It’s estimated that 18,000 new cases relating to respiratory problems occur every year as a result of workplace exposure to dust and fumes.
That’s why important COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulation is in place to ensure employers adhere to the rules. Failure to comply can lead to ever-increasing fines and even prison sentences for directors. Effective LEV (local exhaust ventilation) systems often play a crucial part in the management of your dust and fume risk.
So how can you ensure your workplace is compliant with COSHH?
COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
While you will already be aware of the risks in your particular industry, you may not be aware how far reaching COSHH regulations are. They may apply even when hazardous substances do not form part of your core operations.
Compliance will mean you need to conduct a COSHH assessment. This generally involves four steps:
- Examine your workplace and identify the substances and work processes that may be hazardous to health.
- Read the accompanying safety data sheets and trade magazines to learn how these substances are harmful. Fumes from welding or dust from quarrying, for example, do not have safety data sheets because they are the result of a process.
- Make a list of jobs that lead to substance exposure. What controls do you have in place already? An LEV system is a good example. Providing information and training for employees is important.
- Highlight any potential areas of concern, such as a burn from a splash. Your accident book may be a good reference here.
Remember that your supplier must provide a recent safety data sheet for any substance that’s labelled ‘dangerous for supply’. It’s also worth pointing out that simply storing a copy of the sheet does not constitute a COSHH assessment.
Once you have identified any hazards, the “control” part comes in. This may involve: substituting harmful substances, understanding exposure limits, utilising personal protective equipment, complying with work permits, monitoring and training, developing emergency procedures, and, as we have already mentioned, LEV.
What does a good LEV system look like?
It is a good idea to understand how an LEV system works. The good news is they all work in the same way.
Each one uses hoods to carry the contaminated air off to a filter and fan unit where the filter removes the dust. For almost any process that involves dust or fumes, there is an equivalent LEV hood that provides the most effective protection.
LEV hoods come in all shapes and sizes – big enough to stand in or small enough to form part of the tool itself. It is important to use the correct type for the job at hand. Make sure yours is the right sort, that it’s correctly installed, and mandatory testing is carried out at least every 14 months by suitably qualified personnel.
HSE inspections January – March 2020
As we are on this topic, it is worth flagging that from January to March in 2020, the HSE will be conducting weld fume inspections to improve on a wider ventilation issue. With weld fumes there is a cancer risk and exposure to manganese can result in neurological problems similar to those found in Parkinson’s.
HSE inspectors will be looking to check that a suitable risk assessment has been carried out and that control measures are in place to reduce substance exposure levels. This includes extraction (LEV) and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE). It’s likely they’ll also ask employees if they’ve received good health risk training.
In particular, they will check the right LEV systems are being used for their purpose. They’ll look to see if the worker is using the system correctly. They’ll also want to make sure a user manual and maintenance logbook is available.
Breathe a little easier
If you are concerned how the inspections may affect you or you just want reassurance that you are properly complying with COSHH regulation whether that be using LEV or other control measures, get in touch.