The asbestos industry has been hell-bent on being cheap for a number of years now.
Too many companies going in cheap “just to keep people busy”.
This, of course, is a terrible business model and does the industry and the client a disservice.
Skilled labour isn’t cheap.
Cheap labour isn’t skilled.
Some Clients’ expectations don’t help either. Unless you’ve been burnt (or exposed) by the cheap brigade then they’ll keep trying to dictate prices. How often do we hear, “my budget is only £xx, can you do it for that?”. Or “the company down the road will do it for £x, can you beat that?”.
Would I fill my trolley at Asda and get to the cashier and say “my budget is only £50, can I have £100 worth of food for £50”. Or invite a painter round and say “I want you to paint every room in my house for £500, I know its a £3000 job but that’s my budget pal”.
You cannot deliver a 4hr job accurately in 2hrs. You cannot offer high quality by driving down prices. Cheap prices mean cheap labour of inexperienced staff out in the field and out of their depth. Or experienced guys under too much commercial pressure. Feeling the pressure to do 12 houses a day, or 3 clearances a day, or a large 5-day survey in 3 days. Disaster is the outcome. Maybe not immediately but it’s coming very soon.
And then the epidemic continues; one bad survey after another; one bad removal job after another.
No wonder there are so many people out there who think the asbestos industry is a complete joke. Just today, I have been dealing with another survey we have completed where lagging debris was found all over a boiler room supposedly cleared by a professional licensed contractor and an analyst. This, of course, creates so much exposure risk, headaches and costs for the client.
Because of the jokers out there, the asbestos industry still attracts the mentality of “its an open chequebook” from many corners. I always hear things like, “Oh aye that asbestos, easy money that” or “it’s a snake oil industry”.
Done correctly, it’s a professional & specialist service and a business like any other business which must make a profit to be a sustainable business. But like any business, there is an ethical and moral way to do this. And there are plenty of us out there flying this ethical flag but sadly there are many more out there giving us all a bad name.
Today, Omega celebrate our 8th Birthday. Yey us.
I founded Omega on the 1st June 2010 because I had become disillusioned by the asbestos industry and those serving it. It had become saturated with under-skilled and over-charging. More recently it has become saturated with under-skilled AND under-charging. A failed business model however you look at it.
My mission was and remains to this day, one of attracting, retaining and training professional people and ultimately solving our clients’ compliance problems very well. And making it a positive experience for me, my team and my clients.
For my team, to take them from ‘employment hell’ to ‘employment heaven’. We all know what it’s like to hate your job. I’ve been there. I’ve also gone through a phase with Omega two years ago when I hated showing up but I changed that by changing my mindset, the team, the clients and the systems. My mission remains to make all my team feel valued so that they choose to show up every day in fine fettle and are glad to be here. No one gets there alone so we value our unity and teamwork. We learn, we evolve and grow together. We aren’t all lovey-dovey hippies every minute of every day, of course, there’s relationship strains now and then but like any good marriage, if we value it, we make it better again.
For our clients, we take them from ‘asbestos hell’ to ‘asbestos heaven’. We are here to act as their trusted advisors and put them under our protection. Our clients know the value of this long-standing relationship. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship based on us serving and solving problems well for them and us being paid in kind for a job well done.
To get to ‘asbestos heaven’ cannot be done cheaply and quickly. It takes a partnership with an excellent consultancy who have your interests at heart. And it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. We value you as a client and the client values us for the problems we solve and they realise that without having us on board, they would quickly fall behind and back into ‘asbestos hell’.
One of the main problems with the industry is that the bar for entry has been set very low. And the bar for getting it right is very high.
Certainly, in the 1990’s, you could waltz into a surveying job and with some very basic training be out on the tools in no time. In 1994 I got my surveyors’ wings with ease. I did go on to obtain CCP status and other qualifications to prove my competence though!
And in the gold rush of Regulation 4 ‘The Duty to Manage’ being introduced in 2002, there was a huge surge in people sitting the P402 and passing it with ease. With the two survey reports being easily put together with some help from Google or a helpful friend or employer. And 6 months worth of site experience just fabricated. I’ve known people pass the P402 with zero surveying experience; yet they had two authorised survey reports! Thankfully, it’s not as easy to achieve the qualification now. And the companies who do it right have strict training and auditing regimes to constantly monitor and improve peoples’ performance.
The result of years of a low bar for entry however has left us with an epidemic of poor surveys and poor standards of removal work, which ultimately does not achieve the objective of the law; that of preventing exposure and saving lives.
So where do we go from here. Well upwards of course. Myself and team Omega will keep doing our bit to improve standards. I am also on the Management Committee of NORAC, the National Organisation of Asbestos Consultants – the one truly independent trade association representing and supporting Asbestos Professionals, Consultants, Surveyors & Analysts, to improve industry standards. We have a very strong committee of a dozen people, all who want to improve standards.
We also have UKAS Accreditation to consider too. But that’s a whole other debate I know. Omega are UKAS Accredited and I believe it is the way to go. I know other people would disagree though due to failures from accredited companies.
But UKAS or not, what qualifications are needed to be a good consultant – we could talk for hours on this too.
Just satisfy yourself that you have competent, experienced and qualified persons’ serving you well, getting it right first time, making it a pleasure to do business with and not leaving you feeling let down, disappointed or ripped off.
And if something goes wrong, the good guys will act swiftly, correctly and retain the relationship.
The jokers, the cowboys, the chancers, the charlatans, the cheap brigade, the rip off merchants, will all eventually fade away.
The good guys will keep plodding on, attracting good people and good clients who care and want to do it right first time.
I’ll finish with some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you in asbestos hell or heaven?
- Do you have a great relationship and feel the benefits of your current Asbestos Consultant?
And if you’re a Consultant, an Analyst or a Surveyor:
- Are you in employment hell or heaven?
Speak to me if you need any help.
Here’s to another 8 years. Onwards and upwards. Tally ho.