The importance of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) testing can never be understated. Not least because annually thousands of employees across various industries are diagnosed with lifestyle-impacting health conditions caused by inhaling harmful contaminants within their work environment. We're talking about the likes of dust, fumes and a range of other airborne contaminants that are present, and which employees are exposed to during the course of their working lives.
The marked increase in recent years of people developing occupationally-related lung diseases (along with various respiratory problems) has created a greater awareness of the causes. And subsequently, the need for better, farther-reaching deterrents being put into place by employers, so as to reduce these worrying statistics. More stringent guidelines and legislative measures have been passed to ensure that LEV systems are incorporated into the infrastructure of premises where perceived threats quite literally, hang in the air at any given time. Which of course is a significant step in the right direction.
Hazardous airborne substances have historically existed as unseen risks to public health on many levels and in numerous scenarios. And without acknowledgment and resultant control practices and protocols being established to counter the threats, then situations can easily escalate and compromise the health and well-being of not just employees, but the wider general public, depending on contexts.
Below we outline the key facts about LEV testing, to afford you a better idea of just what it's about and why it should be a priority to maintain systems and keep up to date with monitoring your system’s efficiency.
What Exactly is an LEV System and How Does it Take Shape?
In broad terms, an LEV system takes a number of physical forms, yet the functionality remains pretty much consistent. In as much as they are specifically designed and engineered to primarily extract ventilation, with the USP being to prevent (or effectively minimise) the level of hazardous airborne pollutants entering a work or public space. The actuality of these appliances manifests as a system by which contaminants are drawn away from a process or operation that has been recognized as likely to release potentially noxious substances into the immediate airspace.
By way of a tangible description of a typical LEV system, picture an appliance which comprises of a noticeable inlet, for example a hood, slot, booth or cabinet. Which tend to be located in close proximity to the observed point of release of said harmful substances. The device itself is connected to the inlet of a fan (or air moving equipment) via ducting. Once extracted, this air is usually discharged into the atmosphere; or returned elsewhere in the workplace. But only once it's been subjected to cleansing principles, to determine it safe for re-release elsewhere.
What Industries and Employment Sectors Need them Most?
A number of industries benefit from the presence of an LEV system being securely in situ, including any or all of the following;
• Heat treatment industries (i.e., anywhere employees are involved in welding, forging, brazing, casting and soldering)
• Woodwork machinery (i.e., anywhere employees facilitate saws, sanders, planers and thicknessers and CNC)
• Chemical processes (i.e., anywhere employees are engaged in acid pickling, plastics or glass reinforced plastic or paint)
• As well as work environs where employees are tasked with spraying, routinely exposed to engine exhaust emissions, working with adhesives, printing processes and/or ceramics and glazes)
Explain the Basics of LEV Testing?
In rudimentary form, a typical LEV test will involve a comprehensive examination of the entire system, to ascertain that all the core components are retaining their effectiveness and most critically, continuing to do the individual jobs i the process of air extraction and repatriation. Should any problems be identified at this juncture, recommendations will then be made to instigate the steps needing to be taken thereafter to resolve any outstanding technical concerns. Putting it another way, without LEV testing, the system could no longer be fit for purpose. Which in turn would mean that it's capability to clear and make the air around employees safe, is severely compromised.
What are the Benefits of LEV Testing?
The benefits are far-ranging, yet predominantly centre around the health of employees and members of the public. Or anyone else who might find themselves susceptible to inhaling harmful contaminants in various environments, should LEV appliances not be in place. Yet not simply exist, but regularly monitored, maintained and any issues which arise, troubleshot then and there.
In a nutshell, LEV machines control and reduce exposure of harmful airborne substances, as we've already touched on. In addition, they are extremely effective at carrying out their remit. Providing of course that the correct equipment is used and used effectively from the outset.
What are The Legal Implications Regarding LEV Testing?
It's now over a decade since the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) first published and released a guide dedicated to LEV (HSG258); as fears over the alarming spike in new cases of occupational lung diseases were brought to the public's attentions. Moreover, obviously that of the powers of governance that be. Discovered within its pages it cited the occupations that experts in this field believed were to be most at risk from airborne contaminants; and therefore had a duty of care to employees working within these sectors.
In addition to this landmark publication, the COSHH added its voice (and clout), adopting regulations that would require all LEV systems to be tested every 14 months. As clearly stated in Regulation 9 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). This way workers could be continued to be protected once the green light was given, in terms of the LEV equipment operating to peak performance. These habitually include the likes of oil mist, welding fume, smoke and dust extraction units, while competent personnel must always undertake examinations. Whose responsibility it is to compile reports according to HSE standards. Understandably, sub-standard LEV testing can result in employers being prosecuted, while employer insurance policies might also risk becoming invalidated if employees fell ill.