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Europe’s Largest Asbestos Testing Laboratory: How We Manage Capacity

28th May 2019

During a recent tender interview, we were asked ‘how do you manage capacity’? As the UK’s market leader in asbestos management and consultancy, we wanted to give you an exclusive insight into how we manage capacity at Europe’s largest asbestos testing facility.

Opened in 2008, our North East based laboratory is internationally UKAS ISO 17025 accredited demonstrating our competence in testing and calibrating results. Operating 7 days a week, the lab is capable of processing a staggering 6,000 bulk samples per week (in line with UKAS restrictions of 60/70 sample points per day, per analyst).

This is an unrivaled level of resource in the UK and provides our clients with the reassurance they need to meet their demands, static or fluctuating. Due to our capacity and capabilities, we are able to react quickly to urgent works or restricted timescales without compromising on quality controls. No other lab function is able to offer this extent of service, but how do we sustain this level of capacity?

It all comes down to three key elements; our team, our software and our growth.

Our Team

Our laboratory team (also known as our Tech Support team) is made up of 50+ BOHS P401 qualified lab analysts. All of our lab analyst team members are trained to carry out testing activities as per our UKAS ISO 17025 accredited technical operating procedure (TOP01.03 Bulk Fibre Identification). Our team is subjected to our auditing system to ensure all works carried out not only meet UKAS standards but meet Lucion’s standards.

Quality Assurance

As standard, all our lab analysts participate in internal quality assurance and external proficiency testing schemes which provide feedback on our laboratory team’s performance on a regular basis. This information is used to improve our quality control processes and ensures we are continually reviewing the way we work as an organisation.

Our internal/external lab quality assurance and auditing system includes:

  • 10% of our analyst team member’s samples are randomly selected each day and analysed by another analyst the following day for internal quality assurance purposes, guaranteeing our clients that their samples are accurately analysed.
  • We receive and analyse test samples of both common and less common forms of asbestos from the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) under the Asbestos in Materials Scheme (AIMS) 3 times per annum, as recommended in the HSE’s HSG 248. Our performance has been identified as satisfactory (out of two available outcomes of either satisfactory or unsatisfactory).

Sample data is created by our surveyors on-site, with sample information, material and priority assessments, and photos. Samples are given a unique ID number which allows them to be tracked as they move through our assessment process; from your project site to our laboratory, through report delivery. All of our data is stored and managed on our award-winning, innovative compliance management software, NexGen.

Take control of your risk management data with our innovative, cloud-based compliance software, NexGen. Discover more here:

Compliance management software

Upon your samples’ arrival at the laboratory, the samples are registered in NexGen and enter the laboratory workflow that automatically organises the workload by report delivery date.

What Happens If There’s An Issue?

Any non-conformances highlighted during the auditing process are investigated by our Assurance Team to find the root cause and identify corrective actions i.e. re-training, to ensure that similar instances will not occur in the future. Our Assurance Director also receives memos from UKAS on a regular basis regarding updates to ISO 17025 criteria. These updates are communicated to the Laboratory Assurance Manager for implementation to ensure we remain compliant with changing UKAS requirements.

Our laboratory has a dedicated Laboratory Manager who oversee all lab operations and ensures the workload is managed efficiently and effectively to meet and deliver all KPIs.

Meet our Laboratory Manager, Nichola Byron, and read about how she progressed through our Career Pathways to manage Europe’s largest asbestos laboratory and how she works with one of Lucion’s largest teams.

testing laboratory

Nichola is imperative to managing our capacity capabilities and ensuring our work in progress (WIP) is managed efficiently, ensuring our teams are capable of delivering their KPIs. Part of ensuring we are able to manage capacity within our laboratory was the development of our dual shift rota and holiday policy.

Shift Rota

Our Tech Support function operates in a unique way, unlike any of our current competitors in the industry. Our Tech Support team are trained with dual functionality. Every one of our team members receives fully funded training enabling them to practice as both a lab analyst and as a member of our admin team; creating highly accurate 2D and 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings and liaising with our clients relating to their assets and risk management data.

Want to know more about our 3D compliance software? Discover more about our in house developed 3D software and take your risk management to the next level:

compliance software

We developed our dual trained roles to help provide sustainability and longevity in our team’s careers. Our team members in Tech support told us they wanted more opportunities for training and development. The dual trained roles provide our teams with the ability to progress along the Lucion career pathways whilst adding multiple qualifications to their CVs. The dual trained roles also provide the organisation with fluidity, enabling us to easily manage capacity during busy periods of the year.

Holiday Innovation

Many businesses are faced with difficulties when it comes to managing their teams’ holiday year. Often, organisations tie in their holiday year with their financial year. This can result in a build-up of unused holidays across many team members, all eager to take their entitled holiday time before year-end. We were also faced with the same issue and so we sought to find a way to resolve this common issue.

By implementing holiday years that tie in with each of our team members birth dates, we were able to negate an influx of holiday requests during the same period of the year. This meant that we were able to not only consistently manage capacity, but we were also more readily able to approve holiday requests from our team members in the knowledge that our capabilities would not be encumbered.

All of our functions; internal team management, risk management data entry, external client access and information, are all managed by our bespoke, cloud-based, award-winning compliance and risk management software, NexGen.

Our Compliance Software

As the UK’s market leader in asbestos management and consultancy, we win some of the largest and most complex contracts in the industry. Operating both nationally and internationally (through our marine division), offering a multitude of inspection and testing services that encompass various hazardous substance risk management, developing our own software to suit our ever growing and dynamic organisation was essential to our sustainability.

Every client who uses our services gets free access to our NexGen platform. Clients can access their compliance and risk data remotely in real-time and can view who has accessed their data and when. As part of our security measures to ensure all data is protected, clients have complete control over who can externally access their data and asset information. They can grant and restrict access to key stakeholders, contractors, and auditors as and when required with ease.

Through our bespoke compliance management software, we can manage our workloads effectively and securely. Our clients can see their jobs from cradle to grave using our ‘Work In Progress’ functions. They can see where their samples are in real-time and get instant updates on sample results. Through developing technology that helps us to be ever more efficient and delivers transparency to our clients, we can help protect all key stakeholders; our clients’ reputation and building occupants.

Our Growth

During the 2019 Plimsoll review, Lucion Services and our subsidiary company, Lucion Environmental, were named amongst the top 5 companies in the environmental hazardous management industry for productivity. Lucion Services and Lucion Environmental also took 1st and 2nd place relating to growth, demonstrating our organisation as a market leading, stable supplier.  

We also were the first UK asbestos consultancy to achieve UKAS accreditation for mobile laboratories which have been used on long-term projects and isolated sites where round the clock analysis is required i.e. offshore vessels, nuclear power stations.

As part of our growth and sustainability plan, and to ensure we remain ahead of our competitors, our laboratory continues to develop its capabilities and functions. Our laboratory facilitates asbestos bulk analysis using stereo-microscopy, polarised light microscopy and dispersion staining techniques as standard. Our laboratory also has asbestos in soils (fibre screening, identification, and quantification) testing facility.

Working with the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), we have supported the development of new and practical interactive tools to help groundworkers and other construction site workers manage asbestos-contaminated materials on site.

Read more about our software developments with CIRIA:

Asbestos In soil

Ensuring we are active in multiple sectors, developing better ways to keep individuals and teams safe from hazardous substances is core to delivering our mission.

Our Mission

We are a collaborative group of individuals dedicated to protecting people from exposure to hazardous substances. We are on a mission; to make the world a safer place to live.

To deliver our mission, we needed to assess the validity of the HSE clearance level indicator we currently use when delivering our air testing services. It is imperative that our clients have the ability to access the latest and most accurate air testing technology available in the UK, so that they can be reassured that they have gone above and beyond to protect their people. Developing our Scanning Electronic Microscope (SEM) has been key during our growth and development as an organisation. As we grow, we have resisted losing sight of what is important, our mission; to make the world a safer place to live.

Our SEM testing suite provides more accurate analysis and risk assessment of asbestos-containing materials, which are also controlled under our UKAS ISO 17025 accreditation for quality assurance from an external body.

Air monitoring via SEM has a limit of detection of 0.0005 f/cm3 and is a useful technique to determine long-term occupational exposure levels, produced by normal occupation: SEM is the best practicable technique for determining the asbestos risk in buildings known to contain asbestos.

Want to know more about why SEM should be part of your risk management strategy? Read our latest white paper from our former Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Lucion, Charles Pickles:

UK Asbestos Regulations

Further Information

Asbestos In Materials Scheme (AIMS): https://www.hsl.gov.uk/proficiency-testing-schemes/aims

HSE HSG 248: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg248.htm

Risk Management Compliance Software NexGen: https://www.lucionservices.com/services/nexgen/

Lucion Services – 2D Plan Drawings: https://www.lucionservices.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/12704.pdf

3D Risk Management Compliance Software: https://www.lucionservices.com/services/lucions-online-risk-management-app-nexgen-integrated-with-bim-technology-allowing-clients-to-access-safety-hazards-information-in-3d-for-accurate-risk-management/

Lucion Marine: https://www.lucionmarine.com/

Lucion Services – Our Mission: https://www.lucionservices.com/who-we-are/

Asbestos In soils Testing: https://www.lucionservices.com/services/asbestos-in-soils-testing-and-inspection/

Asbestos Testing: https://www.lucionservices.com/services/asbestos-testing/

Construction Industry Research and Information Industry Association (CIRIA): https://www.ciria.org/

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM): https://www.lucionservices.com/services/scanning-electron-microscopy/

Why The Uk Needs Tighter Asbestos Controls: https://www.lucionservices.com/asbestosinschools/

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