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Introducing Greencap's FM Insights!

15 June 2022

Facility owners, managers and employers are all confronted with an ever-broadening range of obligations relating to design, management and operation of property.

Likewise, compliance with Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation is crucial in the mitigation of potential risks that can pose harm to people and property, and protection of financial assets.

Having built a wealth of experience and expertise since 1984, Greencap are pleased to now share this biannual comprehensive communication where Greencap's own risk management experts from across the country share practical insights into achieving the relevant standards of work health and safety at your facilities for your employees, contractors and the general public.

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Issue 1 includes:

Hazardous Materials Surveys Requirements & Associated Limitations

The management of asbestos and hazardous materials (HazMat) in workplaces is widely legislated across Australia with requirements also driven by industry best-practice and the risk appetite of the owners/managing entity. 

The most common first step in eliminating or reducing risk of HazMat exposure within the workplace is identifying them and producing a building register, and where required an Asbestos or Hazardous Materials Management Plan (AMP or HMMP).

However without consultation and consideration of project goals (and therefore survey requirements), the resulting survey report may not provide sufficient information to identify all HazMat risks and enable implementation of required controls.

Scope of Work

Determining the scope of work (type of survey) required based on factors such as building age and known information relating to hazardous materials history and past refurbishment projects is a vital first step to ensure not only compliance but a real and calculable reduction in HazMat risks. By considering these factors a scope of required survey works can be agreed.

The scope may encompass:

  • Full Compliance Survey of entire building HazMat; 
  • Partial Compliance Survey of base building areas HazMat only; or 
  • Combination Compliance Survey with targeted Intrusive Survey of specific area due for refurbishment

Each survey scope will result in differing limitations and therefore gaps in knowledge about HazMat’s located at the workplace. These limitations must be understood and clearly communicated to minimise risk of accidental disturbance of HazMat’s during building occupation or works.

Survey Types

  • Division 5 (or ‘Compliance’) survey is prescribed to cover HazMat’s in the workplace under the conditions of normal building operations including ongoing maintenance (in situ) where no works are being undertaken. By its nature this survey type is non-intrusive and will have more limitations due to ongoing occupation. This survey is not suitable for planning refurbishment and demolition works.
     
  • Division 6 (or ‘Intrusive’) survey is prescribed to address the requirements for when planned renovation, upgrade, demolition and/or refurbishment works are proposed. Will be completed during times of no occupation with isolation of services and other controls in place to facilitate intrusive access.

Existing Surveys / Re-inspections

Where an existing survey report is in place and is due for re-inspection, you must consider the limitations of the existing report and whether the report has been proven fit for purpose. For example, is it easy to interpret, or have more HazMat’s been identified since the survey that could reasonably be expected to have been identified during the initial survey? 

In addition to this any changes in regulatory requirements or guidance must also be considered to ensure aged data is still able to be used to assess risk.

Examples of this are:

  • Reports where no NATA accredited asbestos sample analysis is provided for review as this may lead to uncertainty as to asbestos content;
  • Reports where lead swabs have been used to determine presence of lead in paint - due to changes in lead standards this form of test is not considered to be sensitive enough to detect lead paints by the current standard

Where these factors are identified this may prompt requirement for a re-survey rather than a reinspection.

Understanding Limitations

Once all these factors have been reviewed, a scope of work agreed, works completed and a survey report produced, the final step is to ensure all reports are accessible and can be easily and correctly interpreted. End users will require an understanding of the survey and report limitations and an understanding of applied management protocols as detailed in associated AMP’s or HMMP’s. 

The best approach to achieve the above is to provide not only the report and AMP/HMMP but to ensure contractors attending site to conduct works have also been trained in basic asbestos awareness inclusive of report interpretation and limitations.

Greencap can assist in the development of a range of systems and risk control strategies to meet your compliance requirements and provide effective solutions to manage hazardous material risks in your workplace.

For further information please visit greencap.com.au/asbestos-hazardous-materials

 

Lines of Defence in Contractor Management

The complexity of utilising and managing contractors can present facility managers with various risks, including legal liability, compliance-based risks, and reputational risks from projects not being delivered to your standard.
Developing and employing robust lines of defence in your contractor management can help mitigate many of these risks and ensure that you are engaging the right people to do the job safely and correctly.

 

Contractor Prequalification 

It is important that any contractor you engage has all the correct licences and insurances for the work required. Additionally, they should have sufficiently documented safe work practices and procedures to guide the execution, including risk assessments relating to the work to be done. The process of assessing your contractors on these parameters prior to engagement is known as prequalification. 

In-house prequalification can be time consuming and labour intensive. It involves chasing documents, keeping to up to date with WHS legislation and best practice, understanding when contractors’ safety documentation does not meet requirements, developing your own secure filing system, and knowing when to follow up contractors when documents are due for renewal. By utilising a contractor safety management and prequalification system like Greencap's Cm3, you can centralise this process, and rely on a capable team of expert assessors and support staff to take the stress out of this critical function. 

With prequalification, you are managing risks and ensuring compliance by only engaging contractors that have the credentials to get your work done safely and correctly. 

Contractor Induction 

Once you have engaged a contracting business, you need to be sure that their workers are properly inducted to your safety practices and understand your policies, procedures, and expectations concerning conduct on site. 

An online induction platform will allow you to deliver essential induction training to contracted workers prior to visiting your facilities. When connected to a prequalification solution, the system can request the completion of your tailored induction programs once the contractor has achieved prequalification. 

Site Access Controls 

Site Access solutions provide facility managers with an added layer of defence in their safety management. Upon arrival, a contractor must “check in” to the site, where the system can verify their identity and, if connected with their prequalification and induction systems, that they have satisfied your requirements for engagement. Access solutions can also deliver site-specific inductions as well as declaration requests, such as COVID-19 symptoms and vaccination status. 

Having site access controls implemented and integrated with existing systems, you can have confidence that you are preventing contractors who have not met your requirements from compromising site safety and compliance. 

For more information about the tools within the Cm3 ecosystem, please visit cm3.com.au

 

Managing Safety Compliance of your Property Assets

The management of property assets from the perspective of safety is generally governed by legislation enacted at state level. Fortunately, workplace health and safety legislation is largely harmonised across the country, with Western Australia the latest state to adopt the national model Work Health and Safety legislation upon which the other states have built their own legislation.

 

As it stands, Victoria is now the only Australian state (or territory) which continues to persist with its own model of workplace health and safety laws. The almost universal adoption of this legislative model has led to (almost) nationally-consistent statutory rules for the safe management of a number of property features, including (but not limited to):

  • Confined Spaces
  • Hazardous Materials (including asbestos)
  • Plant and Equipment
  • Contractor Management
  • Fall Prevention
  • Noise & Electrical Safety
  • Hazardous Chemicals

For managers of property portfolios spanning multiple jurisdictions, consistency in the statutory rules reduces the risk of non-compliance by facilitating a consistent management approach.

State-specific Examples

There are, however, other rules and requirements which are highly state-specific, with the requirements being driven by each state’s (or territory’s) perception or experience of the risk posed by the elements seeking to be controlled, in some cases driven by major local events which have had a lasting impact upon the psyche of the jurisdiction.

An example of this can be found with fire safety legislation in Queensland; a major fire incident at the Childers Backpacker Hostel in 2000, involving multiple fatalities, saw Queensland introduce the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008, moving the state from one of the most lax fire safety regulatory regimes in the nation to one of the most onerous. Similarly, major fire incidents in NSW, in addition to high profile reports of defective building stock, drove significant reforms in that state which have led to major changes in the fire safety management framework.

Another example is in the case of cooling water systems, where some states specify their own requirements with respect to such as the maintenance regime for cooling water systems, the development of Cooling Tower System Risk Management Plans (RMPs), RMP review cycles, and independent audits of compliance with the RMP. Victoria, which had long been considered the most prescriptive regime with respect to the safe management of cooling water systems, has recently been somewhat matched by NSW following amendments to that state’s Public Health Regulation 2012.

In the case of fire safety and water systems safety (and others), the state or territory level requirements range from almost non-existent, to what could be described as highly prescriptive. It is essential that, at the very least, the minimum statutory rules be complied with. The fact that these are constantly evolving presents a significant challenge for the property asset manager. Even adopting a nominal “best practice” approach across a portfolio may nonetheless result in the failure to adhere to state-specific reporting requirements which may in turn lead to regulator notification or enforcement activity.

Recommendations

Greencap advocates for a best practice approach whilst also ensuring that each property asset complies in full with the obligations of the jurisdiction within which it is located.

An example of such an approach would be, for a property in NSW, the adoption of the current Australian Standard governing the maintenance of fire protection equipment (AS 1851:2012, which is not specifically referenced in NSW legislation) whilst also submitting an Annual Fire Safety Statement on a yearly basis (an obligation directly referenced in the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment (Development Certification and Fire Safety) Regulation 2021).

Such an approach will support a portfolio asset manager in meeting both their statutory and common law obligations.

Greencap works directly with property owners, managers, employers and tenants to mitigate risk across their portfolios in relation to compliance, legionella risk, working at heights, contractor management, cooling towers, confined spaces, chemical management, traffic management and public liability. 

For further information please visit greencap.com.au/property-risk-compliance

 

Ensuring Effective Building Compliance & Emergency Management when Returning to the Workplace

Over the last two years, extensive lockdowns, changed occupancy levels and the unpredictable impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected business’ ability and capacity for emergency management planning and building compliance management.
With the recent return-to-work transition across the country as COVID-19 has become endemic, businesses and buildings are now faced with a significantly altered landscape in which to ensure ongoing compliance and appropriate emergency management.

 

Despite the recent changes in working arrangements of many, the national regulations around Emergency Management have not changed, nor has the need to maintain compliance. Ensuring a safe workplace remains critical from both a safety and wellbeing perspective, and businesses still have their obligations under their regulatory compliance requirements such as WHS/OHS Legislation, Queensland (QLD) Building Fire Safety Regulations and AS3745:2010 Requirements.

Occupancy and Changing Building Usage

Building occupancy levels and patterns generally now reflect the hybrid working-from-home and office arrangement that has become normalised in many organisations. Many building managers and owners took the opportunity of extended vacant periods between 2020-2022 to undertake extensive refurbishment, renovations and/or repurposing of space. Other businesses took the opportunity of reduced occupancy levels to implement hot-desking/desk sharing arrangements and reduce their leased office areas which all need to be reflected in relevant emergency procedures and planning.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) and employers in Victoria (VIC) now also need to adapt their safety management protocols to account for workers electing to continue working-from-home. This entails a range of considerations, from ergonomics of home-office set up, through to ensuring workers are able to enact appropriate emergency management responses in the event of an emergency situation in the home.

Maintaining Compliance

Regardless of state-based legislative iterations and amendments, the regulatory compliance requirement to ensure a safe workplace remains critical from both a safety and wellbeing perspective. It is essential that everyone can be effectively moved to a safe place in an emergency, no matter where their workplace is now. Mitigating any risk to life which could eventuate still forms a major part of any PCBU or employer’s (VIC) duty of care to its workers (including working from home).

As businesses return to their workplaces, it is important to review:

  • Number of occupants and their locations in the building
  • Any changes to Building Fit-out / Layout
  • Evacuation Diagrams & Assembly Area
  • Building Compliance Protocols, Schedules and Requirements
  • Emergency Management Procedures / Plan
  • Emergency Management Training* 
  • Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) 
  • Emergency Planning Committee (EPC)
  • Procedures and reporting for COVID-19 infection at the workplace (office or home)

*Emergency Procedures Training should continue as scheduled to maintain the skills of staff, even if they are working from home and TrimEVAC is now delivering training both face to face and via MS Teams simultaneously to allow wardens on and off site to maintain their skills.

Planning for Return to Work

Significant planning is required for people to safely return and reoccupy a facility with challenges including:

  • Managing government health regulations
  • Return to workplaces usually occurs in stages and will be affected by the types of business undertaken at the site and the ability for staff to participate in flexible working arrangements
  • Ensuring training is specific to the risk profile of the organisation, working arrangements and/or property
  • Monitoring, reviewing, and updating the response procedures in line with changing occupancy levels (also considering workers who continue to work from home)
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of the implementation program and making any necessary adjustments.

Whilst there is currently a minimum expectation under Australian Standard AS3745:2010, pending the complexity of your flexible working arrangements, property and the risk profile, more frequent and detailed training may be required to ensure the effective implementation of the emergency plan.

Greencap’s specialised Emergency Management and Training company TrimEVAC has assisted many organisations since 1987  in managing their risks associated with an emergency situation.

For further information please visit greencap.com.au/emergency-management

 

The importance of safe, healthy and optimised indoor environments

Indoor air can often be more polluted than ambient external air due to the enclosed environments we live and work in. In these spaces the operation of Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and the presence of synthetic and naturally occurring pollutants, allergens and pathogens can impact occupant health if not considered and controlled. The average Australian spends between 80 to 100 percent of their time indoors (at work and at home), so it is not surprising that indoor environmental quality (IEQ) has demonstrated impacts on occupant health and wellbeing, and can impact the resale value of a building, and liability for building owners.

 

IEQ considers how the health of building occupants is impacted by internal parameters, such as lighting, indoor air quality (IAQ), thermal comfort, humidity and ergonomics. Poor indoor air quality can directly impact worker concentration, productivity and performance, and has been shown to increase the frequency of sick leave and health complaints such as allergies and asthma.

Where vulnerable or immunocompromised occupants are present (for instance in healthcare or aged care settings), poor management of IAQ during construction, refurbishment and renovation works can also compromise health outcomes and produce heightened infection risks.

Why do an IAQ assessment?

IAQ assessments are a valuable tool to inform ongoing building management and occupant protection measures, with scopes tailored to the facilities specific needs.

For facilities and building managers IAQ Assessments can:

  • Form part of ongoing best-practice building compliance checks to verify HVAC and building management systems are operating as required
  • Identify potential root causes or air quality parameters associated with occupant complaints (for example headaches, itchy eyes or odour impacts)
  • Be used where a building is impacted by mould or water damage (in support of broader mould investigation works) to identify root cause, find impacted areas, and monitor the adequacy of containment measures during remediation
  • Be used as part of wider occupational hygiene assessments for complex multi-use sites, (for example loading bays in warehouses), to ensure workers are not exposed to elevated concentrations of specific contaminants
  • Support the management of healthy and comfortable indoor work environments to encourage a workforce back into the workplace after sustained periods of working from home
  • Assess opportunities for installing retrofitted air purification technologies for HVAC systems.

IAQ assessments are also an effective tool to ensure high quality outcomes for construction, refurbishment and renovation works. For example, following the commissioning of a HVAC system in a new building, an IAQ assessment can confirm that the system is working as designed, with appropriate setup against fit-out, and whether any rebalancing is required.

What does an IAQ assessment involve?

An IAQ can be tailored to measure any range of specific airborne substances, however common scopes might include a combination of the following:

  • Basic gas concentrations (CO2, CO, NOx, O2), and contaminants dust, chemical, mould spores and pathogens
  • Assessments of thermal comfort parameters and relative humidity
  • Measurement of airflow at HVAC supply and return registers to verify adequacy of air changes per hour (ACH) for specific types of workplace, or
  • Monitoring of air quality outside working zones and containment areas for construction works in sensitive environments.

Do you need an IAQ?

High-quality indoor work environments are known to directly affect health, wellbeing and productivity. Far from being a ‘tick box’ exercise, when designed and implemented with the specific needs of the building and occupants in mind, IAQ assessments provide valuable insight into the appropriate measures required to create workplaces which are safe, healthy and enjoyable places to occupy.

For further information please visit greencap.com.au/news/2022-03-optimised-indoor-environments

 

VIC Environment Protection Act & General Environmental Duty

The new Environment Protection Act (commenced 1 July 2021), is 'prevention based', with a focus on systems to reduce risk to human health and the environment. This is in contrast to the previous consequence based EP Act of 1970, which was more focused on managing existing outcomes.

The prevention of harm could be as simple as pre-start toolbox, or as complicated as a full Environmental Management Plan (EMP) depending on the site. An Environmental Management System (EMS) including staff training and continuous monitoring, and prompt recording and notifications of incidents to the EPA, may also be utilised for an entire business. 

Modelled on the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act, the General Environmental Duty (GED) aims to prevent harm in all business activities before construction commences but is equally relevant to any person in management or control of contaminated land such as a principal contractor, building owner, or facilities / building manager.

The GED applies to the following if it has the potential to cause harm:

  • Noise
  • Vibration 
  • Erosion 
  • Dust 
  • Sediment 
  • Pollution
  • Waste Classification
  • Waste Contaminated Soils 
  • Contaminated Land

What has changed?

The new Act and Regulations have a strong focus on preventing and reducing environmental risks, not just responding to incidents, or managing pollution.  The Act contains 7 duties with the centrepiece the General Environmental Duty (GED) - which requires “a person (or business/entity) engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimise those risks, so far as reasonably practicable.” 

“Minimise” means to eliminate risks (so far as reasonably practicable) and if not, reduce the risks.  This requires identifying and assessing risks, implementing controls, and educating staff about their responsibilities under the GED. 

Penalties for Non-compliance

Businesses that do not comply with the Act and/or Regulations can be issued with a penalty, depending on the type of non-compliance and/or how serious the environmental hazard. There may be Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices, Environmental Action Notices, or fines. 

For example, fines can be in excess of

  • $500,000 for contravening a waste management policy or causing/allowing an environmental hazard
  • $1 million for dumping of industrial waste at a non-legal place (e.g., unlicensed facility or without licence-holders permission)
  • $1.6 million for a breach of the GED, or over $3 million for an aggravated breach

The in-house team of scientists, hydrogeologists, regulatory specialists and project managers at Greencap have demonstrated technical excellence in environmental management services and work in partnership with clients to inform on decisions regarding environmental risks.

Greencap’s expertise extends across a range of industry sectors including government, construction, resources and infrastructure, and encompasses all areas of environmental management through the approvals, construction and operational stages. 

For further information please visit greencap.com.au/victorian-environment-protection-act

Greencap acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.  We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.