• International Workplace
  • 8 February 2010

11th Annual Conference and Dinner sustains varied programme

The 11th annual Workplace Law Conference and Dinner was held on 2-3 February 2010, at the Radisson SAS, London Stansted. Over 65 delegates attended over the two days, choosing from 21 conference sessions, watching ten short films, enjoying four-star accommodation and learning about 44 separate Regulations to be aware of in 2010.


In the first in a series of specially commissioned films, the conference kicked off with a documentary on environmental management, concentrating on the low carbon transmission plan and an update on the CRC and fixed trading allowances. This was followed by a presentation by environmental and sustainability expert, Dr Ben Vivian, where he discussed the latest and proposed changes to the Building Regulations, the environmental message post the disappointing outcome at COP 15 and the need for better management and reporting of carbon usage. He concluded by telling delegates that, as the “guys who run the technology,” facilities managers are crucial in helping to meet building and environmental targets required in future building controls. 


The issue of required air conditioning inspections received an instant backlash as soon as a short film introducing the topic ended. The film investigated why so few of the 50,000 buildings in England and Wales have failed to achieved compliance, with Hywel Davies from the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers putting it down to a lack of knowledge and, in a lot of cases, deliberate avoidance.

The facilities managers in the room felt the blame was being laid squarely on their shoulders when, from their perspective, they felt there had been little or no information about the new Regulations, a lack of inspectors, and certainly no motivation to comply.


When asked who had complied with the legislation, approximately half of the delegates in the room raised their hands. However, when asked if they felt the inspections had been of benefit to their business, the room appeared strangely silent. The delegates shared a general perception that the inspections were not worthwhile, especially considering, as one delegate pointed out, that while the inspection itself is compulsory, any action following the findings is not. 


As with many of the other regulations discussed at the conference, the aim of the inspections is to improve efficiency and reduce damage to the environment. This is clearly not enough of a carrot and, given that fines are so low when compared to the cost of an inspection, there appears to be no stick either.


2010 will be a big year for changes to Building Regulations, said Mark Hillier, Associate Director in Built Environment at Workplace Law. The issues of energy conservation, climate change and driving down C02 usage were the focus of his seminar session. Reflecting the increased emphasis on environmental and political concerns, Buildings Regulations are no longer just about structural stability and fire safety but now also about efficiency, he said.


As building control changes, so too does the requirement for higher service standards, meaning that FMs should be looking to drive beyond mere compliance. Hillier also warned that the area of Building Regulations is one that is not going to get simpler, but more difficult, and also talked delegates through BS 9999:2008, which was introduced in April 2009 and contains essential guidance on fire risk assessment, building design and management, intending to help building occupiers to achieve compliance with fire safety regulations.


Two short films regarding the issues of workplace parking sparked a good deal of discussion and some interesting questions for Kelvin Reynolds of the British Parking Association.


The first film explored the workplace parking levy, which is being introduced in Nottingham in 2012, and will charge some employers for some of their workplace parking spaces. This is yet another area of regulation which has been prompted by the issue of climate change and it’s no surprise that the matter of increased business costs was not met with a warm welcome.


The second film explored the legal requirements for clamping on private land and looked at how the proposed Policing, Crime and Security Bill would lead to greater regulation of the industry.


For his presentation which followed a short film on life after the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO), fire safety expert, Clive Raybould, informed listeners that there is a hardened attitude by enforcers regarding meeting fire safety standards.


His hard hitting presentation included a review of the headline-making prosecution of New Look stores for a London fire, which cost them £400,000 in fines and costs alone for 13 cases of breaching the RRO.


He also provided evidence on the challenges facing today’s fire brigades, when dealing with modern building design, and talked delegates through the key fire safety standards regarding electronic locks and fire risers.


One of the highlights of the conference was an interactive role play session between a client (played by Rob Castledine, conference chairman and Associate Director of Health and Safety at Workplace Law) and experienced Solicitor-Advocate, Dale Collins, which helped listeners understand the kind of evidence they could be asked to supply under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, following a workplace accident.


For those who were unable to attend the conference, Workplace Law is hosting a one-day Facilities Management Legal Update Conference at its new premises in Clerkenwell, London, on Wednesday 16 June 2010. The programme for the day is compiled purely from delegate feedback and contains the highest-rated sessions from our panel of expert speakers. The event also mirrors the format of the annual conference with a variety of presentations including a selection of short films on current issues. Click here for more details.