Memo 8/09: Inspection and Testing of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) Systems

A few concerns have been expressed about the impartiality of the specialist engineering contractor currently undertaking the statutory inspection and testing of departmental LEV systems. This arises principally from the fact that several LEV systems have failed this current round of performance tests and the contractor has recommended a number of improvements, and provided a quote for the work to be done.

The COSHH Approved Code of Practice recommends that the contractor provide an indication of the costs for remedial work and in doing so, he is discharging his responsibilities. Departments are not obliged to use the services of the testing engineer for the remedial work and they are at liberty to obtain alternative quotes from other competent contractors1 for his recommendations to be implemented. Alternative equipment must be of a comparable specification and not selected merely on the basis of cost. In all cases, however, the quotes must include costs for recommissioning and retesting the system and copies of the test reports must be sent to the Safety Office.

Queries have also arisen about the dust collection / extract equipment recommended by the contractor in certain cases, since this can be significantly more expensive than other models. These units are intrinsically safe units, i.e. they are rated for potentially explosive atmospheres. This higher specification conforms with the Explosive Atmospheres (ATEX) Directive and reflects that fact that the vast majority of dust collection units in the University’s LEV systems are sited internally, contrary not only to current guidance on LEV design, but the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR), which arise from the Directive. Departments who opt to seek alternative quotes must therefore ensure that DSEAR is taken into account.

COSHH, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR), require the monitoring and review of control measures and their ongoing effectiveness. The review process must take account of technological advances in control measures that make the work inherently less risky. The specification of the higher rated dust collection / extract units is also consistent with this requirement.

Departments should be aware that LEV systems are now the subject of significant interest for the HSE. This is due largely to the consistently high number of occupational asthma cases being reported across all sectors where LEV is used. A large number of HSE inspectors have now been trained to identify defective or deficient LEV systems and are looking to influence all stakeholders involved in the design, supply, installation, maintenance and testing chain, as well as the users of LEV plant. For example, stakeholders who have habitually ignored the recommendations set out in performance reports, or who have consistently failed to undertake remediation and maintenance, are likely to be targeted for enforcement action.

Inspection and test reports from previous years suggest that many University departments have been failing in this regard. Therefore the costs for upgrading many older LEV systems are likely to be high. Departments must ensure that appropriate budgetary arrangements are in place to repair LEV systems, as well as for ongoing maintenance costs. They are also reminded that this requirement applies regardless of the level of use of the equipment the LEV serves. Failure to take appropriate action may result in the system being condemned and its use prohibited.

The Safety Office may be able to provide modest financial assistance, but this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

It is imperative that suitable records pertaining to LEV are maintained and that the Safety Office is notified of any changes or additions to departmental LEV holdings. Departments are reminded that timely submission of annual returns is required if the statutory inspection and testing of LEV systems is to continue to be coordinated and funded centrally.

1  ‘Competence’ in this context might be demonstrated by the British Occupational Hygiene Society’s P602 Certification (Basic Design Principles of LEV Systems), P601 Certification (Inspection and Testing of LEV Systems), UKAS RG4 Accreditiation (Inspection and Testing of LEV Plant), or membership of recognised trade bodies.

March 2009