St Helen’s based company Airtec Filtration Ltd, provide testing for extract ventilation systems which reduces exposures to airborne contaminants in a workplace. Following a proactive prosecution case by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) it was found that the company had provided its customers with inaccurate test results, which potentially left employees in those businesses unaware of the risk of serious lung disease.
In one incident, an Airtec engineer failed to identify the presence of rubber fumes in a car manufacturing business, which are carcinogenic and can lead to cancer. In another incident in a baking company, an engineer inadequately identified substances as food dusts and failed to provide any other information to highlight the presence of asthmagens, which can lead to occupational asthma.
Following multiple visits to businesses where testing was undertaken by Airtec, HSE inspectors found ‘significant and common failings’ at each site. Airtec claimed their work met the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002. However, their testing reports were found to be insufficient as ‘hazardous substances were not adequately identified’ and the local exhaust ventilation (LEV) tests were not carried out correctly. LEV is an engineering control system installed to reduce exposures to airborne contaminants such as dust, mist, fume, vapour, or gas in a workplace.
HSE inspectors requested reports relating to LEV systems from several businesses as part of routine inspections and investigations, and the documents received raised concerns about the accuracy of the services provided by Airtec.
As a result, Airtec Filtration Ltd was served with an Improvement Notice in October 2019 to provide training to their engineers to ensure that they had adequate knowledge, training and expertise in the assessment, evaluation and control of risk arising from exposure to hazardous substances, so as to not expose persons who might be affected, to a potential health risk.
An investigation by HSE also found that Airtec was aware of the need for a competent person who held professional qualifications to carry out the testing but did not provide the necessary training for their engineers.
Airtec admitted to contravening section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The company was fined £2,666 and ordered to pay costs of £4,074 at Manchester Magistrates’ Court in November 2022.
HSE inspector Rose Leese-Weller said: ‘This company completely flouted regulations potentially putting hundreds of workers at serious risk. HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards, we hope this sentencing sends out a stark warning to the industry.’
Jo Howley, EML’s Health, Safety & Wellbeing Consultant comments:
“The risks to health from exposure to both fumes and dusts are potentially very serious, and it is imperative that robust COSHH Assessments are in place. It is important that when using third parties for any inspections and testing you make sure to use reputable companies who can demonstrate that their staff have the required training and qualifications to carry out the work”.
If you’re an employer and have any concerns in this regard, or have any other health and safety issues you wish to discuss, please contact us on 01942 727200 or firstname.lastname@example.org and speak to one of our Health & Safety Consultants for an initial consultation without charge or obligation.