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LEV guidance targets workplace health

Thousands of new cases of serious ill health due to exposure to hazardous substances and fumes in the workplace have focused minds on the need for new best practice guidance for local exhaust ventilation (LEV)

The issue of health and safety in the workplace is under increased scrutiny in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, but workplace related ill health already costs UK businesses £9.8bn a year and leads to thousands of deaths and life limiting conditions such as pulmonary disease and industrial asthma. After asbestos, the biggest cause of lung disease is exposure to silica, diesel and mineral oils.

There are approximately 8,000 deaths and 13,000 new cases of the workplace related cancer every year. There are also 12,000 deaths from respiratory disease and 18,000 new cases of breathing and lung problems linked to conditions at work, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

As part of its long running campaign to improve this grim situation, the Institute of Local Exhaust Ventilation Engineers (ILEVE), which is a division of CIBSE, has joined forces with the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) to produce new best practice guidance.

TR40: ‘A Guide to Good Practice for Local Exhaust Ventilation’ is available now and is free to BESA, CIBSE and ILEVE members. It is aimed at owners of LEV systems, providing guidance and advice to enable them to become an informed buyer and to enable them to keep their teams safe. 

Best practice

It provides guidance and industry best practice for 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.

“The measures employers are taking in general to protect the health and well-being 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 testing (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.

Niche specialisms

LEV is a very broadchurch with many niche specialisms and TR40 gives detailed guidance on all elements and types of the technology. Sectors such as 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.

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.

Former ILEVE chair Jane Bastow said 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. 

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.

15 July 2020

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