For sure your organisation will have a picture for what it wants to achieve, financially, practically and sustainably, but the influence on those choices you make as to the deliverables will be key for your success as well as that of the business. So to round up 2021, our final workplace compliance alert is considering some of these issues and drivers.

1. Health, safety and wellbeing

These three subject areas have been very visible over the last two years and will continue to be priority activities. While commentary on the relative position of safety and health in the workplace has been debated for years, together with wellbeing they are all facets of the same objective, a safe, healthy and well workforce.

They are all also areas where active investment is a must for responsible businesses, for example:

  • In their 2020 Summary Statistics Report the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate 38.8 million working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2019/20, at a cost of £16.2 billion (2018/19).
  • The 2019 Business Continuity Institute’s Horizonscan report identified “health and safety incidents” as the single costliest interruption experienced by responders. At a reported $1.186 billion health and safety incidents cost more than the reported cyber attack, supply chain disruption, utility supply disruption, lack of talent and introduction of new technology combined.

2021 has seen the HSE focus inspections on COVID-19 Secure controls, as well as asbestos, construction and fatal/non fatal injuries. Targeted topics such as occupational lung disease (including Legionella and asbestos) musculoskeletal disorders and work related stress also remain priority areas.

From a wellbeing and mental health perspective, numbers of campaigns including “Mates in Mind” and the recently launched HSE “Working Minds” have been introduced. This as a target area for organisations is likely to remain a focus too.

When developing your health, safety and wellbeing provision for 2022, you may want to consider:

  • Has anything changed in your health, safety and welfare provision over the last two years?
    How is this reflected in your current policy and procedures?
  • Does your current health, safety and wellbeing provision accurately reflect your current work practises (office/hybrid/flexible/etc.)?
  • Do your specialist risk assessments accurately reflect your current situation?
    Are they suitable and sufficient for you to be able to practically inform your written scheme of control?
  • Have you reviewed where you stand currently with your statutory compliance and the level of control in place?
  • Do you have adequate provision for your employee wellbeing including mental health?
    Are staff aware of any wellbeing initiatives/support available to them and how they access it?
  • When was your health and safety policy last reviewed and updated?
  • Have you set aims and objectives for your health, safety and wellbeing provision in 2022?
    How are you going to measure and assess these?

With the World as it currently is, health, safety and wellbeing are high on the public and corporate agendas, so having a credible, reliable and trustworthy source of support and advice is going to be extremely important for all duty holders and responsible persons in addition to the organisation.

2. Carbon and net zero

COP 26 added further momentum to an already developing agenda around carbon, and in particular the drive towards net zero. Whereas energy has long been an environmental target for many organisations - and for some captured by legislation, a compliance issue – a credible net zero target extends far beyond this.

Some of the aspects you need to consider:

  • Energy use has been typically captured under scope 2 emissions and direct emissions under scope 1. Both are relatively easy to assess and monitor. Net zero, by definition however also needs to identify and manage scope 3 emissions as part of the process and these could include for example: the treatment of purchased materials and services, waste, business travel, outsourced activities and processed products.
    This is no easy or simple task, which is one of the reasons many organisations have not reported on Scope 3 emissions historically. Their extent also transcends any particular department (although workplace and FM is pivotal in influencing or managing many of the aspects) and so gathering meaningful data can be a challenge if not properly thought through.
  • As in the early days of energy management/carbon foot-printing there are an array of tools available to help with net zero. But like the initial tools used for energy/foot-printing, they are not all consistent or comparable in their approach. You need to be clear on your objectives and realistic with time scales that will be involved in accurately managing net zero. Take time to choose the tools that best suit your organisations, as with all the criteria you need to capture.
  • With the IWFM sustainability report identifying only 35% of responders believe they had access “to all baseline/ongoing data they need to help reach their targets”, there is much to be done by many before any meaningful reporting can be made. Bear in mind increasing scrutiny of CSR and sustainability reporting has and continues to occur, so anything you do publish has to be verifiable, should you be asked to “prove it”.

Some areas to consider on your net zero journey:

  • Clearly define what net zero means for your organisation and communicate it so everyone understands your aims and what you are looking to achieve.
  • Start looking at what data you may need and how you would capture it now. Even if you’re not being asked for it yet, the chances are you will be at some point soon.
  • Engage with your stakeholders. Both internal and external stakeholders will play a significant part in shaping your net zero performance, start the dialogue with them, if you haven’t already, it will help shape your planning and their expectations.
  • Set realistic targets and commitments. As seen previously with energy, the “low hanging fruit” can provide a lot of quick wins, but maintaining the ambitious targets set as a result in the longer term was not feasible or possible. Look over the scope of your commitment to net zero and reverse plan, so you don’t over target and then underperform!
  • Report on your progress (good and not so good), not every aspect you tackle will be successful in the short term. Being honest with your reporting does far more for your reputation, than being accused of greenwash, it also may help galvanise the organisation into driving further improvement.

3. Equality, diversity and inclusivity

Equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) is another subject that has gained even further traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Campaigns such as “MeToo” and “Black Lives Matter” have added additional awareness and impetus to the processes already in place through for example the Equality Act 2010 and Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Our experience is also seeing organisations increasingly asking for more information on EDI and the positive actions their supply chain is taking. established the principles of on the basis of an individual or group of individual’s protected characteristics.

In their broadest senses EDI concerns:

  • Equality of treatment and opportunity for all, regardless of individual or group characteristics;
  • Placing positive values on and taking account of the diversity within our population; and
  • Offering everybody an environment where they are valued and have the ability to fulfil their potential.

As 2022 progresses we are likely to see increasing numbers of organisations (who haven’t already) publish policies and/or statements on their intentions and initiatives around EDI, as for example the IWFM did in November 2021.

The scope of the topics do cover a range of business disciplines though, so workplace and facilities managers need to make sure their activities are fully understood, coordinated and represented. When you start to consider the level of agency or influence of the workplace on EDI, the impact is significant.

If you haven’t yet been directly involved in your organisation’s EDI strategy, you may want to:

  1. Think about the impact your department has holistically and how what you do supports and/or develops the wider organisational aims and objectives.
  2. Understand where you are currently, what elements are making a positive contribution and where further opportunities exist for improvement.
  3. Plan how these improvements could be made and where they add to the organisational aims – there could be areas of FM that are invisible to other business units, so their impact is not considered.
  4. Implement your plan and celebrate the success, make your contributions seen and heard.

Practically however, intention and outcome are not always aligned. To illustrate this, the experience of a number of our NRAC qualified access auditors is that while most organisations now have a reasonable provision of accessible toilets, many don’t actually meet the requirements of The Building Regulations - Approved Document M or British Standard BS 8300-2018. So make sure you have evidence to support your initiatives and information to verify your claims/activities.

4. Information management

The ongoing developments and discussions around AI, technology and the Internet of Things, are going to form more than a little part in the corporate recovery agenda. Already we have seen the impact increasing use of sensors to monitor aspects of the workplace, for example occupancy and Carbon dioxide levels, are having. It is therefore likely we will have the opportunity to gather data on more aspects of our buildings and process than ever before.

But just because we can gather all this data does not necessarily mean we need to. If there is no good reason to collect or use it, is it relevant? Could we end up in a situation of data overload and so not see the wood for the trees in terms of actually identifying significant trends?

As well as flexible working, workplace environments will remain at the front of the organisation’s thinking as we go into 2022 and beyond. Therefore having the ability to have the right information, gathered from the right data and be able to manipulate this in a meaningful way for wider business use is crucial.

Most organisations are now using some form of compliance based software, but much of it is now founded on aging platforms and heavily reliant on the supplier to format content, address changes and create “non standard” reports.

While many of the systems have had some degree of user specific adaptions, these tend to be fixes to systems, some of which are task/activity based and others asset, it is not what they were designed to do!

That is why we have developed Assurity Plus 2.0, to offer our customers a solution that is both tailorable and efficient, so less time is spent searching or waiting for information and more time managing it. It combines the latest technology with our multi award-winning customer support and satisfaction. With the potential pace of change in the types and level of information you need, having software that has been designed to deliver just that is invaluable.

Assurity Consulting is the UK’s leading independent consultancy specialising in workplace health, safety and environmental solutions. As your partner in compliance management you will reap the benefit of our more than 30 years’ experience of helping customers across a range of different sectors – manage their compliance responsibilities as effectively as possible. If you need any help with your health, safety or environmental compliance, or if you would like more information on the services Assurity Consulting offer, please get in touch.