Flour dust

Source: Getty

Flour dust can cause health problems such as asthma

A company that tests ventilation systems has been fined after giving inaccurate test results to customers including a bakery business.

Merseyside-based Airtec Filtration Ltd was employed by businesses across the UK to test ventilation systems that are designed to control substances dangerous to health.

Among these was a baking company that used flour and other respiratory allergens, which the Airtec engineer identified inadequately as food dusts. The engineer also failed to provide information to highlight the presence of asthmagens, which can lead to occupational asthma.

In another incident, an Airtec engineer assessing a car manufacturer failed to identify the presence of rubber fumes, which are carcinogenic and can lead to cancer.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the firm, which is based in Manor Street, St Helens, gave customers inaccurate test results, potentially leaving staff unaware of the risks they faced.

Airtec pleaded guilty to contravening Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £2,666 and ordered to pay costs of £4,074 at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on 4 November 2022.

Between 2018 and 2019 Airtec had provided Through Examination and Tests (TExT) of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems, which are designed to control substances dangerous to health.

The issue came to light when HSE inspectors requested TExT reports relating to LEV systems from a number of businesses as part of routine inspections and investigations. These raised concerns about the accuracy of Airtec’s services.

The company claimed its work met the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 but the HSE found that hazardous substances were not adequately identified, and that local exhaust ventilation tests were not carried out correctly.

HSE inspectors discovered “a number of significant and common failings” at sites where testing was undertaken by Airtec. The investigation 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 its engineers.

“Airtec Filtration Ltd provided businesses with unsatisfactory reports based on limited or inconclusive evidence, with little or no consideration of the level of risk of different hazardous substances,” said HSE inspector Rose Leese-Weller after the court case.

“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.”