Compass AFM - Newsletter 16 - July 2017

Signing Off - Chore or Responsibility?

In some ways this newsletter is a follow up to our precious newsletter on the Grenfell Tower fire, but it also relates to another recent Irish news story and many personal experiences over the years.

Everyday, as anyone working in facilities or company manager knows, you may be approached frequently to sign off on maintenance jobs or other work activities. But do you have formal procedures in place for doing this? Do you regard it as a chore?, part of your daily duty? or a highly responsible act that may future impact on the health and safety of others or your workplace?

As this newsletter has readers in several countries, it is beyond our scope to look at individual legal requirements. However this newsletter will examine 3 actual events, examine roles and levels of responsibility and look at a way of developing a Sign-Off procedural policy.

The variety and scope of documentation that managers have to sign off on is vast, covering everything from a service report on a pump to a major plant installation. Documents need to be signed off by in-house personnel and sometimes also by external authorities (i.e. health & safety inspectors). But what happens when it goes wrong. Let's look at 3 actual cases.

1. Gas Boiler Installation

DESCRIPTION - A Gas boiler was installed in a shopping centre and connected to the mains gas supply with a 50mm copper pipe and no slam shut valve was installed to shut off supply in case of a leak.

THE ISSUE - Numerous persons were required to sign off at time installation and on the many maintenance visits (over several years) . Nobody identified that a) Copper pipe was used (natural gas corrodes copper) and b) there was no means to isolate the gas supply.

DISCOVERY - A new contracting company was called in to carry out repairs and identified potential failure in the copper gas pipe. Steel pipe NOT copper is always used for all gas installations.

CONSEQUENCES - The copper pipe was nearly 80% corroded in places and within possible weeks would have caused a major gas leak, this could have had very serious consequences in a busy shopping centre.

QUESTIONS - Of all the contractors, inspectors, shopping center management, why did no one report or identify what was clearly a highly dangerous installation?

2. Hotel Lift Installation

DESCRIPTION - A lift was incorrectly installed in a hotel in 2004 and for a time maintained by the same installation company.

THE ISSUE - As stated in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court "The lift was an accident waiting to happen, and the incident was the result of historic damage incurred from the time of its installation ... a safety space and electrical system for the security of maintenance personnel working in the specialised lift system had never been installed". Source: The Irish Times

DISCOVERY - None identified

CONSEQUENCES - Five people were inside the lift and badly injured when in July 2011 it plummeted to the underground car park.

QUESTIONS - Of all the contractors, inspectors, hotel management, why did no one report or identify over a 7 year period what was clearly a highly dangerous installation?

3. Goods Yard Lifting Barrier

DESCRIPTION - A frequently used lifting barrier that allowed access fot HGV's to a goods yard.

THE ISSUE - Every few weeks the barrier jammed requiring a contractor to be called in. This occurred over a period of 6 years.

DISCOVERY - A new person working in facilities remembered signing off on the same problem a few weeks earlier and investigated.

CONSEQUENCES - The issue was a simple fix and was carried out on the instructions of the new person. The company had paid out many thousands over the years for a solution that took minutes.

QUESTIONS - Why did neither the facilities or accounts department identify this long running issue? Why did the contracting company not correct the fault in the first instance?

Grenfell Tower Block

Too many issues and questions still to be answered, with an investigation currently underway. However I am convinced that signing off on workmanship, materials and statuary inspections will be identified as a major contributing factor.

Defining Sign-Off Roles & Responsibility

Looking at the above cases there is a striking commonality - Every time people were signing off on work, inspections, materials etc., without any validation. It is also evident that there were no signing off procedures in place. These are just a few cases of many that I know. And I am certain that you the reader are also aware of others.

So firstly lets look at roles and responsibility. Larger projects such as major installations and building works may need several levels of sign-off signatures as work progresses to completion. Below are suggestions only, each organisation will need to determine their own policy. (A MS Excel version of the table below for you to amend to suit your own requirements is available here - )


Defining Sign-Off Roles & Responsibility

Signature →

Work Type ↓

Receptionist /
Facilities Operative /
Junior Manager /
Supervisor /
Duty Manager /
Office Manager /
Facilities Manager
Gen. Manager /
Dept. Head /
Branch Manager / H & S Manager
Mng. Director /
External Consultant /
Professional Authority /
Health & Safety Authority
Level 1 Examples
Office Equipment Repair
Minor Electrical / Plumbing Repair
Cleaning & Similar
Level 2 Examples
Office Equipment Installation
Minor Electrical / Plumbing Installation
Floor / Window Replacement
General Repairs up to € 5,000
Level 3 Examples
Fire Safety Equipment
Emergency Lighting Maintenance
Lift / Escalator Maintenance
Security System Maintenance
Lifting Equipment Maintenance
Water Treatment
Level 4 Examples
Facilities Plant Installation
Building Works
Production Plant Installation
(up to € 100,000)
Level 5 Examples
Major Plant Installation
Elevator Car / Equipment Replacement
Moderate Building Extension
Level 6 Examples
Elevator or Plant Installation with H&S Risk
New Building / Full Renovation
Full Facilities Plant Installation
Full Production Plant Installation

Procedural Policy & Risk Assessment

This flowchart is a guide to assist in determining policy and risk assessment. We would recommend that companies develop a sign-off policy. In my own 12 years of working in the facilities industry, I have seen and would estimate over 40% of jobs that were signed off had never been validated. Some of this involved very high value plant or later led to fairly substantial issues for the client. It is no big deal that a contractor has to wait for a document to be signed off while a member of staff validates their work. The reality is that validation is not a chore, it is a responsibility. (A .pdf version of the flowchart below is available here -)


Compass AFM provide Asset, Facilities & Energy Management Control Solutions. for a wide range of industries including; Retail, Property Management, Facilities, Manufacturing, Education and Government sectors.

We realised from the start that customers wanted more than just "boxed" CAFM software, they also wanted a means to solve specific operational issues. Our solutions are the key tools for maintaining plant, property and facility assets to the high standards being demanded today.

Our years of experience allows us to develop unique problem solving solutions specific to your company It is this combination that provides our customers with the ability to make better decisions, run operations more efficiently, reduce energy usage and improve their organisations financial performance.

If you would like more information, please contact us or visit our website on

We would love to talk with you.


Dominic Murnane
Managing Director

Compass Software Technology Ltd.

Head Office: Killarney Road, Macroom, Co. Cork, Ireland

Tel: Ireland: 026 23616 / 087 607 6565
      Worldwide: +353 (0) 87 607 6565


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