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Friday, June 12, 2020

LEV guidance crucial for workplace health

New best practice guidance for local exhaust ventilation (LEV) will reduce the risk of thousands of workers contracting serious and life limiting health conditions such as industrial asthma and pulmonary disease. 

The issue of health and safety in the workplace is under increased scrutiny in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, which makes the publication of new best practice guidance for the effective design, installation and lifetime maintenance of LEV systems particularly welcome.

TR40: ‘A Guide to Good Practice for Local Exhaust Ventilation’ has been jointly produced by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Institute of Local Exhaust Ventilation Engineers (ILEVE), which is affiliated to CIBSE.

The guide is available now and is free to BESA, CIBSE and ILEVE members. It is aimed at the full LEV supply chain including owner/operators; designers; suppliers; project managers; commissioning engineers; and technical trainers.

BESA and the ILEVE believe the guidance will play a vital part in promoting competence and professionalism across the LEV sector to protect people from exposure to hazardous substances in a wide range of workplaces. Instances of occupational lung diseases, including lung cancer, caused by dust, fumes and other airborne contaminants in the workplace remain unacceptably high, the two bodies said.

Scrutiny

“The measures employers are taking in general to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees will be under even more intense scrutiny as we emerge from the coronavirus emergency,” said BESA President John Norfolk. “LEV has long been an area of concern because of its crucial role in protecting workers in particularly hazardous environments.

“It is, therefore, extremely good news that BESA and the ILEVE have collaborated so effectively to produce this practical and thorough guidance to help employers meet their responsibilities. TR40 also establishes a quality threshold against which all providers of LEV solutions will be assessed from now on,” said Mr Norfolk.

Compliance with TR40 could help the construction industry save thousands of workers every year from succumbing to industrial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and life limiting respiratory conditions, he added.

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) enshrines employers’ statutory obligations and TR40 should also be used in conjunction with the HSE’s guidance HSG258 – Controlling Airborne Contaminants at Work.  

This reminds employers that they have “a legal responsibility to ensure that employee exposure to dust/fumes etc. is minimised and well controlled. LEV is an excellent way of doing this”.

The HSE also calls for periodic examination and test (at least once every 14 months) of LEV systems and the keeping of inspection records for at least five years. “In addition, you should have information on the installed LEV system to confirm it provides adequate protection, which should be kept for the life of the equipment,” its guidance says.

TR40 will help employers meet these requirements. It also supports the principles of the government’s ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’ strategy by providing simple, accessible and relevant advice to back up workplace risk management strategies.

LEV is a very broad church with many niche specialisms and TR40 gives detailed guidance on all elements and types of the technology. Sectors like woodworking, foundries, stonemasonry, welding and other construction activities are regarded as ‘high risk’ and the HSE has encouraged the production of focused industry-produced guidance like TR40 to help responsible employers manage risks in these environments.

Fit for purpose

The guide points out that installed systems are often modified and operating conditions can change as a workplace evolves. Employers should, therefore, ensure the LEV is regularly inspected to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose. TR40 explains how to go about this and common problems engineers may come across. For example, it explains how to use airflow indicators to demonstrate whether the performance of an LEV has deteriorated and needs remedial work.

“Like many other parts of our industry, plenty of LEV equipment is bought and sold on price and a lot of systems are never properly commissioned,” said ILEVE vice chair Adrian Sims. “Employers only buy a system because they want to control their employees’ exposure to hazardous substances. Yet, many suppliers do not offer this basic guarantee, even less actually prove it with competent commissioning.

“Buyers need to be smarter and TR40 gives them the questions and information to ask these potential life-saving questions,” said Mr Sims.

Former ILEVE chair Jane Bastow added that mandatory compliance with TR40 should become part of all project specifications.  

“TR40 will help clients and project managers ensure the LEV requirements of new construction projects are efficient and cost effective, by involving appropriate specialists from design to handover,” she said.  “This will help avoid the use of ‘off the shelf’ solutions, which are costly, ineffective and leave the client in breach of their statutory obligations.”

She said FM companies were often unaware of their statutory obligation to ensure that LEV effectively controls hazardous substances and the test reports they submit to clients fail to include this crucial information.

“By requiring their contractors to comply with TR40, FM organisations will be able to ensure that they are provided with a fully compliant service. A competent LEV engineer will suggest often low cost modifications that will enable the LEV to fulfil the statutory requirements,” said Ms Bastow.

For end users, the only way to be sure an LEV is fit for purpose is to employ competent contractors, such as BESA members, who employ engineers holding ILEVE competency cards and can supply references or testimonials as evidence of their ability to carry out this vital work.

LEV experts will be taking part in a discussion about the new guidance and all things LEV during a special joint BESA and ILEVE webinar at 12 noon on Tuesday, June 16. To register go to: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/2245130582610674189

To access the guidance go to:

https://www.thebesa.com/knowledge/shop/products/tr40-a-guide-to-good-practice-for-local-exhaust-ventilation/

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