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An Interview with Mass Foam Systems Limited

Recently we talked to HICS member, Mass Foam Systems Limited, about all things insulation. We found out their biggest achievement to date, what trends they have noticed regarding insulation and their predictions for the year ahead.

Introduce yourself – who is your company and what do you do?

We are Roy Dunn & Brian Massow, Directors of Mass Foam Systems. Mass Foam Systems is one of the UK’s largest installers of Icynene Spray Foam.

You’ve been a HICS member since August 2019, what made you join HICS?

We joined HICS to improve our customers’ confidence when having our market-leading insulation products installed.

So, Icynene spray foam insulation, what got you into it? Why spray foam?

We chose spray foam as we enjoy being able to sell a product that we have faith in that would really benefit UK homeowners by making their homes more energy efficient which in turn helps the environment and global warming.

Tell us an interesting fact why consumers should be considering Icynene spray foam insulation in their homes and/or insulation in general.

Customers can save up to 50% on heating and cooling costs every year. Icynene provides air sealing which prevents heat loss, therefore, saving you money.

What is your greatest company achievement to date?

We have been honoured to be able to assist Chessington Zoo with the insulation of their giraffe enclosure with Icynene Spray Foam. They wanted to insulate to increase warmth and comfort for their giraffes. We used an open-cell foam to insulate as it has no harmful chemicals, so it was safe to apply without harming the animals. We even got to meet the giraffes which was an experience we will never forget!

Have you noticed any trends regarding insulation recently?

UK homeowners are being driven to look at the insulation of their properties and EPC levels with a view to making their homes more energy efficient. Some are wanting an A-rated insulation product which will make their homes’ energy efficient whilst helping the environment and global warming.

What is your 2020 prediction for insulation?

We have seen massive growth in the first quarter of 2020 as open cell spray foam gains more popularity. We are expecting Mass Foam Systems to see one of our busiest years ever with our quality installs and our open-cell breathable products.

And last but not least, if you could invite any 3 people in the world to a dinner party – who would you invite?

  1. Prince Charles of Wales because of his passion for a sustainable future with regards to the environment and our future King of England.
  2. Greta Thunberg as she is our future generation with a passion for the environment and climate change.
  3. Kevin McCloud MBE for his knowledge of quality sustainable property design.

Photo from left to right: Roy Dunn and Brian Massow (Mass Foam).

Coronavirus Contingency Plan

We are sending special thoughts to all our installers and consumers out there that may be experiencing a negative impact due to the coronavirus. This is a difficult time and we’re here to support you where we can.

We are currently operating remotely as normal so that we can all stay safe AND it will be business as usual to continue to support you and your customers.

General Operations

All our people are working remotely from home, including remote access for all emails and website contact emails.

Telephone Lines

Our telephone lines have been diverted so that all calls and enquires whether for our service delivery team, customer service or our ADR and complaints team, can be covered by our people remotely.

Non-Urgent Business

To ensure we continue to deliver our services to installers and customers, non-urgent business will continue to be reviewed, including the suspension of group meetings, business travel and attendance of exhibitions and events.

Inspections and Remedial Works

We have spoken with our inspection providers about their contingency plans and how their inspection and remedial services may be affected. All our suppliers have their own processes in place should the worst happen. All are currently operating as normal until advised otherwise. Should the situation worsen, our suppliers will be providing guidelines and information on their contingency plans which we will then share more widely.

Consumers

Consumers that use our installer network can rest assured our contingency plans mean that it will be business as usual. Our team can fully work remotely from home, meaning that they will have access to all emails and can take all phone calls as usual to deal with any complaints, disputes and/or support as usual.

For now, please keep safe and stay up to date with the advice from the NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Double Winners at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) took home two awards at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020, including a silver award for Best Complaint Handling and a bronze award for Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative.

QASSS operates three consumer protection schemes across home improvement, including HIES, HICS, and DGCOS*. The company entered their Resolution Revolution project into the complaint handling awards, a project led by their dispute resolution team the ‘ADR superheroes’. As finalists for the two awards, QASSS presented their initiatives to an expert panel of independent judges followed by the awards ceremony in London.

The QASSS Resolution Revolution project saw QASSS reach an average dispute resolution time of just 2 days whilst still delivering high satisfaction rates to their customers. All the while the industry average sits at 80 days (CTSI Report, 2018).

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented, “It’s great to be recognised by these prestigious awards in both categories. Our dispute resolution team work extremely hard to resolve customer complaints quickly and fairly. We have had some record-breaking statistics recently, reaching an average resolution time of just 2 days, which is amazing. We’re looking forward to implementing further initiatives as we continually look at ways of improving our services.”

*DGCOS is the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme, HIES is the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Scheme and HICS is the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme.

Photo from left to right: Adrian Simpson (QASSS) and Ciarán Harkin (QASSS).

Who is the Office for Product Safety and Standards?

Office for Product Safety and Standards

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established in January 2018 and forms part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

What does the Office for Product Safety and Standards do?

OPSS oversees the regulatory system for product safety and standards in the UK. They aim to improve regulatory protections and support compliant businesses by working at the front line with businesses, local and national regulators and consumers.

How do they do this?

For consumers, the Office for Product Safety and Standards provides advice and information which will help them to avoid unsafe products. For businesses, they help them to comply with product safety regulations.

Publicly Available Specification (PAS 7100) “Supporting Better Product Recalls”

The Office for Product Safety and Standards sponsored PAS 7100, a linked code to assist businesses to monitor the safety of products and put a plan in place. PAS 7100 is designed to help businesses plan to deal with any potential product safety issues that might arise with products they have placed on the market or distributed. Recent campaigns from PAS 7100 have been around washing machine recalls and the safety of e-cigarette batteries.

What HICS think

“Consumer safety is incredibly important and it’s encouraging to see that this was recognised by the Government as a priority area for consumers. It’s a large area for businesses to navigate and consumers’ lives and health and safety could be at risk due to unsafe products so to have an agency to support and oversee product safety is very positive” comments Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at HICS.

Image by hamonazaryan1 from Pixabay

Giving to Charity and What it Means for Tax

Often, businesses hold workplace activities to raise money for a charity close to their heart. This can be anything from marathons to bake offs to dress down days. But, as a company, do you know what giving to charity means regarding tax?

What is the tax relief?

If you’re a limited company and you give a monetary donation to charity, you will pay less corporation tax by deducting the value of your donations from your business profits. The most you can deduct is the amount that reduces your company’s profits to zero. You will need to keep records of this.

Exemptions

There are some important exemptions where payment won’t qualify if:

  • It’s in the form of a loan that will be repaid by the charity; or
  • The payment is on the condition that the charity buys property from your company or anyone connected to it; or
  • The payment is a distribution of company profits.

Also, if you, your company or anyone connected to your company receive any benefits in return for your donation (for example, tickets to a dinner event) there are limits imposed on the value of such rewards.

Donations by individuals, sole traders or partnerships

Donations can be made by individuals to charity or to community amateur sports clubs (CASCs). The tax goes to you or the charity. How this works depends on whether you donate:

  • through Gift Aid
  • straight from your wages or pension
  • through a Payroll Giving scheme
  • as land, property or shares
  • or in your will

This also applies to sole traders and partnerships.

So, in summary, if you’re a limited UK company and you donate to a registered charity with no direct benefit to the donor, then a corporation tax deduction will usually be permitted. For further reading on this, we recommend the gov.uk website.

Business photo created by snowing – www.freepik.com

Grants Available for Home Improvement Companies

As an established home improvement business, have you ever thought about which grants are available to you? Government grants are great for small businesses, as that extra bit of cash can really help to help to grow your business.

What are business grants?

A business government grant is money that is given to a business that doesn’t need to be repaid, unless in the form of a loan grant.

Types of government grants:

  • Equity finance grants

These grants offer reductions on income tax and investments to start-up and young businesses (less than 2 years old and have fewer than 25 employees).

  • Soft loan grants

These grants are often government-backed and can offer repayment terms and conditions that are softer than those you would receive through banks and building societies. Your business could receive longer repayment terms or lower interest rates.

  • Direct grants

These grants are typically for start-ups as they cover start-up essentials such as equipment and staff training.

Which business grants are available to small businesses?

There are many business grants available to small installation businesses. If you are interested in applying for any of the grants, we advise you to do further research before beginning the application process to be sure that your business is eligible. Here are just 4 examples of grants available and where else you can look for relevant grants.

  • Government grants

As of 12th February 2020, the UK government have 75 grants that are available to small businesses. To view all of these grants, please go over to the Gov.Uk website. These grants range from offering free business development support to equipment to cash.

  • Apprenticeship grants

Apprenticeship grants are designed to support companies employing those aged 16-24 who are on an apprenticeship programme. If you don’t pay the apprenticeship levy, then funding could cover 95% of the cost of training and assessing apprentices.

  • Energy entrepreneurs fund

The energy entrepreneurs fund is a grant funding scheme to support the advancement and development of technologies, products and processes in energy efficiency, power generation and storage. Phase 6 has recently been launched and is over £10,000,000.

  • New Anglia small grants scheme

Applicable to specific parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, this grant is set up and ran by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership in order to support businesses wanting to grow, build services or gain greater efficiencies.

Are small business grants taxable?

In general, yes. Grants are typically taxable income. However, schemes that help with no cash reward aren’t usually liable to tax. We would always advise you to check with your accountant or the grant provider themselves.

Final thoughts – What to keep in mind?

Applying for business grants can be a long, and sometimes stressful, process. Before beginning the process ask yourself:

  • Do I have enough time and resource to dedicate to the application and process of applying for a grant?
  • Is this the right grant for me?
  • Do I meet the eligibility criteria?
  • Do I know what I want this grant for and is it suitable for my business objectives?
  • Can I cover the rest of the financials that the grant won’t cover?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

HICS Leyland Bake Off Raises £123.20 for St Catherine’s Hospice

HICS held a charity ‘Great Leyland Bake Off’ on 10th February to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice. The Leyland-based business not only had some quality baking but also raised £123.20 for St Catherine’s Hospice.

St Catherine’s Hospice is an independent, local charity based in Preston that provides care to those who are affected by life-shortening conditions. Find out more about St Catherine’s by visiting their website here.

HICS bakers had their cake fate chosen from the pick of a hat where each colleague wrote down their favourite dessert. They had the likes of sticky toffee pudding, Victoria sponge cake, millionaire shortbread, banoffee pie, flapjack and more.

The contestants had 3 chances for victory with awards for ‘best taste’, ‘best presentation’ and ‘overall winner’. With 3 on the judging panel, the bakers were really put to the test! After much deliberation (and a lot of cake tasting), the winning cakes and bakers were:

  • Best taste – sticky toffee pudding, Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer
  • Best presentation – chocolate and butterscotch ‘Valentine’s cake’, Michael McGougan, Schemes Manager
  • Overall winner – chocolate cake, Tabatha Strain, Operations Officer

Jonathon Moorhouse bake off organiser and Service Delivery Executive at HICS, commented:

“St. Catherine’s Hospice is a charity very close to our hearts, so it felt like a natural choice for us to choose them to raise funds for. At HICS we’re always finding ways to boost office morale and we felt an office bake-off was the perfect activity to do it.”

Photo from left to right: Cathy O’Hara, Cathryn Wolfenden, Jonathon Moorhouse, Tabatha Strain, Charlotte Pilkington, Tracy Dilworth, Melody Ikin and Naomi Cunningham.

Asbestos – Should I Worry?

It’s 2020, should you still worry about asbestos? In short, yes. Asbestos poses extreme dangers to those who are exposed to it and even though it is no longer used in practice, it is still around, and the exposure can be lethal.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is not a single type of mineral; it is a group of six minerals made up of microscopic fibres. Asbestos was previously used in homes and buildings for insulation, roofing, flooring, and putty to seal windows or fill holes. It has been fully banned in the UK since 1999 due to the dangers it can cause to the human body.

What are the risks?

Breathing asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer. There is no known cure for asbestos related diseases.

4 of the dangers of asbestos are:

  • Non-malignant pleural disease
  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma

Who is at risk?

Although asbestos is no longer used by installation companies, those homes that were built before 2000 still pose a risk. According to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers per year with 20 tradesmen dying each week as a result of past exposure. [1]

  • Installers are at risk if they have been exposed to asbestos for a long time whilst at work.
  • Those who live with an installer who has been exposed to asbestos may also be at risk.
  • Those living in a property with asbestos may be at risk if the materials are damaged or disturbed.

Once asbestos fibres are in the body, it is extremely difficult for the body to expel them.

Identifying asbestos

It is not sufficient to identify asbestos with a visual inspection or by comparing products you think may contain asbestos with photos that you can find online. It is advisable to have an asbestos survey conducted on a property or building to correctly identify asbestos.

Precautions to take

It is when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed that the asbestos fibres become dangerous. This is because they can be released into the air and then breathed into someone’s lungs.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance states that if there are any asbestos materials on site, these should have been identified before any work. If any hidden materials or dust are uncovered, that you suspect may contain asbestos, you must stop work immediately and seek advice.

Asbestos is still prevalent in homes and buildings and so it is advisable to carry out refresher training every year. There is a legal duty for employers in the industry to provide information and training for any of their employees that could be exposed to asbestos when carrying out work.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/dangerous.htm

For further information and advice on asbestos, we recommend the HSE website.
Image by MetsikGarden from Pixabay

Are You Working at Height?

Working at height refers to work that holds a risk of a person becoming injured by falling, whether that is from a height or from ground level into an opening. However, it should be noted that this does not include a slip or trip on the level itself. Within the home improvement industry working at height is often unavoidable for installers, so, what do you need to know?

The Work at Height Regulations

The Work at Height Regulations were introduced in 2005 and apply to you if you are an employer or you control work at height. The regulations were put in place in order to prevent death and injury caused by a fall from height.

Should an accident occur, the individuals above would be liable if the equipment was faulty or uncertified. Therefore, employers and those in control of any work at height must ensure that all work is thoroughly planned and supervised and those undertaking the work are competent. The equipment used for jobs must also be properly inspected and maintained. To learn more about control measures to take, please see the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) official guidance here.

Working at Height Myths

There are many common ‘work at height’ myths [1]:

  • HSE has banned the use of ladders on building sites – no, this isn’t the case
  • You need to be formally ‘qualified’ before using a ladder at work – no, you don’t
  • I am working at height if I’m walking up and down a staircase at work – no, you are not
  • You need to have two feet and one hand on a stepladder at all times when carrying out a task – no, this isn’t true
  • HSE has banned the use of ladders to access scaffolds and you will be fined if you ignore this ban – no, this isn’t true

From 2014/15-2018/19 25% of fatal injuries to workers were from falls from a height [2], averaging at 36 fatal injuries per year. An average of 18 of these per year were in the construction sector.

Your Checklist:

  • Ensure you are aware and up to date with The Work at Height Regulations
  • Avoid making workers work at height where possible
  • Create awareness around the dangers of working at height and how to stay as safe as possible
  • Ensure that yourself and your employees have been on a working at height health and safety course
  • Check your insurance policy covers working at height

Working at height comes with many risks, so we advise that all installation companies ensure that jobs at height are undertaken as safely as possible. When it comes to safety, you can never be too careful or have too much information. HSE’s Working at Height website is recommended for further reading.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/work-at-height/myths.htm

[2] Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), 2014/15-2018/19

Image by Mario Ohibsky from Pixabay

BREXIT – What does it mean for installers?

After three and a half years of political debate, we have now officially left the European Union. Over that time there’s been huge speculation of what might happen, particularly around the economy and what it means for consumer protection.

With many pieces of consumer protection legislation coming from the European Union you might be thinking that BREXIT would have a massive impact on consumer protection. In reality, Brexit is unlikely to have much of an impact, if any. The European Union, its predecessors and the European Commission (that implements the decisions of the EU) has shaped and directed many pieces of consumer protection legislation over nearly 50 years including:

  • Travel and transportation
  • Safety of goods
  • Unfair commercial practices
  • Consumers right to change their mind
  • Unfair terms and conditions

For installers, there are unlikely to be any changes needed to the way you work and interact with consumers. Once BREXIT happens, however, the Government is likely to produce guidance on product safety, especially with regards to CE marking and consumer rights. This can of course change as we approach Brexit.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at QASSS, commented “There will be change over time but nothing to worry about immediately. I will continue to update you with consumer protection information as soon as I find out any news. But for now, keep doing what you’re doing and be sure to keep an eye out on our websites for further updates.”

Image by Elionas2 from Pixabay