Stuart Woolgar, CEO of Global Guardians Management Ltd explains why compliance is a reassurance in today’s complex and fast-changing world
The British Standards Institution (BSI) was the world’s first national standards body and it has applied standards to subjects from nuclear energy to office furniture. The UK’s first management systems quality standard, BS 5750, was published in 1979. It was superseded in 1987 by the ISO 9000 series of international standards and today ISO 9001 is the world’s most successful standard, having been adopted by more than one million organisations in 178 countries. BSI helps organisations turn standards of best practice into habits of excellence.
However, there are still people who view standards and regulations as so much unnecessary red tape and think bureaucracy is a stifling aspect of today’s life. Nevertheless, compliance to standards, regulations and ethical practices is critical as a demonstration to its publics that an organisation is conducting itself correctly. These standards and regulations, particularly where they relate to health and safety, literally do save people’s lives and should never be dismissed as petty or irrelevant.
Where there is no specific law to comply with, the next best thing is regulation, or compliance to standards of good practice, usually drawn up by BSI with the input of industry experts, government bodies and professional or trade associations.
Compliance is particularly strict in the financial sector, but standards in the built environment also need to be rigorously adhered to, especially where health and safety are concerned. Those operating in the property sector need to adhere to a whole raft of legislation and regulation and follow standards laid out in various Codes of Practice.
The Growth in the Public Estate’s Vacant Property Portfolio
Public organisations such as Health or Local Authorities, as well as Government Departments, are gradually vacating property and land assets that have become surplus and this has led to an increasing number of buildings standing empty while their future is debated.
Vacant property can be a magnet for a host of problems and unexpected costs. If a building looks empty or neglected, it’s an open invitation to trouble – from squatters, flytippers, criminals, drug dealers, even homeless people simply looking for somewhere more sheltered to spend the night. The option of secure fencing, shutters or boarding around a site merely attracts disfiguring graffiti and doesn’t keep out anti-social or criminal behaviour; nor do CCTV or alarms; the perpetrators are usually long gone before security guards or the police arrive. Determined thieves will target anything with a scrap value and this can cause considerable damage to a property. Security guards and dogs generally can’t be there 24/7, the budget for that is simply impractical.
In tandem with all of this is the cost of business rates and insurance cover. Although some public and local authority property is exempt from rates, not all is, so this is still a cost to be borne even if the building is vacant. The Government primarily operates a policy of self-insurance for their property or assets, but there are circumstances where cover needs to be in place and some local authorities do have insurance policies. It is worth remembering if any third party visits or trespasses into a vacant building and suffers a mishap, the property owner is still liable.
A simple solution to all the above problems associated with vacant buildings is to install property guardians in the premises through an ethical and responsible company that can turn the void into an income generator, as opposed to a drain, for as long as is necessary. In one fell swoop, the building becomes secured, the guardian company maintains it, business rates liability is mitigated, insurance cover can benefit, income can be generated to offset any other financial charges and, importantly, an otherwise vacant building gets turned into a low cost accommodation opportunity so the social benefit is enormous.
Compliance to Health and Safety Standards and the Industry Code of Practice
One point is absolutely critical when installing property guardians to secure a vacant property. An accredited guardian company, such as Global Guardians, must be used. In other words, a company which belongs to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), and also complies to British Standard 8584:2015 (Vacant Property Protection Services – Code of Practice) which is backed by the BSIA, Environmental Health, London Fire Brigade and many other reputable organisations. By complying to BS 8584, the guardians will not only be treated responsibly and ethically, but the property owners can be reassured the guardian company is complying with every relevant aspect of current housing and property legislation and regulation, as well as all health and safety regulations. Regrettably, not all guardian companies do this which puts guardians at risk and leaves property owners liable for problems which may occur.
If utilising the services of an accredited guardian company, their maintenance team and/or specialist contractors should carry out all works necessary to bring the property to proper occupational standards and ensure all other national and local regulations are complied with as necessary, e.g. the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and HMO legislation.
To do this, in the first instance the guardian company should institute a site visit to carry out a full risk assessment, including inspection of all security, fire, and health and safety implications by accredited professionals. This needs to be done to comply with Employers’ Liability and work in tandem with Property Owners’ Liability and the Fire Safety Order 2005. This ensures the five key areas are covered: fire, water, gas, electrical and asbestos safety. This is part of the work that the guardian company does before installing guardians into the property and they bear the cost of this, not the property owners.
Global Guardians are renowned for our pioneering work to bring better standards to the industry and our campaign to be the gold standard for property guardianship through the work we do with the BSIA, the development of the BS 8584, together with a new industry standard Code of Practice which is currently being drafted. We are also liaising with the GLA for better regulation of the property guardian market in London.
Regrettably there will always be mavericks in any industry who ignore regulations and bring it into disrepute, but we are fighting back and any organisation who wishes to demonstrate best practice in their work, now seeks us out as a partner in the knowledge that we strive for excellence, and compliance in all areas is our mantra.
A five-storey office building in Camden, London, had been vacated by staff from the local NHS Trust. Consequently, the trust started to experience issues with squatters who broke into the property on several occasions.
Global Guardians Management attended the site within hours of being called out and following urgent checks on the building, had vetted guardians move in straight away. This immediately prevented squatters from returning and deterred further anti-social behaviour for the 18 months they protected the property until it was handed back to new tenants.
Due to the property guardians living in the building, the trust saved over £50,000 on empty building rates and some £120,000 on security costs.
These savings enabled them to spend their budget on functional properties for nurses and medical equipment, rather than on protecting a surplus building through costly traditional security methods which had not been working.
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Global Guardians Management Ltd
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