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The importance of appointing UKAS accredited companies
UKAS is the appointed national accreditation body. Accreditation is a means of assessing, in the public interest, the technical competence and integrity of organisations offering evaluation services.
To abide by the requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, only UKAS accredited companies (ISO17025) can conduct analysis of samples for asbestos within the laboratory, and conduct fibre counting and 4-stage clearance of asbestos removal works, on-site.
However, it is not mandatory to be UKAS accredited (ISO17020) for conducting asbestos surveys in premises. Although the HSE recommend it, and public sector bodies almost exclusively use UKAS accredited companies, the private sector often choose not to.
The reasons for not selecting UKAS accredited companies are not always clear but might be based on the assumption that they will be cheaper. However, when it comes to the serious risk presented from asbestos, shouldn’t cost always be a secondary consideration? Asbestos still kills over 5,000 people in the UK each year.
So, what is required to be UKAS accredited?
Requirements to be UKAS accredited
UKAS outlines its Route to Accreditation as follows:
- Is accreditation applicable to me?
- Where to start?
- Meeting the relevant requirements
- How to apply
- Pre-assessment visit
- The initial assessment visit
- Post assessment
- Maintaining your accreditation
- Making the most of your accreditation
- Extending your accreditation
This means your processes and procedures are thoroughly checked. It can also be broken down further still - your staff training and auditing records are thoroughly examined to make sure that only properly qualified and experienced staff are being used to conduct the works.
But what else does this entail?
- Your methods of analysis or inspection are comprehensively evaluated.
- Your documentation is checked, as is the way data is collected, information stored, reports are produced, reviewed and issued.
- Your general contractual terms with your clients are reviewed and how quality in general is being upheld.
- Your staff are audited in person, by the UKAS auditors, on site and in the laboratory.
- Your general business administrative processes in each accredited office are assessed, as is feedback and complaint handling.
That’s just part of the story though, and the reality is that these assessments take a considerable amount of time to conduct; lots of time is often spent both in the company’s offices and laboratories as well as on-site.
However, this auditing process doesn’t have to be at the cost expense of the end client. Generally speaking, UKAS accredited organisations, such as Pennington Choices, have invested heavily in ensuring an efficient, value for money service can be provided through utilisation of the most up to date software, equipment and efficient administration. If you’re in the public or private sector and are procuring asbestos services, put us to the test and find out.
If you’d like to find out more about our services, then get in touch with our team today.
An example of flexible thinking and adding value
Most of our asbestos contracts at Pennington Choices involve the use of a client’s specification allied to a tendered schedule of rates. However, sometimes they do not always take into account specific requirements of individual projects or properties. Occasionally a different approach is needed that has not been detailed within the specification, or priced for.
When such variations occur, it is important to be open and honest about the requirements and the associated costs to ensure proper service delivery.
One of our examples of this was on our long-term contract with a housing association in the South London area. They were about to undergo an extensive programme of replacing soffits and fascia, however there was no particular rate for external asbestos surveying using high level access equipment.
If we would have carried on conducting a standard survey (as per the specification requirements) with presumption of asbestos at high level, this would have resulted in problems. The outcome could have been subsequent delays to the overall refurbishment programme due to either the need for sampling to be carried out once scaffolding was in place, or worse still, asbestos removal contractors pricing for removal of potentially non-asbestos material.
Instead, we presented a simple proposal with an open and fair cost uplift, for use of extension ladders and a second surveyor to ensure safe and secure footing – enabling physical access to the high levels and samples to be taken.
The end outcome of the project was certainty of knowledge of high level asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), prevention of subsequent delays, reduced costs for further testing and an improved, safer method of conducting the surveys.
We recognise the importance of UKAS accreditation in assisting client’s assurance of the quality of our asbestos services. If you would like to find out more about asbestos projects and why deploying the right consultancy is important, download our eBook: Your Guide to Appointing Reliable Asbestos Consultants.