The benefits of wearable technology in construction

Miniaturised wireless electronics and the advent of the Internet of Things have both made wearable technology in construction a more common feature of industry workplaces.

What are the benefits of wearable technology in construction workplaces? What has helped to increase adoption of these devices at all levels?

Convenience

Convenience is crucial for widespread adoption. Construction workers need to be able to move around the work site easily without losing any dexterity to bulky smart clothing.

Over time this has improved, and present-day wearable technology is almost indistinguishable from ordinary clothes, especially when it is built into protective equipment.

Wearable techology can be integrated into normal clothing, protective outwear like hard hats and fluorescent vests, clip-on sensors and fobs, and a range of other formats suitable for different construction sites, without being intrusive for the wearer.

Continuous

A big benefit of wearable technology in construction sites is its ability to provide continuous monitoring of variables like worker location or health and safety data.

This means you get complete data, without employees needing to manually check in, and with little to no admin time required.

In addition to the benefits of this per individual user, you also get organisation-wide visibility of data, all reported to the same standard, allowing you to make broad plans and changes in an informed manner.

Responsive

When wearable technology is connected to a wireless network connection, it can provide real-time monitoring and issue an alert if a certain condition is detected.

This allows rapid response to various situations, for example if an employee working alone in a remote location stops transmitting, or if an individual’s wearable sensor detects unsafe environmental conditions.

By combining data from multiple users, you can identify hazardous areas – for example, specific zones where hazardous gases tend to accumulate – using each individual as a data point complete with GPS coordinates.

Versatile

Wearable technology takes many forms, with different applications on construction sites and in other industries.

Examples include:

  • Heart rate monitors and other personal safety devices.
  • Environmental sensors e.g. temperature, oxygen, carbon monoxide.
  • Smart glasses that can transmit exactly what the wearer sees.
  • GPS/location tracking and accelerometers for fall detection.
  • Security fobs that allow contactless entry to restricted areas.

The list of possibilities goes on and on – and if you need to achieve something specific, unusual, or even unique, there may be a form of wearable tech that can be adapted to suit the purpose.

At hebs Group, we cover the full range of contracting sectors and project types, delivering the right result for each client and ensuring all key requirements are met. Contact us today on 0151 236 0707 for more information.

What is integrated facilities management?

Integrated facilities management is exactly as it sounds – bringing all your facilities management contracts under a single service.

IFM can combine hard facilities management, which includes elements of the building fabric, and soft FM like security, cleaning and waste management.

Bringing these different services together under a single contract gives you one point of call for customer service, better coordination between FM services, and consolidated costs to bring everything in under budget.

At hebs Group we provide IFM services to many of our clients, combining the expertise of all our engineers into a single contract that covers everything you need.

Examples of integrated facilities management

We’ve mentioned hard and soft facilities management above. To give more detail, IFM contracts can combine many different elements, including the following:

  • Hard Facilities Management
    • Building Fabric and Maintenance
    • Fire Safety
    • HVAC Systems
    • Lighting
    • Plumbing
    • Roofing
  • Soft Facilities Management
    • Catering
    • Cleaning
    • Mail Sorting
    • Security
    • Waste Management
    • Window Cleaning

These are just some examples – in principle, integrated FM can include any and all of the services you need to keep your facilities running smoothly over the long term.

Benefits of integrated facilities management

Integrated facilities management is a best-of-both-worlds solution for maintenance, repair and other services you don’t want to carry out in-house.

You gain several benefits from outsourcing facilities management to a single provider:

  • Expert support with services you don’t want to handle yourself.
  • Less admin compared with coordinating multiple service providers.
  • Lower overall cost of contract and easier to keep within budget.

The benefits of IFM increase the more services you need – so if you have a modern workplace with all the technology and amenities that brings, you should consider arranging an integrated FM contract.

Planned and responsive facilities management

Just like individual FM contracts, IFM can incorporate planned maintenance and responsive repairs as required, again giving you a single phone number to call when you need help.

This gives you peace of mind that work – both planned and responsive – will be carried out to the same high standard at all times, meeting all your service-level agreements and other contractual expectations.

At hebs Group we are proud to work on long-term IFM contracts with many very happy clients who put their trust in us to keep their premises operating and to restore continuity quickly in the event of an emergency.

To find out more, contact us today by calling 0151 236 0707 and we can arrange an initial audit of the different types of facilities management you need.

How to identify asbestos in a working environment

Asbestos was used in construction until the end of the 20th century and can be found in homes, schools, factories, offices, hospitals and more.

Health problems arising from exposure to asbestos kill about 5,000 people each year and leave many more with breathing difficulties, so it’s essential to know how to identify asbestos in a working environment to prevent exposure to airborne fibres.

On this page we’ll look at some of the ways to identify asbestos in a working environment and the strict regulations that mean if you suspect asbestos is present, you should call in accredited experts like hebs Compliance Services to handle the analysis.

How to identify asbestos in materials

If you believe a particular material contains asbestos, the only way to know for sure is to analyse a sample.

UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service) is responsible for accrediting asbestos analysis laboratories, so look for the UKAS Testing logo and only work with professionals like hebs Group.

An accredited analyst can collect a sample safely, without putting your personnel at risk. It needs to be representative of the material as a whole and must be collected without leaving asbestos fibres in the air.

How to detect asbestos in the air

UKAS accredited analysts can monitor for airborne asbestos fibres in cases where the material has already been disturbed. Anyone doing this must be accredited to International Standard ISO/IEC 17025, so leave it to the professionals.

While it’s important to be aware of asbestos in buildings, it’s crucial to know if asbestos fibres are airborne, as even a small quantity can be devastating if inhaled into the lungs.

The 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations make it your duty only to hire accredited analysts and laboratories to conduct airborne asbestos testing, so call hebs Compliance Services if you are concerned.

How to survey for asbestos

An asbestos survey can identify the type and location of hazardous materials on your premises, which can then be used to decide how to work around them or remove them safely.

Working with an accredited asbestos surveyor like hebs Group means you don’t need to carry out any extra enquiries to prove their competence, and you can expect a survey report that meets all your needs, legal duties and regulatory responsibilities.

In cases where asbestos must be removed, we can handle the entire process, including safely encapsulating the fibres and taking them away for destruction so they cannot pose a future health hazard to workers or the building’s occupants.

To find out more, contact hebs Group today by sending us an email at info@hebs-group.co.uk or give us a call on 0151 236 0707 and a member of our team will be happy to discuss your asbestos concerns with you.

hebs Flowtech clear ACO grids by hand at Fulwood

Sometimes if you want a job doing well, you have to get your hands dirty, and that’s exactly what the hebs Flowtech team did during a recent callout to Fulwood station.

ACO grids normally prevent debris from falling into the gutter below, but they must also let water through so it can enter the drain.

Over time, silt and smaller materials can enter along with the wastewater, and occasional maintenance is needed to remove this and maintain free-flowing drainage.

Without clearing out the ACO grilles and the gullies beneath them, water cannot drain, which in turn leads it to back up and can cause surface flooding.

Fulwood’s ACO grids had become blocked, so hebs Flowtech engineers got down to it with hand tools to deliver a good-quality finish.

How to clear blocked ACO grids

(Before)                                                                           (After)

ACO grids are an important part of carrying surface water into the sewers. They cover gutters, which in turn empty into drains that take the water underground – but Fulwood’s ACO gullies were clogged with mud and leaves.

We followed a painstaking process to uncover and remove the accumulated silt and debris in the drainage channels by:

  • Removing the ACO grilles to provide direct access to the gutters.
  • Using hand tools to clean out debris and blockages.
  • Jet-washed the outlet to blast away any remaining surface grime.

This three-step process ensures there’s no dirt or detritus left behind. We not only remove the blockage, but also leave the drains looking as good as new.

It’s not just about getting the wastewater flowing – it’s also about making sure the drains, gutters and ACO grids stay unblocked for as long as possible.

We always impress our customers with our in-depth knowledge of the industry.

No time like the present

At hebs Flowtech we provide industry-leading capabilities in drainage, gutter clearance, sewerage and pipeline maintenance.

There’s never a bad time to get blocked drains cleared. You never know when a summer downpour will leave you with a flooded car park, Autumn will soon be upon us so we can expect more wind and rain.

If you want to keep the rain in the drain, where it belongs, call the dedicated hebs Flowtech team today on 0151 236 0707.

The key factors of a Legionella (L8) risk assessment

Premises that have been closed or used less during the Coronavirus outbreak should be have a L8 Legionella risk assessment, especially if stagnant water has been present during the weeks and months of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Many different premises may be affected, from spas and swimming pools, to any building with air conditioning where condensates may have been present in the ducts during recent weeks.

Lack of use during lockdown may mean that water and water vapour that would normally be constantly circulating and being filtered have been left stationary, leading to stagnation and increased risk of Legionella.

This not only includes buildings that have been closed completely, but also those that have been running at reduced occupancy – any premises that have already opened, or reopening in the coming weeks, should be thoroughly checked.

What is a L8 Legionella risk assessment?

L8 is the series code used by the Health & Safety Executive for its Approved Code of Practice and guidance on Legionella risk assessments and preventing outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

The duty to reduce the risk of exposure to Legionella falls upon those in control of property, including employers.

An L8 Legionella risk assessment must:

  • Identify and assess risk of exposure to Legionella
  • Manage any identified risks
  • Control and prevent risks where possible
  • Create and maintain relevant records
  • Carry out any related duties

Examples of the conditions that must be monitored in a Legionella risk assessment include water temperature, water storage and circulation, and the presence of nutrients like biofilms that Legionella bacteria could feed on.

PPE in Legionella inspections

A further complication arising from the COVID-19 pandemic is short supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) including disposable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) such as FFP3 respirators.

The HSE recommend the following types of RPE in Legionella inspections, if your usual PPE is not available:

  • P3-filtered reusable half-mask or full-face respirator
  • TH2 or TH3-class hood with powered respirator
  • TM3-class close-fitting full-face mask with powered respirator
  • Air-fed hood or full-face mask with good-quality air supply

If you are concerned about Legionella or you are preparing premises to reopen, hebs Group can help. hebs Compliance Services can assess Legionella risks arising from pools and other standing water, as well as moisture in HVAC systems.

The hebs Compliance Services team will identify all the relevant risks, provide you with a detailed report and ensure all the correct PPE and RPE is used throughout, to ensure you meet your obligations relating to both COVID-19 and Legionnaires’ disease.

Call hebs Group on 0151 236 0707 to book a Legionella inspection for total peace of mind before reopening your premises.

How the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionising maintenance

The Internet of Things (IoT) has seen equipment, machinery and devices all over the world given their own access to the World Wide Web, along with a unique identifier so the data they transmit back to base can be organised and monitored.

In doing so, predictive maintenance has been transformed. The Alliance for IoT Innovation (AIOTI) explains: “A company provides predictive maintenance services for products. The products have built-in sensors and communication interfaces. The predictive maintenance service is running in the cloud.

“At the customer premises the product is securely connected to the maintenance service using, for example, the customer’s network or a mobile network connection. The product has a ‘thing identifier’ that is stored in its non-volatile memory and is referenced by the maintenance service in the cloud.”

This allows equipment to be monitored for predictive maintenance needs, from restocking consumables, to fixing hardware errors before they escalate. Here are just some of the powerful applications of the IoT for predictive maintenance.

Wireless intelligence

The availability of mobile network connections and public Wi-Fi means devices do not need a wired connection back to base. Remote assets can be monitored, and the presence of their data signal can itself serve as an indicator of whether maintenance is required.

BMS systems

Building management systems (BMS) and building automation systems can be centrally monitored, configured and controlled, not only enabling centralised admin of predictive maintenance, but also environmental targets and energy consumption.

Smart sensors and monitoring

Smart sensors can automatically detect when an error occurs. That might be a mechanical breakdown, a software error, or some other unacceptable state. Sensors can then trigger a signal back to headquarters – removing the need for round-the-clock manual monitoring of incoming data unless an alarm is received.

Real-time data

The IoT is always-on, providing a network connection or remote data signal is available. Alarms can be transmitted to designated individuals at home via their smartphone, tablet or other device. This means there is no need for an individual to be on-site during unsociable hours, providing someone is close enough to take action when necessary.

Identify condition and repairs

Finally, sensors don’t just tell you when an error occurs. They can also provide real-time updates about the condition of a device, identify exactly what type of error has occurred, and diagnose the kind of repair required. This allows you to dispatch the right kind of mechanic, reducing wasted time and expense, and restoring devices to working order faster.

To find out more about Hebs maintenance services, please contact us today. You can call hebs Group on 0151 236 0707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk and a member of our team will reply to your enquiry as soon as possible.

What are sustainable drainage systems?

Sustainable drainage systems, or SuDS, are a way to prevent surface systems from becoming overwhelmed or polluted during heavy rainfall.

They work by reducing the amount of standing water on hard surfaces like roads and pavements, delaying surface run-off from entering drains and sewers, and preventing contaminated water from reaching natural waterways.

SuDS – which is sometimes used to refer to sustainable urban drainage systems – have become an important part of planning in more densely populated areas, where a significant percentage of land is covered by roads and buildings.

There isn’t just one SuDS technology. Rather, the term relates to a number of commonly used techniques which, together, help to prevent and spread out surface run-off and wastewater that would otherwise enter drains, sewers and rivers in large quantities.

Five common SuDS techniques

SuDS can work in several ways:

  • Catch rainwater so it can be directly reused.
  • Divert contaminated surface water away from natural waterways into storm drains.
  • Delay large quantities of run-off to prevent flash floods.

Five common SuDS techniques that help to achieve one or more of these main aims are:

1. Swales

Swales use soil and vegetation such as grass to provide a soakaway for surface run-off. They are popular in urban environment design where grass verges and other green areas along roadsides are already common.

2. Retention Basins

Another common feature of urban areas, retention basins provide a place for floodwater to accumulate before it is released in safe quantities. This can help to prevent downstream flooding during heavy rainfall.

3. Wetlands

Wetlands and nature reserves can serve as a place for surface water to collect. Artificial wetlands can help with urban SuDS efforts, and usually do not rely on using a pumping station, but instead use the ecology of the habitat to disperse the surface wastewater.

4. Green Roofs

Green roofs are a way to deal with excess rainfall on buildings, which would normally be sent directly into the sewers via gutters and drainpipes. They use vegetation to catch the falling rain – although it’s important to make sure older roofs can support the weight.

5. Permeable Paving

An increasingly common SuDS technique is permeable paving, such as Grasscrete which allows rainfall on hard surfaces to penetrate into the ground below, instead of staying as surface run-off. This can be achieved using a permeable membrane beneath the paving, and by using permeable paving materials or leaving small gaps between pavers.

Find out more

If you want to know more about sustainable urban drainage systems, or if you have problems with standing water during heavy rainfall, contact us today on 0151 2360707 and we’ll be happy to discuss suitable SuDS options with you.

Common electrical problems for commercial buildings in summer

The summertime might feel like a time of year when electrical problems in commercial buildings should be at their minimum – after all, there’s less heavy rain that can get into the wiring and cause havoc.

But that doesn’t mean it’s plain sailing all the way through to autumn. In fact, summer can put extra strain on commercial buildings’ electrical systems, creating some common problems we see year after year.

1. Air Conditioning

It’s one of the biggest headaches for commercial building electrical problems, but air conditioning has become an essential way to keep employees comfortable in the peak of summer.

Malfunctioning air conditioning can be the cause of your mains circuit breaker tripping. So, if your power keeps shutting off, get your air conditioner serviced – and be glad it hasn’t caused an electrical fire yet.

2. Overheating

Air conditioners, computer workstations, server stacks and data rooms can all generate massive amounts of heat, which is bad news when the ambient air temperature is already high.

Make sure you get your equipment’s cooling systems checked – including the ducts and vents that carry hot air from your air conditioning to the exterior of your building – as overheating equipment can be just as much of a problem as faulty electrical wiring.

3. PAT and Fixed Wire Testing

As you put more strain on your commercial building’s electrical system, you can come across wiring problems and faulty appliances that weren’t apparent during the winter months. That might be because some appliances are used more in summer, but it can also just be general wear and tear that could happen at any time of year.

Regular PAT and fixed wire testing can check your portable appliances and your mains wiring loop to identify any power quality problems – variations in the electricity supply that can lead to power surges and brownouts, and risk damaging the circuitry inside sensitive equipment like computers and servers.

4. Extension Cords

Employees plugging in individual desk fans can soon use up the available electrical sockets, but it doesn’t take many multiway trailing sockets to overload a circuit. If your staff have been plugging in extension cords to power their desk fans, this might be why you’re having electrical problems.

Again, make sure your air conditioning, natural ventilation and solar shielding are all working well, to reduce the reliance on fans at individual workstations. You might also want to invest in USB desk fans that can plug into employees’ computers, rather than using up a mains socket.

5. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are not as common in the UK as in some other countries, but if you have them in your premises, it’s worth checking the wiring regularly to keep them in good working order.

You may also need to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans for summer. In hot weather, you need to feel a downward breeze from your fans for them to cool you down. On cold days, reversing the fan can actually help to circulate warm air from close to the ceiling, sending it around the room to raise the temperature by a few degrees.

Most modern ceiling fans have a simple switch to change their direction, but older models may depend on the polarity of their wiring – so if your fan is stuck spinning in the wrong direction for summer, call a commercial electrician to take a look.

 

If you would like to know more about our electrical maintenance services , call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk and a member of our team will be happy to help with your enquiry.

HVAC tips to allergen-proof your space

Allergic reactions like hay fever are an annoyance at the best of times, but the events of 2020 have shone a new spotlight on respiratory conditions and on minimising coughing and sneezing, especially in indoor shared spaces like workplaces and hospitality venues.

Your HVAC system can go a long way towards allergen-proofing your space, but it’s important to keep up with your HVAC maintenance to avoid simply circulating allergens and other irritants around your interiors.

So, here are some helpful HVAC tips to allergen-proof your space.

Reduce dust levels

Often, coughing and sneezing is caused not by allergens like pollen, but simply by dust circulating in the air.

HVAC maintenance should include deep cleaning to remove dust from your vents and ducts, as well as from parts of your air conditioning unit like the air intakes and filters.

Reducing dust levels is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make your HVAC system deal with allergens better – so don’t neglect it.

Clean filters

HVAC filters, which we have just mentioned, deserve extra attention. Another way to allergen-proof your space is to check them regularly, clean them if appropriate, and replace them when necessary.

Some HVAC systems support the use of HEPA filters. You may know of HEPA filters from their use in vacuum cleaners, where they prevent dust from getting out of the machine and into the air.

Likewise in HVAC systems, a HEPA filter can remove more dust, allergens and other irritants from the air output, so there’s less risk of occupants suffering from hay fever or other allergies.

Monitor moisture levels

HVAC systems can affect the humidity level of the air in your premises, either deliberately or as an unintended consequence of heating, cooling, and circulating the air.

It’s worth monitoring moisture levels in the air in your premises. Relative humidity should be around 40-50% when possible.

Higher humidity allows bacteria to live for longer, while very dry air can be irritating to the throat too – so keep it in the sweet spot to avoid coughs, sneezes, and infections.

Get help with HVAC maintenance

The best thing you can do is to call in the experts to examine your HVAC system and make suggestions on HVAC maintenance and cleaning, as well as replacing or updating any parts that are not pulling their weight.

At hebs Group our engineers have years of experience on preventative

expertise to your equipment too. Call us today on 0151 2360707 or email usinfo@hebs-group.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

Refurbishing your leisure and gym facilities for the future

A growing number of individuals and businesses are starting to recognise that there is no ‘miracle cure’ for COVID-19, and any vaccine could be over a year away from going into mass production.

For indoor hospitality venues like gyms and leisure facilities, this raises significant challenges. However, these venues are also ideally qualified to maintain high levels of hygiene so that they can operate safely over the long term.

UK government guidance for COVID-secure gyms

The government has published sector-specific guidelines for gyms and leisure facilities to open in a COVID-secure way, as well as further guidance if you provide close contact services like sports massage.

Some of this is quite obvious – cleaning surfaces and maintaining social distance, for example – while other aspects like effective ventilation of indoor areas have been less widely discussed in the public domain.

Here are some of the main steps you can take to maintain a COVID-secure gym or leisure centre, which you might want to factor into any future gym refurbishment projects.

1. Reducing contact

One way to create a COVID-secure gym is to reduce direct contact between customers in more ways than just encouraging them to keep their distance on your premises.

Gyms are being asked to minimise the use of changing rooms and showers. Customers should arrive wearing their gym clothes if possible, and should travel home to shower.

2. Reducing noise

Lower noise levels can allow people to talk to each other at a normal volume, instead of shouting – the louder the voice, the further any droplets and aerosol transmission are projected.

Keep background music to lower levels than you normally might, and consider acoustics in any refurbishment work, as some noise insulation and acoustic design could be a big help.

3. Improving ventilation

Outdoor areas are more COVID-secure because the virus disperses to safe levels more quickly in the open air.

Indoors, better ventilation can help. Consider investing in appropriate air conditioning systems as part of any refurbishment, or in smaller venues give some thought to air flow and the availability of exterior doors and windows you can open safely.

4. Cutting capacity

Unfortunately, you may have to cut the maximum capacity of your gym at any one time, in order to ensure people can keep the recommended distance apart.

To mitigate this, you can use one-way systems and physical barriers to prevent people coming close to one another, and place equipment such that people are not facing each other – and therefore breathing in each other’s direction – during their workout.

5. High-density areas

Certain areas are naturally more challenging than others. For example if you only have one main door for both in and out, you need to try to find a way to segregate arriving customers from those just leaving.

Even if you are not allowing use of your changing rooms, customers might want to put their valuables in a locker – so try to have lockers spaced well apart to avoid close contact in those areas too.

A COVID-free approach

No two venues are identical and the guidelines keep changing, but by applying the basic principles of distance and hygiene, you can make your gym or fitness centre as COVID-secure as possible.

If you need any help when planning a refurbishment in the current climate, just give us a call on 0151 236 0707 and we can bring our own expertise to your upcoming gym refit project.