THE HEALTH & SAFETY AT WORK ACT 1974 Places a ‘duty of care’ on all employers to "provide and maintain a working environment that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health".
THE MANAGEMENT OF HEALTH & SAFETY AT WORK REGULATIONS 1999 (Regulation 3) place a specific duty for every employer to make a "suitable and sufficient assessment of risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work and the risk to the health and safety of persons not in his employment"
This would include the risks associated with the ventilation systems and water systems. Such a risk assessment should be recorded and protective measures should be put in place to control any risks identified
THE WORKPLACE (HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE) REGULATIONS 1992 (Regulation 5) requires that mechanical ventilation systems used for providing general ventilation are maintained (including cleaned as appropriate).
If and when, these are cleaned should be defined by the risk assessment process
HSG202 GENERAL VENTILATION IN THE WORKPLACE, GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS states “as a general rule, if you run your finger along the opening of a duct and it collects dust then it probably needs cleaning”. It also notes that the B&ES Association and CIBSE provide information on testing for likely contaminants in ductwork and on ductwork cleaning.
To ensure that your legal position is covered in terms of ventilation system hygiene, you need to define:
A ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of risk.
When it is ‘appropriate’ to clean,
What ‘a suitable system of maintenance is,
What ‘suitable intervals’ for maintenance are, and
What ‘a suitable record’ for the validating of the maintenance programme is.
The Fire Safety Order – The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 - requires those responsible for workplaces to appoint a ‘responsible person’ to carry out a fire risk assessment of their premises, identifying all possible sources for fire which might endanger the lives of building occupants. They are legally required to take action to eliminate - or at least to minimise - risks to the safety of the building's occupants.
The Fire and Rescue Services have power under the legislation to inspect premises for compliance and to institute legal action for non-compliance. Should the ‘Responsible Person’ failed to have carried out fire risk assessments or taken appropriate action to protect the safety of building occupants they will be liable to prosecution. If a fire causes injury or death, they may be liable to criminal prosecution.
A spokesman for the Fire Authority has stated "uncleaned grease extract ventilation systems present probably the greatest potential fire risk in buildings with catering facilities".