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The Property Managers Lifeline to Asbestos Management.

Join two of Acorn's Directors, best-selling authors and asbestos experts Ian Stone and Neil Munro as they educate, guide and take the complication out of asbestos management.

Get the information you need to help manage your asbestos risk.

"Remember asbestos first, not last" - Neil Munro and Ian Stone.

Sep 30, 2019

In this episode Neil and Ian discuss asbestos databases. Sometimes referred to asbestos portals, online systems and cloud systems.

Asbestos databases are great tools to use to host your asbestos information which should be accessible 24/7.  A good database should not only provide access to the finished reports but access to all the individual data. But how much does do these cost..? Find out in this week's episode.


Neil:    Hi! Welcome to Asbestos Knowledge Empire. My name is Neil Munro.

Ian:      Hi, I’m Ian Stone.

Neil:    So today we are going to talk about asbestos databases.

Ian:      Yes, sometimes they are called databases or portals. What we mean by that is it’s an electronic place where your asbestos information and health and safety information can be held and can be stored.

Neil:    Online assistance.

Ian:      Yeah, online assistance. I mean, well, in the olden days they would be on a PC or so, wouldn’t they and the actual thing. But nowadays, that’s one of the things nowadays it should be an online system. The technology is there to have a very decent online database system.

Neil:    Lots of things are going to the cloud and that’s why we’ve kind of moved in that direction. Asbestos server reports in the past kind of always generated on paper, weren’t they? There was printed photographs that you have to go down to the.

Ian:      I used to have to go to Snappy Snap. Pick up the…

Neil:    Getting developed.

Ian:      Getting developed, pick them up, and then go back and stick them into reports.

Neil:    Wow, crazy.

Ian:      But that is what… that was in like 2002. That’s madness. Like we hit the future in the year 2000. But in 2002, we’re still sticking them in. But thankfully it is not like that anymore and things have developed, have moved on from terrible just paper, paper copy reports to electronic reports in that, fill in online, cloud base systems.

Neil:    It is kind of a standard really now if you procure an asbestos service. But if you've got multiple sites, really, you should be using an asbestos database because access to your asbestos information makes it so much easier you know. You can access your systems from your phone, and from your laptop, from your tablet. As long as you got an internet connection you should be able to get a hold of your asbestos information.

Ian:      The thing is with the databases it is definitely if you got multisite, property portfolio, definitely that’s the way you should go because as I know access in the information, the knowledge is power kind of thing, if you can access that information that’s brilliant.

Neil:    Yes.      

Ian:      But only if you’ve got one site electronic database is still.

Neil:    It is a no brainer.

Ian:      It is a no brainer. I mean it can be useful. It helps tick your holders box for communication sharing of information.

Neil:    It makes it a lot easier. You can give that information to your contractor very easily. I’ve expected most databases you should be able to grant access to information and that could be split down from sites or even down to reports to anyone that needs it. So to give you an example if you’ve got lots of contractors working on your site and they are accessing different parts of the building you can even give them access to those specific areas of the building. They can log in, usually this is then time stamped so you’ve got the evidence that they have actually logged in to have a look at the information. And that kind of helps you manage that process of, one, giving the information out; two, recording that be uses of actually looked at it because that’s really important because if you’ve given them a paper copy, you’ve kind of got no evidence of them actually reading it. Whereas, an electronic system you got that possibility that you can actually time stamped and actually looked at what they’ve have looked at to ensure that they were using it properly, they are looking at the right stuff.

Ian:      That at least logged in.     

Neil:    Yeah, it confirmed and that they are actually using it and getting that asbestos information.

Ian:      Knowing that that’s what it is all about, it is about the people that are liable to disturb or anyone at risk should have access to the info. And like you say, the big hospital, the big schools, something like that, you might have a different wings, different blocks. You won’t necessarily want to give a contractor the full access to the entire site because you’ve got sensitive data as well. But you want to give them access to that one wing, or that one boiler room, or whatever. In the electronic way of sharing information it is just a lot easier, and also with that it is up to date information. As soon as you print a report off essentially it is kind of out to date because you never know where is it. If you are logging in through a client a database then you are looking as live information. I mean that’s the way that our database works. I know some databases they work on an upload kind of manner of once a week or something like that which isn’t as good.

Neil:    No, isn’t it the best thing I suppose. Isn’t it?

Ian:      Yeah, but I mean like I say, it is literally to the second. As soon as you’re in the office, uploads the data and the report, it is there for the client to see. So if, I don’t know, yesterday we did a reinspection, today she’s done a report and in that report we’ve highlighted that there’s now damaged asbestos. As soon as you upload that data it is there to see whereas, I don’t know, if we were sending the reports out in the post and somebody went to site and look at that report that info is just dead, it is out of date.     

Neil:    Yeah, for some clients we even record live data as well. For instance, before the reports even been issued that data is, you can see it. [unclear – 5:27] the client can actually log on and see, okay I can see those changes and there just [unclear – 5:34] You can even see the data as it is coming through. So if you do want to get hold of the game and see what’s going on that is a possibility as well.

Ian:      So what’s the functionality should be in one, what functionality is in are one.

Neil:    I think the most important and the easiest one is actually getting access to the end report. So that’s the basic features, so you can log on, download the copy of the report. That’s the easiest function to really use.

Ian:      What are the trick things, what are the cool things that ours does?

Neil:    So you can learn lots of different reports. Essentially so when you get an asbestos server report you get the end product, so whether the data has been collated together and presented in a kind of an easy to useful map presentation, and it is very strict because we keep that in line with UKAS accreditation, in line with guidance. But through the database you’ve actually got access to the more data, so you can manipulate it, you can pull off as many databases or spreadsheets or in the format that you want. So for instance you can learn I just want to see asbestos floor tiles, where are they in my building, or property, or site? You can run off, you know, what is just asbestos, where there are no access areas, the non-asbestos…

Ian:      What is non-asbestos, yeah.    

Neil:    And use all those different sort of and tables. You can even say, you know, if you’ve been using the database and information, you can even run what have we removed over the years. Those types of reports.

Ian:      That is a good one, again, for reporting for like board level of what has happened over time with the asbestos management. Well, you can back, and like you say you can look at what’s been removed. You can then bring up all the removal paperwork because that’s all stored in the database, and so even down to the point of the method statements, and the plans of work, and the risk assessments.

Neil:    Of historical information.

Ian:      The asbestos waste notes.     

Neil:    Which you legally have to keep.

Ian:      Yeah, all of that can be stored in the database, and that’s the beauty of databases we all know, right? You have a folder, a folder gets moved, you might move office, all of a sudden shit goes missing and you’ve not got that report anymore, you’ve not got that data.

Neil:    Or personnel change.

Ian:      Yes. That’s a biggie.

Neil:    [unclear – 7:38]

Ian:      He left with a big box when he got sacked and I don’t know that happened to it.

 Neil:   And believe it or not that is a really common scenario. Isn’t it?

Ian:      Yeah. We’ve had it done. I know we’ve had it done, Neil. We are going to turn the office. We are going to find it. We’ve not got it, Neil, can you, what else we do.

Neil:    Exactly, yeah.

Ian:      We’ve had that a million times aren’t we.

Neil:    Yeah. Another key sort of element to it lots of people look information differently and the great thing about a database is you can extract the information off in different formats. So you can extract photo registers, so if you are keen on looking at the actual physical images of the materials you can have it in that format, and you can have it in a register format, so that comes off in an Excel spreadsheet. Some people they love spreadsheets and they can need to see the information of what is in the table. And you can extract as much information as you want, so you can basic information or you can really go down to town and not also get the word information but got all the scores if you like all your priority risk assessments, your material risk assessment, the individual scores for each property. That’s a good way. You can also extract out as plans as well because plans go on the database and look at it that way, and then click to those elements and see the information.

Ian:      I mean, some of our clients as well they have really taken on board the use of that cloud system. It started out as just as their asbestos database but now it is their kind of health and safety portal, and they put in on their staff training for other elements, their fire plans, their fire risk assessment, health and safety policy, because they are in the database. There are different areas that you can put information and clients are uploading their own stuff because we got no limit in the data that they upload. It is just literally there to use and abuse. There is no kind of data limit. There is no kind of set limit, or anything like that. It is just there to be used. For me that’s the best way because if that becomes the kind of portal for all the health and safety and all their asbestos, again, it is like… I don’t know, years ago it would be in the red folder in reception whereas now it is, well now, like all of our health and safety stuff it is in this database. Go and have a look. It is kind of, yeah, nothing gets lost, nothing gets misplaced. It is literally there and it is there forever. This is what I really like about our database. The really cool thing is the mapping, the geolocation, so for a lot of businesses there is no need. Off of the address there is a geolocation and when you look at it on the map it can pin point all your sites, you can zoom in. You could see exactly where they are all the rest of it. For a lot of sites you don’t need it so say a restaurant or a warehouse or whatever. However, some of our other clients environment agencies, service suppliers that might have pump stations in the middle of nowhere, stuff like that. That is so important because again you can geolocate it to the exact location.

Neil:    Yup. And some of those do use it for guiding the external contractors that haven’t been to their sites, and they use our database to actually locating and tell them where it is. 

Ian:      Yeah, because we all know you get an address, you find in the post code, you turn up, you are on the high street and the high street is actually 20 miles long.

Neil:    Or a London road that’s a common one.

Ian:      And you sit in there on London road.

Neil:    Where is #1?

Ian:      And you don’t know and that’s the thing and with the geolocation it literally pinpoints the exact spot of where you are at essentially the longitude and latitude of the site so you can’t go wrong with that.  

Neil:    Yes, great.

Ian:      It is a really cool feature.

Neil:    Yeah, so with diverse as well, the client can give access to whoever they want to give access to. Now, it is not the case of they’ve got to ring up entire support office and get a user added on to the system. It is the flexibility that it can add and remove whoever they want to access that database.

Ian:      Barry, the plumber, is going to this site next week. Today, the client logs on, gives in the access, that’s it, the way he goes.   

Neil:    Yeah, that was a bit of a contentious feature before. It’s like, Ah, I got to ring up and it’s going to take them a week because they got a backlog blah..blah…blah, you know, they can just log on, add them on, and they got access straight away.

Ian:      And the same with that the contractor seizes to work for them or an employee seizes the work for them. Literally straight away revoke access, done, so they can’t have access to your database, again, which is massively important – GDPR, under all those kind of regulations and that sentiment it is so important to have that.

Neil:    Yeah, definitely.

Ian:      So how much should you pay for a database? Give me a figure, how much should we pay?

Neil:    Million…

Ian:      Million… that’s how much you kind of pay. If only. You know what, over the years, I’ve been in this industry these years and not over the years.

Neil:    People chase for data. Don’t they?

Ian:      Yeah, so in charge for data. You are not having your data Mr. Client when you are leaving and going elsewhere.

Neil:    Strong holding people.  

Ian:      Oh well, it is in the contractual that we own your data. I was like, hold on a minute, it is my data.

Neil:    Exactly that.

Ian:      Exorbitant set up fees to set you up on a database.

Neil:    Don’t get me wrong if there is transfer of an information there’s usually sometimes it is a lot work that needs to be done in importing data from old databases into new ones. So yeah, you would probably be expecting.

Ian:      That is fair enough. 

Neil:    You know, because if there is work involved like coming at it from the point of I’m a client, I have come to you. How much is the database is going to cost have we got one now. Yeah, but I have seen them charge like thousands for setup fees, thousands per year to use it.

Ian:      Charging per user.

Neil:    Charging per gig, grant a gig of data.

Ian:      Grant a gig, yeah.

Neil:    Grant a gig.

Ian:      Now, if you actually think gig is nothing.

Neil:    No.

Ian:      Especially when you talking about asbestos server reports. When you’ve got photos, you got plans, you’ve actually got observer reports themselves. You seem rattle through a gig for sure.

Neil:    So that’s what the industry is charging. We don’t charge that. Our database is provided free to our clients. If a client is using this for any element of their asbestos work then we provide them with a free database.

Ian:      It is a no brainer.

Neil:    Yeah, and the thing is, I mean it costs us. It cost us a lot of money. For us to setup a database we invested a lot of money, and thousands and thousands.

Ian:      Time.

Neil:    And time, oh my god, the time has been ridiculous. What was invested to get it to where it is now. But we are not looking to where we that cost because, I don’t know, in my mind that’s part of the service of what we do. I know where we are different in the rest of the industry because the rest of the industry are charging for outsourcing stuff. But in my mind, I mean that’s what we write about in our book, wasn’t it? The fact that you should be paying zeroes for your database because we are doing the work where data kind of fold the organization now, so everything we are doing we can try into it limited cost to us.

Ian:      Essentially we’ve done the hard work and the hard work is actually putting the data together, actually, putting in the asbestos server reports together.

Neil:    Yeah, the actual site work and the work that we do.

Ian:      So it is literally and to produce a report that’s the work. So really we’re just given the actual, it is just a way of providing the information a lot easier.

Neil:    It is not the raw data. We’ve already collected this part of our job. We are now giving you access to it for free.

Ian:      So yeah, definitely if you are paying for an asbestos database they are not definitely question it because there are free opportunities out there definitely.

            I’ve enjoyed that right there. I think we’ve covered everything we kind of wanted to. That was good one. Remember asbestos first, not last.