If a building’s ventilation and duct system is not cleaned and maintained on a regular and thorough basis the building could become a fire risk, not to mention a hotbed for the cultivation of bacteria leading to infections.
Despite very clear and long-standing regulation many of those charged with looking after buildings and infrastructures do not adopt a strict and rigorous policy in regards to the cleaning of the ventilation systems, this neglect puts the building and it’s occupants at risk.
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The regulations have been in place the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations were established in 1992. Regulations 5 & 6 specifically reference ventilation systems and the equipment within them. Regulation 5 applies to the maintenance of workplace equipment devices and systems and to mechanical ventilation systems which are required to be maintained, cleaned and kept in good working order. Regulation 6 states ‘Mechanical ventilation systems (including air conditioning systems) should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure they are kept clean and free from anything that may contaminate the air’.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they might be exposed whilst at work. The Health and Safety Executive’s HSE 02 offers the following helpful guideline ’As a general rule, if you run your finger along the opening of a duct and it collects dust it probably needs cleaning’.
Facilities Management departments and companies often feel that by having a service contract that includes maintenance of the ventilation system the company, infrastructure or building will comply fully with the above regulations. This is often unfounded as a lot of contractors provide a cursory service which does not provide the deep clean and exploration that is required to ensure buildings and employees are not at risk from the dangers caused by dirty ventilation systems.