We work in an industry where business need to use what’s known as Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems or LEV’s. These systems are designed to extract harmful dusts and fumes from the breathable space of a person operating machinery. It is now estimated there are approximately 12,000 deaths annually in the UK caused by lung disease contracted by people inhaling these harmful substances in the workplace or school.
I spend a fair amount of time educating people in the workplace, to manage the risk to their health. Overall, employers are taking an increasing level of responsibility for ensuring the safety of their staff, which is a very positive action. It is therefore extremely disappointing when I walk into a client’s location to find the LEV system not being used by the operators. In fact, one of the best performing systems I examine regularly fails to be used by the staff. Fortunately, some LEV installations have been connected to the equipment, ensuring it’s automatically started with the device, making it impossible for the operator to use the machine without the LEV running. There are however, too many occasions where the system is not being used.
My advice to clients is clear and simple. Commence disciplinary action against the member of staff who fails to use the systems, as the client has a duty of care for all personnel within their demise, not just the operator. I have on one occasion witnessed a welder, using a personal respirator at his point of work, but he regularly fails to switch on the capture hood above his workstation. When asked why he was not using the LEV, he stated he didn’t need to as he was wearing a respirator. He had no thought for others within his vicinity, who were breathing in the weld fumes from his actions. Disciplinary action against employees is not a stick to hit them with but rather a tool for educating them to ensure they perform better in their role and if they’re unwilling to follow the company procedures, action must be taken to remove them from the business. At the end of the day, they are putting peoples lives at risk. It’s as simple as that.
As I mentioned earlier, there is an increasing level of responsibility being taken by employers and this can only be viewed as a positive.
If your business uses LEV systems, please ensure your staff switch it on. If your business doesn’t use LEV systems, maybe you should ascertain whether you should be.
For more information, please visit www.thelevman.co.uk