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TALKING BUSINESS


TALKING TABOO AND AIDING EDUCATION


Six years on from opening its base in Northampton, Acorn Analytical Services has built a team of nearly 30 members of staff and recorded a turnover of over £4m. Directors NEIL MUNRO and IAN STONE discuss the rapid growth of their business and how they are helping firms to see that asbestos should not be a taboo subject.


Acorn Analytical Services is a multi-disciplined environmental and asbestos consultancy which is growing at a rapid pace. The company, which launched in 2000, opened its first base in


Northampton in 2013 with one person. Six years on its Northampton team has 28 members of staff and Acorn has recorded a turnover of over £4m – even though many businesses remain reluctant to reveal they have asbestos in their premises, let alone admit they might have a problem managing it. The firm’s growth is testament to the efforts of the


Northampton team, ably led by Neil Munro and Ian Stone, to revolutionise the way firms think about asbestos. The duo educate and guide people through asbestos management via their weekly Asbestos Knowledge Empire podcasts and have written a no-nonsense guide to improving asbestos management called Asbestos The Dark Arts. The book is an industry first in the UK because it talks about the topic in an easily understandable way for non-experts. In addition, the firm’s website features a wealth of helpful


advice and case studies with major clients, including local authorities, housing associations, construction firms and the BBC, to help dispel fears about managing asbestos. Ian said: “We remove firms’ asbestos headache for


them but the biggest issue we face is encouraging them to talk about asbestos in the first place. “Asbestos was banned here in November


1999 and in 2004 laws began to be enforced that require non-domestic premises to manage their asbestos. However, 15 years later we still come across clients who aren’t aware of this requirement. “Asbestos is still seen as a massively taboo


Members of the team at Acorn Analytical Services


being managed properly. One of our most high profile case studies is with the BBC. We helped the organisation to ensure any asbestos at Television Centre was identified and managed during the building’s recent major refurbishment. Our case studies are a great way of showcasing what we do to future clients and providing them with reassurance.” If a building was built prior to 2000 it could


‘ASBESTOS IS STILL SEEN


AS A MASSIVELY TABOO SUBJECT’


subject and many businesses don’t want to admit that they have asbestos because they are scared what their staff or clients might think. “We’re trying to educate people so they understand


when asbestos is in good condition and well managed there’s nothing to worry about and it doesn’t necessarily need to be removed. “Helpfully, many big clients have done case studies for us


because by the time they’ve been through the process with us they have overcome any fear of asbestos and are confident it is


contain asbestos. To comply with the legal requirements for managing asbestos non- domestic properties need to identify if they have it and can do this by arranging for samples to be taken and analysed. Risk assessments should be carried out and plans should be produced to manage asbestos safely. Annual inspections should also be carried out, as a minimum, to make sure the


asbestos remains in good condition. Neil said: “At director level we have more than 100 years of experience of managing asbestos.


“Our business is still expanding and we’re taking on more


trainee asbestos consultants. We’re particularly keen to attract local people to help them forge a career in the industry. “We opened a new full Health and Safety consultancy in April


in response to demand from our clients for us to provide even more services for them. It specialises in construction health and safety and Construction Design and Management regulations and we’re excited to see this area of the business grow. “Following the initial soft launches of our book and podcasts


we intend to promote both of them very heavily this year. We really want our podcasts to become the go to media source for information about asbestos management.” Throughout this year the firm is also supporting fellow


Chamber member Cynthia Spencer Hospice. Staff have taken part in volunteering days, organised a raffle and were sponsored to take part in the Tough Mudder challenge, raising over £1,000 so far. Ian added: “We wanted to support a local charity because we


Samples being analysed for the presence of asbestos


feel it’s important to give back to the local community. The charity is tremendous and we have known people who have used the hospice. It is also an organisation we wanted to help because sadly, looking at the bad side of our industry, people can die from asbestos-related diseases.”


AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019 inbusiness 31


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