LEV stands for Local Exhaust Ventilation. It is an engineering control put in place to reduce or completely remove operator exposure to substances.
LEV is often the most effective way of removing potential operator exposure especially when the design of extraction is carried out at source.
LEV systems require routine testing and maintenance, dependant on what process they are used on, and the design of the system. As it is often the only engineering control in place, it is imperative that the system is always working as the design intended.
If you are able to obtain a copy of a datasheet for the product you are using, it may state that LEV is recommended or mandatory whilst using their product.
Your LEV system is probably the last control measure which removes a contaminate from an operators breathing zone or workplace. If your LEV fails, are you willing to face the potential down time that threatens your production line?
If your LEV system returns the air back to the workplace, the system will most likely rely on the condition of a filter. Filters can become blocked, or perforated, or saturated especially when no routine maintenance is carried out, meaning that your workplace could become hazardous without you knowing.
Frequent servicing will reduce the potential for LEV systems failing to operate and should be carried out routinely. Refer to the user manual for recommended filter replacement intervals.
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There isn’t a specific legal requirement to have airflow indicators or similar fitted to an extraction. But as an employer you do by law have to make sure your LEV system keeps working properly. One of main reasons why LEV doesn’t do what it should is because the airflow falls for some reason (eg build-up of material, damage to ducting etc), becomes inadequate and effective control is lost.
One simple way of checking this is the use of airflow indicators at the hood and this will provide you reassurance that the flow-rate is maintained,that the protection for employees is there and that you’re not wasting money. There are other ways of checking airflow such as using anemometer, or a dust-lamp or smoke tracer (with the work process running). However, an airflow indicator is currently the only method that will show the operator or supervisor immediately if there’s a problem, and HSE’s LEV guidance HSG 258 recommends these are fitted.
Health and safety law says you must assess the risks to your workers from hazardous substances – dusts, fumes, vapours, etc. – and decide what measures to use to protect their health.
If the measures you adopt include extraction systems (LEV) to remove the dusts, fumes, vapours etc. produced by your work processes or activities, then you must maintain the LEV in efficient working order so it continues to provide the necessary protection. You should also have a periodic thorough examination and test (at least every 14 months) and must keep this record for at least 5 years. In addition, you should have information on the installed LEV system to confirm it provides adequate protection, which should be kept for the life of the equipment.