The Compliance Cost of Outdated Processes

A faciliites manager searches through stacks of paper for the information he is looking for.

In Australia, facilities management is governed by various Australian & State based legislation, including being guided by the Federal Work Health and Safety Act (2011). This framework was created with the intent of providing a consistent national framework for the health and safety of workers.

In New Zealand, this framework is provided by Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016.

While some of the detail may differ between Australian states and New Zealand, the general premise is the same. WHS regulation is about minimising the risk of human collateral, ensuring the safety for workers and visitors in the facility

The act covers everything in the physical work environment, to remote working and emergency plans. While the federal legislation guides each of the States, each State and Territory is responsible for implementing, regulating, and enforcing WHS law in their jurisdiction.

Revealing the risks

Different organisations will vary in terms of their appetite for how much WHS risk is acceptable (and how risk is managed /documented within their risk register). When it comes to facilities management, the risks that spring to mind are usually those directly threatening the safety of people and infrastructure.

A risk that is too often overlooked, is the risk of non-compliance with WHS regulations. These insidious risks lurk just below the surface, and while they might lie dormant indefinitely, if an incident occurs, they can be catastrophic.

The penalties for breaching the act can be severe, with fines in the tens of thousands, and in some cases, imprisonment.

The way forward

In years gone by, facilities management relied on paper and spreadsheet based processes to meet compliance requirements. As technology evolved, expectations of regulators evolved to suit the environment.

In today’s world, it’s possible to store decades worth of information, and communicate with a multitude of people with a click of a button. Technology is present in every aspect of our lives, but in many organisations, facilities management has been left behind.

These processes of the past can leave you in serious breach of your legal obligations under WHS law.

Processes of the past

The goal of the Work Health and Safety Act is to ensure everyone has a safe environment in which to conduct their work and business. A primary focus of the regulation is to reduce the risk of an incident occurring, in which the facilities management team play an important role; particularly in relation to the built and physical environment.

Providing a safe environment necessitates maintenance work to reduce the risk of an incident occurring. Frayed carpet can become a trip hazard, a leaky pipe could cause a slip, and broken electric plugs run the risk of electrocution.

In the world of facilities management, planned and reactive maintenance come together to reduce these risks as much as possible. Much of the regulations set out by the states aim to address this, by setting standards for an acceptable level of risk.

Sometimes, incidents happen. And when they do,there’s another layer of regulation to ensure the right people are aware of that incident, and to reduce the risk of repetition.

Reducing reasonable risks

Work orders, planned maintenance, and the processes that support these, are key in reducing risk in line with compliance standards. Planned maintenance reduces the chance of those hazards ever existing, while work orders and reactive maintenance facilitate the resolution of the hazards that do occur.

Reporting incidents

Even the best laid plans can go to waste, and incidents can still occur even if every reasonable measure has been taken. If an incident does occur, then regulations dictate who needs to know about it, what they need to know, and when.

The paper-based process

Back in the days of paper-based processes, or more recently, spreadsheets, the process for resolving a hazard or incident was clunky, tedious, and rife with delays. When incidents occur, intense reporting and communication requirements test the limits of these processes.

Should a hazard become apparent to a facility user, they would have to manually report it to you, as the facilities manager. Generally, this happened via email, phone or by physically seeking you out. If they can’t get onto you, if you’re having any sort of email problems, or not looking at emails, it could be hours before you’re aware of the hazard.

You’d then have to locate and assess the hazard before taking any action. Wherever there’s a risk of non-compliance, there will be actors trying to capitalise on that system. Facility users sometimes like to test the boundaries of what constitutes “risk”, so this assessment is crucial.

If external resources are required, additional delays are incurred as you hunt down someone who is available within a reasonable timeframe.

Before engaging the contractor, you’d need to ensure their insurance and accreditation is correct and up to date, or risk tens of thousands of dollars in fines. (Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Part 4(43), retrieved from:

Finally, after all that, the contractor can conduct the work.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that’s not the end of it, and you’re left to deal with the aftermath, the paperwork. Recording the hazard, the work done, and letting stakeholders know the situation has been resolved.

Throughout this process, there are many potential points for compliance risk, not to mention any risks posed by the hazard itself.

Technology to the rescue

Nowadays, there are technology solutions available to streamline this process, and improve compliance with WHS requirements.

FMI Works allows facility users to log hazards, with photo evidence, directly into the app. This instantly alerts the facility manager, even if they’re not at their desk.

Within the mobile-friendly, cloud-based application, the facilities manager can instantly assign the work to an available contractor on the spot. Suppliers must have appropriate accreditations and insurance against their profile to be assigned work, reducing the risk of an unauthorised individual doing the work.

The hazard can be actioned efficiently, with a process that makes information for compliance readily available. There’s no need to document important information separately, as it is already in the system. The request, triage and move to action is more efficient.

Arguably the best part of this new process is the lack of paperwork. Alleviating the pain of what is otherwise a mountain of paperwork required to remain compliant.  

The incident report, time to resolution, time the work was done, and the name of the contractor are recorded, fulfilling those detailed requirements. Automatic notifications can be sent to stakeholders from with the platform to provide the all-important status updates, allowing you to complete that administrative job within seconds.