Knowing the codes

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Dirty ducts and poorly maintained extract systems can affect your business in a variety of ways, but the overriding concern must always be the safety of your staff, patrons and the public.

But perhaps one thing puts the subject into sharper context than any other; the real threat to building managers and proprietors of prosecution should extract systems not comply with the regulations of the Health & Safety Commission which states that such systems should be subject to a 'suitable' system of cleaning and maintenance.

It is therefore a matter of both personal and corporate responsibility that you know the codes and what they mean.

Extract-Awair is always available to you on a consultancy basis - and this is a hugely effective way for you to ensure compliance and to understand how to discharge your duty of care. But to support your business now and ongoing, this website maintains a library of the codes and regulations. Click on the links below to get access to the relevant documents (including guidance and notes where applicable).

B&ES TR19: Guide to good practice cleanliness of ventilation systems

This guide covers kitchen extract systems and their associated fire risks. It recommends annual inspection and testing of the physical condition and cleanliness of air distribution systems and provides guidance on how to clean systems and verification methods.

B&ES: Specification for Kitchen Ventilation Systems

DW172 is the definitive guide to kitchen ventilation systems in non-domestic properties. This easy-to-use publication has evolved to incorporate legislative change and new standards, and represents the most up to date and indispensable industry specification for HVAC specialists serving the catering sector.

Food Safety

Under food safety legislation, namely the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 it is the legal duty of the operator of a food business to maintain food equipment and premises in a clean condition. To demonstrate due diligence under the provisions of this legislation it is necessary to show that reasonable precautions were taken to ensure hygiene standards. Lack of access to ventilation systems, poor cleaning, inadequate monitoring regimes and an absence of corrective actions will render any potential defence of due diligence impotent.

Fire Safety

Under the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 (as amended 1999) there is a legal requirement to undertake a formal fire safety risk assessment and to implement controls where a hazards is identified. Ventilation extraction systems are a high-risk installation in terms of fire safety and the risk assessment should ensure that adequate access, understanding of ventilation routes through schematic plans and monitored effective cleaning are in place. An absence of such controls can lead to potential prosecution and could result in civil claim difficulties.

Health & Safety

Under the provisions of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all parties. This includes staff and customers. An absence of adequate control renders the business operator liable to criminal action. The absence of an effective system for maintaining ventilation extraction systems could readily lead to fire and subsequent injury or death of either building occupants or of third parties such as fire officers. Any such event would be likely to result in legal action under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Corporate Manslaughter

In most minor cases the risk of prosecution under the provisions of the Food Safety Act 1990 or the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 would be likely to expose the Company to a risk of fines up to £20,000 and costs. Imprisonment is rare. However where a fatality occurs there is the potential for more serious action. In the past some cases have been taken directly against Directors for manslaughter where a fatality has occurred. However these cases have been hard to prove. As a result the Government are seeking to introduce the concept of "Corporate Manslaughter".

This has grave consequences for Directors who do not take the responsibility for legal compliance seriously. The topic of corporate criminal liability and manslaughter, or corporate manslaughter as it is more commonly known is a live political issue and one that management should be fully conversant. Both under current judicial interpretation and in proposed legislation, it is the conduct of individuals, particularly the acts or omissions of management that will be the focal point of any investigation.

Those who fail to put into place the necessary measures, as part of overall corporate strategy, to protect the lives of employees and others who might be affected by their services could face a prison sentence if death is caused by their criminal negligence. Corporate manslaughter statutes do not require intent to kill. For example, corporate manslaughter encompasses acts which involve “a high risk of death or bodily harm,” and which are committed “without due caution or circumspection.” That encompasses the vast majority of corporate killings. This has a significant impact of any method chosen to maintain or control installations such as ventilation extraction where a significant risk exists if the installation fails.

Civil Liability

The management team should be aware that, if a property insurer can show that the systems employed to protect an installation were inadequate and this led to the loss of all or part of a building, any claim can be disputed. Where the Company loses a criminal case any civil claim will inevitably fail as under civil law the burden of proof is on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond all reasonable doubt.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

(HSWA) has provisions that employers or persons concerned with the premises owe a duty of care both to employees and third parties who may use or visit the premises. This will include the maintenance of systems to ensure the safety of occupants.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR)

MHSWR requires adequate risk assessment of all operations. This would include the assessment of risk associated with extraction systems.

COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulation

COSHH requires the control of risk from a range of hazardous substances including biological agents, grease and other chemical components. COSHH requires the employer to make a formal assessment of health risks from hazardous substances. The employer must prevent exposure of employees and third parties to substances hazardous to health.

The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L8 for "The Control of Legionella"

This ACOP applies to the control of legionella bacteria in any undertaking involving a work activity and to premises controlled in connection with a trade, business or other undertaking where water is used or stored and where there is means of creating and transmitting water droplets which may be inhaled, thereby causing a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella bacteria. This would include any ventilation and extraction systems where water droplets may be located.

The Occupiers Liability Act 1984

This Act imposes a duty of care on the occupier of premises to prevent risk to others. This includes the design, installation, testing and maintenance of services.

CIBSE's TM26: Hygienic Maintenance of Office Ventilation Ductwork

This publication offers guidance on ensuring microbial cleanliness of ductwork

BSRIA's Facilities Management Specification for Ventilation System Hygiene

A guide to drawing up a scope of works between clients and their cleaning contractors.

HSE's Guidance for Employers Produced by the Health and Safety Executive

Entitled "General Ventilation in the Workplace", it is an explanation of the law on standards for ventilation.

Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L24

This official guidance requires that ventilation systems "shall be maintained, (including cleaned, as appropriate) in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair".

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) (Reg.6)

Regulations state that mechanical ventilation systems (including air conditioning systems) shall be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air.