist talent.
But whilst the benefits are evident, so too are the potential problems; entrusting key facets of your business to another body, especially the supply chain, is a big step, which is why choosing a suitable and dependable partner is imperative.
The FM industry has a particularly complex supply chain, with each service area requiring a high level of expertise, especially building and external maintenance as access safety is paramount.
Any access equipment supplied should come with internationally recognised health and safety accreditation and certification - e.g. the Pre-fabricated Access Suppliers' and Manufacturers' Association (PASMA) recommends that for any pre-fabricated access equipment, operations managers should be sourcing products manufactured to BS EN 1004 : 2004 standards.
For any hire company, being easy to do business with is paramount. But this must be secondary to a sincere dedication to the safety of the equipment that is used.
The right hire partner will be relentless in their quest to help reduce the number of working days lost from accidents at work (currently six million a year in the UK) by providing well-maintained tools and point-of-sale guidance on how to use the equipment, as well as offering accredited training courses - anything from working at height to first aid or manual handling.
The right hire partner will also have a wealth of formal certification from UK and European institutions to their name, including Hire Association Europe (HAE), British Standards Institute (ISO9001), British Safety Council (BSC), UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
By proving themselves as a health and safety compliant company to prestigious organisations such as these (by adhering to the strict criteria they set), hire providers can assure you that they are 100 per cent committed to your health and safety agenda and to delivering guaranteed compliance, because they have staff who are reliable and equipment that is well maintained.
If you have undertaken comprehensive risk assessments, trained your staff and developed a mature health and safety plan, why should you be let down by your suppliers?
The answer is simple: you shouldn't, and that is why health and safety should be mission-critical for any hire partner.
I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing a partner with industry-recognised accreditations.
In particular, in the pursuit for industry-specific best practice, the leading hire companies are partnering with the BIFM and the FMA.
By working with these organisations, hire account managers can find out first-hand what facilities managers need on a daily basis and what specialised equipment they may need at a moment's notice.
This kind of two-way partnership also helps influence major purchasing decisions: hire companies need to supply what FM managers need - that's simply common sense.
So with a structured account analysis and through customer feedback, they can make sure they can service their accounts with the appropriate stock. This process manifests itself in guaranteed compliance and helps hire providers to continuously refine their offering.
Purchasing decisions must be followed by rigorous testing and maintenance programmes - every piece of new equipment on inventory should be ripped to pieces by experts and tested for reliability, safety (looking for any inherent equipment faults that mustn't be passed on) and finding out how many times it can be hired out - it's an in-depth procedure for all new items brought in to ensure compliance even before the first hire.
Once entirely satisfied that the equipment is robust and meets stringent quality and safety standards, it can be issued into the hire fleet, where its 'testing' life has only really just begun.
All equipment and tools hired out are subjected to intensive testing regimes throughout their working life.
At HSS, every single piece of equipment is cleaned up and checked on its return to the branch ready for the next user.
Any reported problems are fed back into the item's history, which is unique to each piece. You can then be assured that every bit of kit will be supplied in great shape and ready for use, having been thoroughly tested for efficiency, durability, repairs and compliance.
This should in no way be considered as an extra or bonus when sourcing an equipment solution supplier - it must be seen as a given.
In addition, leading providers in the hire industry will be committed to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), which state unequivocally that equipment provided for work is suitable for intended use, safe for use, used by people who have adequate information and training, and accompanied by appropriate safety measures and work wear.
These are the minimum standards to be expected when operating alongside a hire partner and are standards that the right hire company will not only commit to but also exceed.
In addition to providing reliable equipment to the facilities industry, hire companies may also offer a number of training programmes to complement business needs. These may be tailored half-day refresher courses for employees or two-day intensive training modules, with attention to detail being paid on the more crucial areas of the delegate's job and learning requirements.
The best hire service providers place a huge amount of emphasis on the importance of training, not only because staff are better prepared to manage their own health and safety, but are also more efficient when working as they have a sound knowledge of the equipment they are utilising or procedure they are carrying out.
A reduction in workplace injuries and better efficiency (a reduction in the time each job takes) are financially appealing, and training combined with formal assessment proves to offer an excellent return on investment.
Bespoke training courses can be developed with your specific needs in mind, so that delegates leave with a very real working knowledge of what they need to improve their performance and guarantee compliance in their unique workplace - don't just look for a theory-based talk that can be blanket-applied to all jobs. This is especially important for FM as the multitude of jobs it encompasses means that training specialisation is highly relevant.
And this, in turn, reverts back to the necessity of having safe equipment to use in the first instance: why train staff and then give them poor equipment?
Why provide the very best equipment for a workforce that is not trained to use it? Insisting on the best equipment and pragmatic training for your staff means that you can reduce headaches of staff competency and equipment reliability.
By choosing an experienced channel partner who has a large, UK-wide network of stores and an extended client services arm, you can be sure that your supply chain doesn't seize up.
You can buy guaranteed compliance, comprising safety, service and product excellence, but this can only be found through partnering with a business that has the capacity to fulfil, and indeed exceed, its promises; one that understands not only your industry but also the minutiae of your company and can work to exacting standards, within uncompromising timescales and within the parameters of set budgets.
You can also buy expertise, borne out of years of working in industry, working with channel partners, working with accreditation boards, governing bodies and manufacturers, culminating in the sharing of best practice.
This is why the FM and hire sectors are increasingly working together and enjoying a sustained period of growth. It's imperative that when you demand excellence in hire that you also always receive essential peace of mind.
Chris Davies is Chief Executive of HSS. Please visit www.hss.com
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