Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems are widely used in many businesses to remove fumes and dusts. When they’re operating as intended, the systems help protect your staff from exposure to hazardous substances.

Because the inhalation of wood dust particles has been linked to a range of serious health problems, the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) for hardwood dusts was reduced in 2020 from 5 mg/m3 to 3 mg/m3. The limit of 3mg/m3 should also be adhered to if your LEV system handles both hard and soft woods.

Most business owners are aware that their LEV system should be thoroughly examined every 14 months, and the inspection is usually carried out by an insurer. However, some employers are not paying attention to the LEV thorough examination report (LEV report), which is usually posted or emailed several days after the visit.

If you use a LEV system, we recommend you have the right processes and documentation in place to prove your equipment meets the relevant Workplace Exposure Limit. This is even more important where the limit has been reduced, such as sites producing hardwood dusts.

Why is the LEV report so important?

Simply put, the LEV report is a health check showing whether or not you meet the Workplace Exposure Limits for the processes you undertake. Because examiners often summarise concerns in the report, rather than discussing them in person, it’s important to gain feedback during the review and act on focus points as soon as possible.

Similarly, analyse your LEV report in detail before it’s filed away, as any matters marked for ‘immediate attention’ could endanger users or employees if not urgently addressed.

Like a vehicle MOT, your report may also pinpoint breaches that are not as urgent but should be dealt with as soon as reasonably practicable. If, during a visit, a health and safety inspector were to discover these issues outstanding, you could be subject to enforcement action such as prohibition and improvement notices, and costly HSE fees for intervention.

To drive accountability, we encourage clients to upload reports to Safety Cloud as Work Equipment Checks, then create actions for incomplete tasks and mark them with achievable deadlines.

Understanding your commissioning certificate

On installation, your LEV system will be accompanied by a commissioning certificate. The document not only outlines how to maintain the LEV system, but also indicates the air flow rate your thorough examiner should look for to ensure the WEL is not exceeded.

Safety Cloud also allows commissioning reports to be uploaded as Work Equipment Check records, so they’re ready to access when your examiner arrives onsite. Problems can occur if the commissioning certificate is not available, as the inspector cannot confirm whether your LEV is working as intended. For example, while dust lamps can highlight the movement of particles from a user’s breathing zone, they do not demonstrate the flow rate is adequate enough to meet the required WEL.

If this is the case, the examiner will summarise their concerns on your LEV report and you may need to have your system commissioned again. Any report with such problems identified could leave you vulnerable to enforcement action.

We would advise you to carry out an in-depth review of your thorough examination reports and keep commissioning certificates within immediate reach, particularly if you process hardwood. To ensure your LEV system – and your workers – remain healthy, relevant documents should be meticulously filed or uploaded to Safety Cloud and tasks signed off in a timely manner.

Would you benefit from talking through your LEV report with a H&S expert? Get in touch on 0345 257 4015 for professional guidance and advice from an experienced Southalls consultant.