Local Exhaust Ventilation: Information for Employers

When you’re investing in workplace safety equipment, it’s important to ensure it’s the right type, and that it’s correctly installed and maintained to avoid costly mistakes.

Many employers buy local exhaust ventilation equipment to protect employees from the health risks associated with hazardous substances.

Dust hazard in the workplace

© WUT.ANUNAI / Shutterstock.com

Products classified as LEV systems must undergo a thorough test and examination under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

To make the right choice from the various dust and fume control products on the market, a systematic approach is required.

 

What is local exhaust ventilation?

Thousands of people in the UK suffer from industrial diseases, such as asthma and lung disease, due to having inhaled airborne contaminants at work.

Any workplace that produces hazardous fumes, dust, mist, gas or vapour must mitigate the health risks to employees. This can include welding fumes, carbon monoxide emitted from furnaces, flour dust in bakeries, paint mist from spraying, solvents from painting and many more.

A local exhaust ventilation system extracts hazardous workplace substances from the air, so employees don’t breathe them in. Properly designed dust and fume extractors will collect the contaminated air, contain it, keep dangerous particles away from workers, clean the air and enable the safe disposal of all contaminants.

LEV systems are mandatory under workplace safety regulations for many applications to protect people’s health.

 

What should an employer consider?

Before purchasing ventilation for the workplace, an employer must consider several factors to make the right choice.

First, determine which jobs and activities cause exposure, involving employees in the design and selection. Write down the requirements of the ventilation, asking the advice of a reputable supplier to ensure everything is covered. This includes commissioning an expert to complete a dust risk assessment before making your final choice.

Most importantly, make sure it is installed properly and that it works effectively, including having airflow indicators or the equivalent. The supplier should provide a logbook and user manual.

The employer must train employees how to use the LEV system, enlisting the supplier’s help and following instructions in the user manual. Training should cover all the basics including why the substances you use are harmful, how the staff might be exposed to them and the potential health issues.

Individuals should also know how to check whether the extraction system is working properly and what steps to take in the event of a problem. Training should be continuous, with regular refresher courses. The employer must keep written training records for all staff.

It’s also the employer’s responsibility to manage the checking and maintenance of the dust and fume extraction system, filling in the logbook and making sure repairs are carried out promptly.

The equipment must be examined and tested thoroughly on an annual basis using a professional LEV testing service. The examination report should be used as an audit, with the option of improving the system if necessary.

While the thorough testing is normally carried out annually, there are different test intervals specified by law for specific processes. These include monthly tests for LEVs in jute cloth manufacturing and for processes where blasting is carried out in connection with the cleaning of metal casings.

Six-monthly testing is required for LEVs used where metals, apart from platinum, gold and iridium, are polished or ground mechanically in the workspace for more than twelve hours per week.

Testing every six months is also mandatory for industries where non-ferrous metal castings are produced and give off dust and fumes as a result.

While other processes must have a mandatory test every 14 months, most companies opt for annual testing.

 

Why are the LEV tests so important?

Thorough examinations and testing are mandatory because employers need to check the equipment is still protecting employee health and continuing to operate effectively.

The examiner should be given relevant information about the intended performance of the system, such as the airflow and the unit’s position in relation to hazardous processes.

Completing the testing requires an expert who has the specialist skills and competence. In theory, the employer can carry out the examination process, but the majority of companies engage a professional company.

A skilled tester can verify whether the local exhaust ventilation equipment is still meeting your needs and has the required performance level. If this isn’t the case, the examiner will write clearly in the report what the problem is and advise on what you can do to rectify any issues.

As an employer, you must read the report and ensure you understand it. Ask the examiner to clarify the information and ensure you act on any recommendations as soon as possible.

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