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BESA launches vent hygiene safety scheme

BESCA, the UKAS accredited certification body of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), has launched a scheme to help ventilation hygiene specialists demonstrate competence as part of the industry-wide campaign to improve safety in buildings.

With building owners, operators and insurers becoming more aware of the fire risks posed by poorly cleaned and maintained systems, there has been growing demand for a robust process to verify the quality of cleaning – particularly of grease extract systems used by commercial kitchens.

As a result, the vent hygiene market is booming. However, this has attracted some non-specialist hygiene providers who do not necessarily understand their responsibilities; or the importance of delivering clean systems, good advice and proper post-clean reporting to clients. 

In response, the ‘Ventilation Hygiene Elite’ (VHE) scheme is based on BESA’s long-established and industry recognised specification and guide to good practice TR19. The scheme is developed, approved and administered by BESCA, which will audit firms’ work to ensure standards are maintained and manage a database of post-clean reports.

These reports will be used as an auditable trail by the VHE member firm; their clients and insurers. BESCA will also carry out ongoing surveillance of each registrant to confirm continuing compliance and to ensure that all staff are undertaking recognised training and have reached the right level of competence to meet the TR19 standard.

Since it was first developed in 1998 by BESA’s specialist ventilation hygiene group, TR19 has been widely accepted by the building engineering industry and British insurers as the standard to which ventilation systems should be cleaned. The guiding principle of TR19 is that a defined, measurable level of cleanliness should be achieved to improve safety and comfort in buildings.

The VHE scheme uses the high technical standards established through the regular revisions of TR19 to protect clients, giving them the peace of mind that comes from employing a verifiably competent specialist contractor. This will help them keep their staff safe while also satisfying the increasing demands of insurers and protecting their corporate reputation.

Ventilation hygiene is a critical part of any fire risk assessment process and the VHE scheme helps building operators provide supporting evidence to prove that fire safety strategies are being well managed. It also helps the member company maintain an auditable trail of cleans and reduces insurance risk.

BESCA said the recent fire in the Aldgate area of London, which gutted a restaurant and damaged the flats above, was a timely reminder of the importance of kitchen extract systems, in particular, being cleaned to a high standard. The fire, which was caused by an unattended charcoal grill, spread rapidly through the ventilation system.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said the incident highlighted why restaurant and take-away owners “should always take care to make sure their extraction systems are kept clean as a build-up of fat and grease within the filters can lead to a fire.”

The VHE scheme is an ideal way to provide owners with the necessary peace of mind. A BESCA certificate for all notified cleans that meet the requirements will be automatically generated for issue to the end client by the hygiene company. This also reduces the risk of the member firm being held liable in the event of a fire by providing easily accessible evidence of a fully compliant clean. 

Being part of the scheme will also allow members to grow their businesses because the number of clients and insurance companies specifying TR19 as the required cleaning standard is growing rapidly.
They will be able to provide a more professional service with a TR19 compliance certificate generated by BESCA and delivered directly to the scheme member’s in-box for forwarding to the client. The compliance certificate will also indicate when the next clean should be carried out to ensure the client remains protected.

The VHE scheme is open to any firm operating in the sector, who can provide proof of competence and professionalism. Eligible BESA members, who meet the scheme’s criteria, will be allowed to join free of charge, but all firms will be subject to the ongoing audit process. VHE members will also be able to use the scheme’s Quality Mark in any advertising and will feature on the BESCA Vent Hygiene register that directs clients towards competent firms.

Rachel Davidson, BESA’s director of certification, said: “Ventilation hygiene is an area of real strategic importance for our industry. The market is already experiencing healthy growth as a result of increased awareness among building owners of the crucial health and safety role played by specialist firms. However, we also have to guard against the inevitable ‘cowboy’ element, who seek to undercut bona fide firms and fail to invest in the training and equipment needed to provide a professional and, therefore, safe service. The VHE scheme will become an important tool in helping clients (and their insurers) select fully compliant firms and verify their systems are fully and professionally cleaned.”

17 July 2019


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