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Public buildings and electrical compliance

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Tim Beardsmore, Calbarrie’s Commercial Director, explains the particular challenges faced when managing the electrical compliance of public buildings.

Electrical safety testing in the public sector raises specific concerns. Whilst ensuring that the public are safe the services need to be accessible with minimum disruption. Management of the building is often outsourced to a facilities management company; and the overarching relationship between the client, the FM and the sub-contractor is key, requiring shared responsibilities and common goals.

Health and safety should be at the top of the priority list for all businesses, and a service provider can demonstrate a commitment to their clients’ objectives by attaining an industry standard such as ISO 18001. Membership of a reputable safety body such as RoSPA and compliance with recognised codes of practice will provide further evidence of an effective safety management system.

Access is a challenge when testing in the public sector; and flexibility is crucial in order to minimise disruption to services. Public buildings such as museums, libraries and leisure centres, for instance, will require testing out-of-hours, and testing in hospitals and emergency response centres (where essential equipment cannot be powered down) also requires careful planning. Schools and colleges like to test during school holidays and our figures show that testing done during these periods is at least 20% more productive than in term-time.

In a modern world where threats to security have become commonplace, a contractor who has an established labour-force and vigilantly carries out regular checks on work permits and security clearances should inspire confidence. Pre-start surveys and meetings will identify any specific security risks posed by the site. On secure sites such as government offices and HM Prisons, the client should consider the use of a chaperone – a client representative – who will accompany the engineer around the site to ensure that all systems and services are left as found.

The risk to data security is also a key concern for public sector clients, and powering down of sensitive and critical communications equipment requires careful planning and collaboration between the contractor, site security and IT representatives. A contractor can reduce the risk of data loss with tailored IT systems and the use of an Application Programming Interface (API) to enable secure and effective communication between systems.

With budget cuts and the need to demonstrate sensible spending of public funds, public bodies have to consider more cost-effective ways of service delivery. Ultimately an expert provider can manage the challenges faced by the public sector around electrical compliance by building long-term relationships and committing to shared values that improve performance, reduce costs and increase control.

Read the full article in September’s edition of Facilities Management Journal.

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