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BACTEC, established in 1991 to provide risk mitigation services for unexploded ordnance and landmine clearance, supports construction projects and worldwide explosive ordnance clearance initiatives.

The company works globally across a network of international offices and has completed projects in over 40 different countries. Clients include governments, nongovernment organizations, multinational companies and local authorities, as well as building contractors, engineers and property developers.

The scope and variety of work varies enormously, whether in the UK or throughout the world. Risk mitigation involves the investigation and identification of potential unexploded ordnance, followed by its safe remediation, using the latest technology to minimise risk.

Post-conflict landmine clearance encompasses the detection and disposal of antipersonnel and antitank mines, enabling land to be brought back into economic use. BACTEC has been involved with the clearance of more than 500,000 landmines, restoring in excess of 8 million square metres of land.

All BACTEC's field operators, both on land and marine, are fully qualified, experienced and trained by UK MoD or similar recognised bodies. Collectively they have a huge array of expertise and experience encompassing almost every type of explosive ordnance.

Benefits

Certification to ISO 9001:2008 has enabled BACTEC to grow its staff numbers and client base, without compromising the quality of its service and operating practices.

Winning Business

"Certification is vital if you work in highly regulated sectors such as defence, construction and oil and gas where quality and safety standards are paramount," said Christine Bridges, Head of Quality Assurance for BACTEC. "We have been certified with LRQA since 1993, first to ISO 9002 and then to
ISO 9001:2008 from March 2002. Many clients expect their contractors to be ISO registered. Chances of winning work may be hampered without it."

Client Confidence

"As a global company, it is extremely useful for us to be able to show compliance with an internationally recognised management system standard. This gives clients, wherever they are in the world, confidence in our standards and procedures," said Christine.

Measurement and Improvement

As part of the ISO 9001:2008 process, BACTEC is independently assessed twice a year by LRQA. At least one of those assessments will be project based, and
could be anywhere in the world. "External auditing is vital to confirm that we maintain the highest standards," commented Christine. "It is easy for organisations to become complacent and not to update their systems and methods to meet the changing demands placed on them. The system helps us to measure our performance and pinpoint areas where we might be able to improve. One example of this is the recording and measurement of client feedback, both positive and negative."

Managing Risk

"Explosive ordnance detection and disposal needs to be precise and methodical," commented Christine. "Our quality management system underpins everything we do and is fundamental to our duty of care to our employees and the communities in which we operate. By using their own professional judgment and adhering to our quality systems, our employees know that risks will be reduced as low as practical."

Implementation

Since 1991 BACTEC has grown from three staff to more than 500, of which 65 are directly employed permanent staff, with the remainder employed on a project or contract basis. With a constantly changing workforce operating in different locations across the globe, it is essential to have a common operating and reporting structure.

"BACTEC's growth has been based on implementing management systems and adhering to recognised standards," commented Christine. "ISO 9001:2008 has been a major benefit as it sets out procedures and practices for procurement, document control and project management by focusing on systems rather than activities."

The system also encompasses subcontractors and suppliers, who must be able to demonstrate that their systems are as robust as BACTEC's. If a supplier is not ISO certified, it must be visited and audited by BACTEC.

"One challenge has been communicating this to staff. Every employee on arrival receives an induction, and operations staff are issued with copies of our Standard Operating Procedures which are referred to constantly. But the procedures must not be taken as a tablet of stone - we want to ensure that best practice is shared across the whole company.

"So, if on one of our sites, a more efficient but equally safe or safer way of completing a particular task is found, it's important to convey that information back to head office for review. If appropriate, this information will be incorporated into the procedures.

"Sometimes staff become too focused on operational aspects - getting a job done. We encourage them to find time to record improvements so we can evaluate the suggestions and incorporate them into our system."

Currently BACTEC has a number of associated offices, which are accredited to regional standards. "There are regional variations in processes and practices, and this is something we are addressing," added Christine. "Some practices, such as petty cash handling, are managed differently across the globe to reflect wherever possible working and economic practices. Our challenge is to harmonise those practices in a corporate system that works for every user, wherever they are."

Working with LRQA

BACTEC has enjoyed an unbroken relationship with LRQA since 1993. During this period, LRQA have developed a good understanding of the company's business and the challenging environments in which its staff operates.

LRQA's wide knowledge of best practice in other industries has been a real advantage to BACTEC. A practical example is the streamlining of some business systems - saving time and reducing administration, as well as reducing paper consumption.

Both LRQA and BACTEC have found the site visits to be mutually beneficial. "Quality management is a seamless process, so it is essential that it works as
well on an international site as it does at head office," comments Christine. "LRQA have the opportunity to check that each of our sites performs to the
expected standard, and that provides the site with valuable insight into how their project - however small - impacts on the company's integrity."

BACTEC has always been impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment of LRQA's auditors. Leon South has visited South Lebanon on two occasions, most recently in early 2007 to observe BACTEC's quality management practices on two large humanitarian contracts involving minefield and explosive ordnance clearance.

"Our work involves risk mitigation, which may result in risk elimination," said Christine. "By its very nature, unexploded ordnance is inherently dangerous. However, with training, correct equipment and effective supervision the risks are significantly reduced. We take every practical step to minimise the risk to all our operatives and visitors, but there has to be an element of danger involved. So we were especially pleased that Leon was prepared to accept these risks and see at first hand how we are working in Lebanon."

BACTEC's work in Southern Lebanon is notable for a number of reasons, not just removing the legacy of war and helping to restore prosperity by returning the land to agricultural use. The company aims to provide employment opportunities for local people wherever it operates.

Local personnel fulfill a variety of roles - medical, transport, administration and logistics, as well as deminers and BAC searchers. Their wages support
many families, and the skills learned remain in the region and provide the nucleus part of a future local clearance capability. Over 60% of the current 400 staff on the project are Lebanese. All of these will have been inducted into BACTEC's quality management procedures.
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