LEV systems affect numerous industries and has come up as a topic of interest for many of my clients lately.
Every year thousands of employees in the UK develop asthma or lung disease due to airborne contaminants in the workplace. We all know that the health and safety of your staff is of the upmost importance. So it’s imperative that you have an LEV system in place if needed and that it’s fit for purpose.
I recently attended an H.S.E course on the subject of ‘Practical Management of LEV control’ and would like to share some information and advice on the importance of having an effective LEV system in your workplace and keeping it well maintained.
What is an LEV system?
LEV stands for Local Exhaust Ventilation. An LEV system extracts gasses, particles and fumes from the air to create a safer working environment. It collects the particle-filled air that contains the contaminants leaving only safe, clean air to flow out of the other end.
Examples of airborne contaminants include paint from a spray booth, hazardous fumes created from the welding process and wood dust from a workshop.
It’s worth noting that it is much easier, and cheaper, to reduce contaminants at the source rather than developing ways of getting rid of them. Consider whether there are any measures you can put in place. Could you change the method of work so exposure the hazardous substances can no longer occur? Or apply simple controls like fitting lids to equipment?
How do I know if my LEV system is working effectively?
The basic design of an LEV system comprises of a hood or booth at the beginning of the system, closest to the contaminant. Ducts then carry the contaminated air to an air cleaner which has a filter to extract and contain the contaminants. From there the clean air is carried through further ducts, drawn by a fan and discharged to the atmosphere.
Some important things to consider when installing your LEV:
- Identify and assess the hazards that need to be extracted
- Hire a competent contractor. Provide them with clear requirements and specifications
- Make sure you keep hold of all relevant paperwork; design specifications, commissioning report, log book, user manual etc.
- Train employees on the proper use of the LEV.
For your LEV system to be working effectively:
- The hood or booth should be large enough to capture all contaminants in the air and draw them away from the workers’ breathing space
- The fan must be strong enough to provide sufficient suck at the hood which will carry the air all the way through the system.
What checks should the machinery operator carry out?
There are checks the operator of the machinery can do every day to make sure that the LEV is still effective. These include:
- Checking the airflow indicator
- Making sure the hood is close enough to the contaminated air to allow proper extraction
- Checking the ‘tested’ label is still in date
- Paying attention to any unusual noises or vibrations
- Looking for signs that it’s not working properly such as settled dust or smells
- Checking moving parts such as fan bearings are not worn or broken
- Making sure that any faults are reported to a supervisor.
When does my LEV need testing?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations require that most LEV system are tested every 14 months. If your system is more complicated, however, it may need to be tested more often. A thorough examination and testing of your LEV system should always be carried out by a competent person.
The purpose of servicing your LEV system is to make sure that the system is still working as it was designed to and is still clearing enough contaminants out of the air.
At the time of your LEV system being fitted, the engineer should provide training on how to check and maintain the system. You will then be confident in carrying out any simple maintenance on the system such as changing the air filters.
What are the benefits of regular LEV system maintenance?
As with most equipment that requires testing, keeping the machine or system maintained between testing will significantly reduce the potential for extra cost. Keeping an eye on the system will enable you to spot and resolve potential issues before they become a major problem.
Maintenance of LEV systems should be carried out and records kept ensuring that the whole system, including the hood, ducts, air filter and fan are all performing efficiently.
Recording all maintenance carried out in a log book will also help in determining any deterioration that may occur by comparing current results with previous ones.
An unmaintained LEV system could cause costly down time as major repairs are carried out. In worse case scenarios, your workforce’s health could be affected should the system not be working at its full capacity.
For more information on LEV systems and COSHH regulations visit the HSE website, or get in touch.