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Clean the water, clear the air

By | Coronavirus, Ductwork Cleaning, Legionella | No Comments

Writing at a time when the UK is yet to reach the peak of the Coronavirus epidemic, Gary Nicholls, MD of Swiftclean, takes a look at how we should be protecting the users of water and ventilation systems, both in a time of crisis and in the longer term.  


In the past weeks, we have become familiar with some new terms; social distancing, self-isolation and shielding; all part of the Government plan to prevent any further spread of COVID-19.


It has been absolutely the right decision to encourage working from home and therefore, inevitably to close offices and entire buildings. However, as an industry, this decommissioning has presented us with some new challenges. We have noticed, for example, a reluctance to continue with some regular maintenance, in order to facilitate social distancing. Although this is well meant, it is something of an own goal in terms of maintaining a healthy building in the future.


Healthy water systems are meant to be used. In fact, it is the frequent flow of water through a domestic water system which helps to keep it healthy and free from legionella bacteria. When properties are closed, water will remain static in the pipework. As we head into towards the summer months, the ambient temperature is rising and this water can become tepid, rather than cold. Tepid, static water provides the ideal conditions to aid the proliferation of legionella.


Legionella is, of course, the cause of the ‘flu-like Legionnaire’s Disease; but this seems to have been forgotten by some, in the rush to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. We must prevent both, as far as we can, as both are potentially lethal. Both attack the respiratory system, and both are particularly perilous for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. What we absolutely must not forget is that Legionnaire’s Disease has a mortality rate of around 12% for those infected – higher, at present, than the rate for those with COVID-19. We also have a severely stretched and overtaxed NHS. The last thing that we need now, as a nation, is a spate of legionella outbreaks.


Special consideration must be given to legionella prevention measures when the usage of the water system has been substantially decreased or when recommissioning a building after shutdown. L8, the HSE approved code of practice on controlling the risk of legionnaires disease, recommends a review of the risk assessment where there have been significant changes to the use of a building, such as the number of people using it.


Hopefully, before the shutdown period, you will have taken the time to review your legionella risk assessment and ensure that your property is compliant with the Approved Code of Practice. During the shutdown, you should have been following regular, at least weekly, flushing routines for toilets, taps, shower heads and drinking fountains – any water outlet which has been idle. These flushing routines should be carried out with the least possibility of causing fine spray, which those carrying out the procedure could inhale.


To be on the safe side, after a prolonged period in which it has not been used, you should call in a specialist to clean and disinfect your water system. This should be done before the regular cleaners start preparing the building to reopen, to ensure that the domestic water supply is safe and legionella free. This will protect not just the end users, but also the property owners and managers.


If there is a legionella outbreak, both the organisation and the individuals responsible for risk control can be prosecuted for negligence. Coronavirus will not be a defence in law. In the event of a guilty verdict, the court can impose limitless fines on the organisation responsible, while any individuals convicted may face a custodial sentence.


It is best not to delay routine legionella prevention at all – this is essential work. A professional specialist provider will be able to timetable legionella prevention work for completion out of normal business hours, to observe social distancing while they work, and will use personal protection equipment as a matter of course. They can carry out the work safely, even during a lock-down period.


The quality of indoor air in a property should not be neglected either, especially at a time when we are trying to ensure as healthy an indoor environment as possible. Clean air is not compatible with a dirty ventilation system and, regrettably, there are still quite a lot of those in existence. Fortunately, since 2013, when the second edition of TR/19, the leading guidance document concerning ventilation ductwork hygiene, was issued by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), there have been testing protocols for new ventilation systems to ensure they are thoroughly clean before commissioning. This has meant that the system was clean at the start of its life, assuming of course that the protocol was followed. However, many systems installed before that date were not cleaned before their first use, and may never have been cleaned since.


It is essential that we clean ventilation ductwork in compliance with TR19®, the latest incarnation of the BESA guidelines, which is currently under review, as we seek to improve industry best practice still further. TR19® gives us clear tables to follow when considering cleanliness assessment and regular testing, according to the system quality classification, and the type of function of the facility which the ventilation system serves. Compliance with TR19® is, again, something that we would not recommend putting off.


In the current climate we would also recommend adding a further process, cleaning the interior surface of the ventilation ductwork with medical surface disinfectant, especially in areas where there has been a recent suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus. This sensible precaution can be carried out at little extra cost during a routine TR19® clean, or can be conducted as a one-off service to provide deep cleaning and additional peace of mind.


With a solution of the same chemical disinfectant, we can also clean more difficult equipment such as radiators, boiler plant, light fittings, heating controls, door handles, soft furnishings and a host of other surfaces, using a fogging method. This will destroy the COVID-19 virus, which is typically accepted can survive for 72 hours on many surfaces.


It is a difficult balancing act at the moment, maintaining property and keeping our distance. In the long term, for the health of the nation, it will pay to keep air and water compliance as a top priority.

Stepping up hygiene so we can all breathe more easily

By | Coronavirus, Ductwork Cleaning, News | No Comments

The importance of hygiene best practice in combating the spread of Coronavirus has become all too familiar in the last few weeks. However, we should be applying this to ventilation systems, as well as people.  Gary Nicholls, MD of ductwork hygiene and legionella risk experts Swiftclean, outlines a few sensible precautions we can take to ensure a healthier building.


Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure that our indoor environments are as healthy as possible. Yet many property managers are overlooking hygiene in one important area – the ventilation system. This oversight is entirely understandable. In order to limit the spread of this new illness, we are vacating the office and other workplaces in favour of working from home. But is everyone safer at home?


In local housing settings which rely on a mechanical ventilation system, we should be giving some serious thought to the cleanliness of the ventilation system itself, in order to ensure good indoor air quality. The whole purpose of the ventilation system is to draw in fresher air from outside and to expel staler air from inside. If we wish to circulate clean air, logic demands that we should be using clean ventilation ductwork. Successful self-isolation will require a clean air supply in order to promote good health. In our modern tightly sealed buildings, it is easy for air to become stale or laden with indoor pollutants such as cleaning products, which can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.


Sadly, as ductwork experts we are all too aware that many of our older ventilation systems are far from hygienically clean. Before the second edition of TR/19, the leading guidance document on ventilation hygiene issued by the BESA, came into force in 2013, there was no clear understanding of whose responsibility it was to ensure that newly installed ductwork was compliantly clean before commissioning and actual use. Sadly, the credit crunch of 2008 also meant that ventilation ductwork cleaning became one of the first casualties of the cutbacks.


As a result, there are far too many ventilation systems in our multiple dwellings and workplaces which have either not been cleaned for over a decade – or which have never been properly cleaned at all.


This is a real concern to us in the current crisis. We do not understand enough yet about the transfer and spread of this disease, but we are clear that the most vulnerable groups include those with asthma and other respiratory problems, which can be made worse by poor air quality. In order to promote good indoor air quality and therefore good health and wellbeing, we need clean ventilation systems, so the cleaning of the ventilation system in accordance with TR19® should now be a high priority for every building manager.


The TR19® compliant clean is excellent under normal circumstances, but, at the moment, we strongly recommend a deep clean of the system using medical disinfectant known to attack and destroy almost all known viruses and bacteria. This chemical clean can be performed at the same time as TR19 cleaning at little extra cost, or can be carried out on its own if you are at all concerned about the cleanliness of your ventilation system.


Treatment with this chemical solution can, incidentally, also be applied through a fogging process to sanitise all interior surfaces, hard and soft, and to eliminate the Coronavirus from any rooms, or even entire buildings, in which there has been a suspected or confirmed case.


It is worth noting that in residential housing with multiple dwellings, we could be accommodating NHS staff and other front-line workers. Sadly, not all our essential workers are highly paid, so are, ironically, quite likely to live in rented accommodation served by communal ventilation systems, the cleanliness of which is always imperative.


We also strongly recommend not letting up on essential preventative maintenance such as ACoP L8 legionella prevention, especially in housing situations. We are relying heavily on handwashing to keep people safe, so we must ensure that the water is safe and free from legionella bacteria.


Legionnaire’s Disease, caused by legionella bacteria, is also a ‘flu-like illness which poses a potentially lethal threat to those with underlying medical conditions. In fact, the rate of fatalities among those who contract Legionnaire’s Disease is around 12% – greater, at the time of writing, than the toll from Coronavirus. If you manage to avoid Coronavirus only to fall prey to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, you will certainly be no better off.


Once the crisis is over and people are safe to return to work, you will also need to give a lot of thought to legionella prevention. If water outlets such as toilets, taps and showers have been idle for some time due to lack of use, you will need to ensure that you flush the system thoroughly to provide a supply of fresh, clean, safe water for returning workers.


A healthier building provides a healthier quality of both air and water – both of which are essential to our good health. Let’s not overlook the hygiene of our air and water while we do our best to turn the tide on Coronavirus.

Warding off air quality problems

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Warding off air quality problems

Clean air is probably more important for the facilities users of hospitals and care homes than in any other sector. In the light of recent reports of infection being spread through ventilation ductwork, Gary Nicholls, MD of duct cleaning experts Swiftclean, explains the importance of complying with TR/19 guidelines.


There was a time when clean air was prescribed by doctors as a health cure for patients with respiratory ailments, and it has long been recognised as beneficial for everyone. In the past, much of the concern over indoor air quality centred around preventing condensation by providing a plentiful air flow for the occupants of a building.  However, the recent incidence of infection being spread through uncleaned ductwork at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow has highlighted the importance of removing from ventilation ductwork, following inspection on a regular basis, the inevitable accumulated dust, dirt and lint that can harbour bacteria and mould spores.


All ventilation ductwork should be inspected and tested at regular intervals and cleaned where dust levels exceed the benchmark limits in compliance with TR/19, the leading guidance document for ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA. The second edition of TR/19 introduced a requirement for all newly installed ventilation systems to be handed over for use in cleaned, TR/19 compliant condition. This was an important advance because, prior to this, ventilation ductwork was all too often found to contain dirt and debris from the construction process. There still may be some systems which have never been cleaned and which pre-date the second edition of TR/19, so it is vital for good air quality that these are tested and where necessary cleaned to TR/19 guidelines as soon as possible.


Unfortunately, as it is largely hidden, it is too easy for the ventilation system to be out of mind as well as out of sight. Although news reports of infection being spread are alarming, we should take them as an impetus to spur us to inspect, test and where necessary clean ventilation systems regularly. This benefits everyone. Care staff who work in poor air quality will suffer a cumulative long-term effect leading to increased sickness and absence levels, which is not good news for patients or managers. Additional costs will be incurred for replacing staff on sick leave, putting additional pressure on hospital budgets. Patients with compromised health or immune systems will be more immediately vulnerable to the ill effects of poor air quality, particularly hazards such as airborne spores or bacteria. Just as handwashing is now a major emphasis in hospitals, clean air should also be a high priority.


In every commercial building, it is important to classify the ductwork of the ventilation system as low, medium or high in terms of cleaning requirements. In a hospital, there will be different classifications according to the area and function of each sector of the building. The manager responsible for maintenance, perhaps in consultation with infection control, will need to define the classifications of each ventilation system serving the healthcare facility. Operating theatres, not surprisingly, will typically have a high classification. Wards, although not quite as critical, must have a good indoor air quality in order to promote speedy recovery and good health, so these will likely be given a medium classification. All public areas, as well as administrative offices should also be given a classification, typically medium. Less well occupied areas such as boiler rooms can be probably be given a low classification, however, steps must still be taken to ensure that these premises are as clean as possible, to prevent bacteria, such as the pigeon-related infection which affected Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, from entering the ventilation system.


The actual cleaning process in all these classification areas is the same, it requires the effective removal of any dust, dirt, lint or construction debris, leaving the ductwork completely clean and capable of meeting the TR/19 post clean verification test. The practical difference between the different classifications is in the thickness or weight of deposit which indicates cleaning being required. TR/19 sets out helpful tables which indicate how frequently the various areas in a building should be tested according to their cleanliness classification. Some parts of a hospital will require particular treatment; for example, laundry extracts must be regularly cleaned to remove dust and lint particles which can cause fires. Another potential fire hazard is the build up of grease in a kitchen extract system. Again, TR/19 explains how often these should be cleaned according to the rate of grease accumulation.


In order to comply with TR/19, it is essential that we have access to the entire ventilation system, so particular attention should be given in every new system, to providing adequate access to achieve TR/19 compliance throughout. In older systems, we can retrofit additional access doors, but where solid ceilings and false walls are added after installation, this may not be possible without major renovation works. It is far better, therefore, to design and install new ventilation systems with future TR/19 compliance in mind.  In settings where we care for the sick or infirm, maintaining good indoor air quality, and therefore the ability to access all the areas of the ventilation system, is always essential for everyone.

Ventilation – access all areas

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Ventilation – access all areas

Despite a growing awareness of the issues surrounding ventilation hygiene and safety, there are still an alarming number of potential barriers to compliance throughout the lifetime of some ventilation systems, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean and co-author of TR/19, explains.


Many more building owners and managers are now becoming aware that to run a safe and healthy building, there are a number of ventilation compliance issues to tackle. As well as complying with TR/19, the leading industry guidance document on ventilation hygiene issued by BESA, they also have to tackle the annual testing and ongoing maintenance of fire dampers within the ventilation system, which is covered by BS:9999.


A poorly maintained ventilation system can adversely affect indoor air quality which, in turn, can negatively impact the wellbeing of a building’s end users. In a residential setting, it can exacerbate conditions such as asthma, so it is essential that ventilation ductwork is cleaned thoroughly at regular intervals in accordance with TR/19. In a commercial setting, poor air quality can have a detrimental effect on concentration and productivity and has frequently been linked with raised sickness and absenteeism levels, so TR/19 compliant ductwork also makes good commercial sense.


The ductwork itself is often routed through fire resistant internal walls which are designed to delay or prevent the spread of fire. Potential openings through fire rated walls present an opportunity for fire to travel to other parts of the building, so it is essential that these openings can be sealed in the event of fire by installing fire dampers, a set of steel louvres which will close automatically should a fire occur. Obviously, it is also essential that these are regularly tested, using a method called drop testing. In 2017 BS:9999 drop testing became an annual requirement, to ensure that fire dampers will work properly if needed, and this is an area in which fire officers are, understandably, clamping down.


In the case of kitchen extract ductwork systems, regular TR/19 cleaning also helps prevent fires by removing the flammable grease deposits which are an unavoidable result of cooking. The second edition of TR/19 includes helpful tables which lay out the necessary cleaning frequency, according to each system’s classification (high, medium or low). Heavily used systems such as commercial kitchen extracts will need cleaning the most often and here the rate of deposit accumulation will define the cleaning frequency requirements.


Despite a legal requirement to comply with both TR/19 and BS:9999, which Swiftclean provides, we continue to experience physical barriers to compliance. Clearly, in order to achieve compliance, we must be able to access all areas of the ventilation system, but there are still some fundamental reasons why this is not always possible.


Ventilation systems must be designed and installed in accordance with DW144 for ordinary ductwork or DW172 for kitchen extract ductwork. TR/19 is not a design or installation requirement, but a guideline (and a legal requirement) for ongoing compliance. Ironically, DW144 and DW172 do not include the full remit of access points which are required by TR/19. A new version of TR/19 will be published in 2019 following a review of the issues concerning kitchen extract systems, and this is expected to increase the minimum access door frequency requirement from every 3 meters to every 2 meters. As there are currently no plans to review DW172, the discrepancy between the two is set to grow.


A new, ventilation system can, therefore, be designed, installed and commissioned in full compliance with DW144 and DW172, but in order to achieve ongoing compliance with TR/19, we may well have to retrofit additional access doors at the very first clean. In a busy commercial kitchen, we all too frequently have to install further access points when the system is just a few months old.


In order to effectively clean an ‘elbow’ in the ductwork, we need to be able to approach the angled section from both directions, but we often find that there are insufficient access points close enough to allow a thorough clean. Again, we can usually retrofit an additional door, but it seems nonsensical to have to do this during a new system’s first clean.


This is all very well if the ductwork itself is accessible. This is not always the case. When we are carrying out TR/19 cleaning, we often encounter situations in which a solid ceiling or false wall has been added after the ventilation system was installed. We cannot then tell whether access points exist and have been covered over, or were never included. In many cases, we cannot install additional access points even if we need to, or the client would wish us to. Gaining sufficient access to the ventilation system to achieve TR/19 compliance may involve expensive major remodelling or an unsightly ceiling access hatch. A solid ceiling may look more attractive, but a suspended ceiling is usually better for achieving compliance. There are no building regulations which stipulate that the construction of ceilings or walls should preserve access to essential services for ongoing compliance. Perhaps there should be.


Since TR/19 compliance is required by law, we would argue that it should be designed into the system’s construction from the outset. This would mean updating DW144 and DW172 to include the principles in TR/19. There should also be measures in place to prevent the permanent covering of the ventilation system (and other essential services that will need ongoing maintenance) so that it remains accessible.


System design regulations ought to include sufficient access to conduct fire damper testing to BS:9999. In the event of a fire, smoke and flames can travel through the ductwork to other parts of the building, so it is life critical that fire dampers close as designed to restore the compartment created by the fire-resistant wall. This delay allows vital time to evacuate the building’s users. Fire dampers are often installed in hospitals, care homes, hotels and halls of residence, so the need to be able to evacuate residents and guests is obvious.


If your system is not compliant with TR/19, or does not allow fire damper testing, you will probably find that your buildings insurance cover is compromised. Insurers expect that in managing your building you will comply with the law so, if you don’t, you may not receive a pay-out. In the event of a fire, the legal consequences for any responsible persons can include prosecution and, if found guilty of negligence, can result in a custodial sentence.


Most of these potential problems would be solved if we designed and installed ventilation systems in accordance with TR/19 and with BS:9999 in mind from the outset. Retrofitting additional access points is more expensive than installing them during initial construction, so it makes commercial sense to provide for ongoing compliance at the design stage. If we also ensured, perhaps with a new building regulation, that any further ceiling construction and aesthetic remodelling did not interfere with safe access, we could achieve ongoing system compliance without problems. All of this is surely common sense. Why would we ignore this when good health, and even lives, may depend on it?

TR/19 The barriers to compliance

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TR/19 – the barriers to compliance

There are still an alarming number of ventilation systems which we struggle to make compliant with TR/19, the leading industry document covering ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA, says Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean and co-author of TR/19.


Clean ductwork helps to promote good quality indoor air and, in the case of kitchen extract ductwork systems, to help prevent fires by the removal of flammable grease and dirt. The second edition of TR/19 includes helpful tables which lay out the necessary cleaning frequency, according to each system’s classification (high, medium or low). Heavily used systems such as commercial kitchen extracts will need cleaning the most often and here the rate of deposit accumulation will define the cleaning frequency requirements.


However, in order to comply, we must be able to access the entire system and, in some cases, this is problematic. Ventilation systems must be installed in accordance with DW144 for ordinary ductwork or DW172 for kitchen extract ductwork but, ironically, these do not include the full remit of access points which are required by TR/19 guidelines. A point to note is that the TR/19 guidelines in relation to grease are currently under review and the new version which is due for publication in 2019 is expected to increase the minimum access door frequency requirement from every 3 meters to every 2 meters.


We often encounter problems where there are angles or elbows in the run of ductwork. In order to effectively clean an angle in the ductwork, we need to be able to approach the elbow section from both directions, but we often find that there are insufficient access points close enough to thoroughly clean the angled section. We can usually retrofit an additional door, but it seems nonsensical to have to do this during a new system’s first clean.


After installation has occurred, the importance of maintaining adequate access to the ductwork is not always understood. The interior designer or architect understandably seeks to make a beautiful interior, and does not always bear in mind that TR/19 compliance in ventilation ductwork will be an ongoing issue. In some instances, we find that solid ceilings have been constructed across the ductwork, or false walls installed, obscuring the ductwork.


This can be a major problem. It is hard to tell whether sufficient doors exist, but have been covered up, or if additional doors are needed. Rectifying the situation can be disruptive and costly, requiring service hatches in the beautiful solid ceiling. Although solid ceilings may be more aesthetically pleasing, suspended ceilings are often a better choice for facilitating compliance. When cleaning at height, an access platform may also be required to clean safely and this should be factored in at the design stage. Ideally, future compliance should be on the agenda from the initial design of every building’s ventilation system.


Often, retrofitting additional access doors will solve the problem, but this is not only inconvenient, it also costs the client more than if the full remit of doors needed for TR/19 compliance had been included when the system was installed. In some scenarios, we are quite simply unable to achieve full compliance due to the configuration of the system or a physical barrier which prevents the retrofitting of sufficient access points.


The consequences of non-compliance are considerable. In office settings, a dirty system can contribute to sick building syndrome and increased levels of absence. In residential settings, failure to comply with TR/19 can negatively impact residents’ health and can constitute a breach of a duty of care.


Lack of TR/19 compliance in a kitchen extract system can have far more severe consequences. The airborne grease particles which arise from cooking create deposits which accumulate on the inner surfaces of kitchen extract ductwork. In order to be compliant, this grease layer must be controlled within an average thickness of 200 microns, about half the thickness of an average business card. Allowing the grease layer to accumulate above this will represent an ever increasing and potentially serious fire risk.


Consequently, if your system is non-compliant with TR/19, your buildings insurance may be compromised. Insurance providers may refuse to pay out in the event of a fire if the cause is a non-compliant extract system, because this can fuel a fire and spread it further.


The person responsible for the non-compliant extract system can also face prosecution for negligence, especially if there has been severe damage, injury, or loss of life as a result of a kitchen extract system fire. If found guilty, the responsible person could potentially be given a custodial sentence.


We can solve most of these problems simply by designing ventilation systems in accordance with TR/19 from the outset, ensuring that access points are accessible safely without obstruction and making TR/19 cleaning a priority for the building manager. It makes sound commercial sense, as well as sheer common sense to do this, especially when good health and people’s lives are at stake.

Air quality relies on compliance

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For a safe and healthy building, maintaining ongoing ductwork compliance with TR/19 is essential, and will be a legal requirement throughout a ventilation system’s lifetime, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services, and co-author of TR/19, explains.


In order to maintain a healthy indoor environment with good air quality, you need a well-designed, clean, TR/19 compliant ventilation system. The leading industry guidance document concerning ventilation hygiene is TR/19 (Second Edition) Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems, which is issued by the Building & Engineering Services Association (BESA). Following this guidance also ensures that you stay compliant with British Standard and European Norm BSEN:15780 and BG49/2013, BSRIA’s guide on Commissioning Air Systems.


All ductwork needs to be cleaned, and the accumulated dirt in it completely removed, at regular intervals. The frequency of those cleaning intervals will vary, according to the purpose and usage of each of the ventilation systems. The system in each part of a property must be classified under TR/19 as high, medium or low. For example, in a hospital, operating theatres and laboratories which require a particularly clean environment will require a high classification and more frequent inspection and cleaning as necessary. Wards, offices and visitor areas will require a medium classification and slightly less frequent inspection and cleaning as necessary than the high classification areas. Less populated areas such as boiler rooms or workshops can be given a low classification and will need attention the least often.


Kitchen extract systems must also be TR/19 compliant. Cooking even the healthiest food causes airborne fat, oil and grease which, as the exhaust air stream cools, solidify, forming deposits on the inside of the kitchen extract ductwork. These pose a serious fire risk. The thickness of these deposits must be controlled to ensure that average thickness does not exceed 200 microns – approximately half the thickness of an average business card. To ensure this control, the grease must be completely removed on a regular basis.


TR/19 contains very helpful tables which indicate how frequently the system must be cleaned, depending initially on how often and for how many hours each kitchen is used and once historical grease accumulation rates are established frequencies should be adjusted to keep within TR/19 defined limits. In a stadium or shopping centre, there may be different catering concessions with widely varying patterns of usage. It is important, therefore, to have a management system in place to control grease levels adequately in each kitchen extract system.


A clean mechanical ventilation system is more efficient and therefore takes less energy to run, so TR/19 compliance can reduce your energy costs. Insurance companies expect that you will comply with industry best practice in managing your property, so it may compromise your buildings insurance if you don’t comply with TR/19 and provide robust evidence of your compliance.


You must have before and after photography to demonstrate that your system has been regularly, competently and effectively cleaned to make it TR/19 compliant. If the worst were to happen, a fire can spread through your kitchen extract system to other parts of the building. If negligence is proved in the event of a fire, and you haven’t maintained TR/19 compliance, the responsible person could face criminal charges and a potential custodial sentence; so evidence of your compliance will be vital.


In order to achieve TR/19 compliance, the system must be fully accessible. A new system must be tested and where necessary fully cleaned and commissioned before being handed over and put into use, but it does not currently have to include the full remit of access hatches or aids to access that TR/19 requires for ongoing compliance. In some instances, we find permanent features such as walls, ceilings and even staircases obstructing the ductwork, preventing access. Where we find inaccessible areas of a system, we can often retrofit additional access hatches to allow TR/19 cleaning to be carried out.


You will need expert help and guidance from a specialist provider to achieve and maintain TR/19 compliance.



Swiftclean calls for safety over style in ceiling design

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Swiftclean Building Services, expert provider of fire damper testing and maintenance, and ventilation cleaning in compliance with BESA TB001 & TR/19, has called for greater concern for safety over aesthetics when it comes to ceiling design in commercial and public buildings and multiple residence properties. “We are well aware that access hatches are not the most attractive items,” says Swiftclean Managing Director Gary Nicholls. “However, they are absolutely vital for safety.”


The company, which has won multiple awards for its expert air and water hygiene services, says that its technicians frequently encounter situations in which cosmetic features such as plasterboard ceilings have been added to improve aesthetics, but which inevitably hinder essential ongoing cleaning and maintenance. Compliance with TR/19, the leading guidance document on ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA, ensures legal compliance requirements are met in schools, hospitals hotels and a wide range of public and domestic buildings across the UK. The annual drop testing and maintenance of fire dampers in accordance with BS:9999 is also a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order for property owners and managers.


Despite this long term legal responsibility, in too many cases, says Swiftclean, additional bulkheads and false ceilings or other services are erected across installed ductwork, making it impossible for some buildings to comply with the law. There is already a potential tension between the ductwork construction standard, DW144 and the ventilation cleanliness guidelines TR/19 in that, in practice, ongoing compliance with TR/19 requires access at more frequent intervals than is stipulated in DW144. If some of the access hatches installed in compliance with DW144 are subsequently covered over or obstructed, this makes it even more difficult or, in some cases, impossible, to comply with TR/19, potentially throughout the lifecycle of the building.


If the ductwork itself is visible, exposed or accessible through false ceilings, it is possible to retrofit additional access doors in order to achieve compliance with TR/19 and BS:9999. However, if, once the ductwork has been installed, it has been hidden behind fixed ceilings and walls, compliance can be highly problematic or prohibitively costly.


In these cases, safety is definitely compromised, warns Swiftclean. “Not only does compliance become difficult, but buildings insurance policies may be compromised and the responsible person for the building may be liable to prosecution for non-compliance,” warns Nicholls. “In the event of a fatality, there may be criminal proceedings against the maintenance company and individuals could face a custodial sentence. It seems to us imperative that safety should take precedence over aesthetics in many more situations.”


Swiftclean has been campaigning for several years for greater awareness for the need to comply with safety guidelines on the cleanliness and safe functioning of mechanical extract and ventilation systems. Gary Nicholls is a member of the steering committee which advised on the drafting of the TR/19 guidelines, the leading industry document on ventilation hygiene, issued by BESA, the Building Engineering Services Association. From time to time he is called on to serve as an expert consultant and witness in legal cases where non-compliance has been identified.



A fresh look at ventilation maintenance

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Air quality within social housing is an increasingly important issue; fire safety even more so.  Adequately cleaning and maintaining the ventilation system in multiple occupancy buildings is essential for legal compliance, and for ensuring the health and safety of the property, as Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services, explains.


Multiple occupancy poses a potential for fire to spread from home to home, yet although multiple occupancy housing has been with us for well over a century, it is only for just over a decade that we have had fire legislation for this type of housing, thanks to the passing of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force in October 2006.


Within multiple occupancy buildings, much care has been given to ensuring that each dwelling is effectively a separate compartment, so that the risk of fire spreading from one to another is greatly reduced.  Sharing ventilation and extract ductwork for kitchens and bathrooms, however, means that a potential route for fire is re-introduced, leading from one apartment to another, or from the apartment to the building’s communal areas.  Communal ductwork represents a potential weakness in terms of the spread of fire and also a possible cause of widespread poor air quality.


In order to restore some of this compartmentation when needed, fire dampers can be installed in the ductwork at the point where ductwork passes through a fire resistance-rated wall.  These are essentially a set of steel louvres which remain open to allow free air flow under normal conditions, but which are triggered by sensors to close automatically in the event of fire.  The closed louvres form a barrier to the spread of flames and hot gases, this barrier helps to delay the spread of fire from its point of origin to other parts of the property.


Where fire dampers are fitted, they must be tested and cleaned on an annual basis in accordance with British Standard BS:9999 2017, using a method called drop testing, which confirms that the louvres close effectively.  It used to be the case that the frequency of testing depended on the construction of the fire damper, but the 2017 revision to BS:9999 made it mandatory for annual drop testing, cleaning and any necessary repairs for every type of fire damper.


Kitchen extract fire safety cleaning should also be a priority. It is an inevitable result of everyday cooking, that deposits of fat, oil and grease build up as a thin film of grease throughout the kitchen extract ductwork.  These deposits represent a very real fire risk and must be removed on a regular basis.  The frequency of cleaning is laid out in tables within TR/19, which is the leading guidance document for ventilation ductwork cleaning, issued by BESA (Building & Engineering Services Association.)  This also requires ductwork to be classified as high, medium or low.  Multiple occupancy shared kitchen extracts will carry a high classification, requiring regular thorough cleaning in accordance with TR/19.


In some multiple occupancy buildings, the ground floor is given to retail units; often fast food outlets.  In these units, kitchen extract fire safety cleaning must be completed regularly in compliance with TR/19, in order to reduce the risk of the spread of fire to the floors above.


In refurbishments, especially kitchen and bathroom replacement programmes, consideration should be given to updating the ventilation systems as well as the units and sanitary ware.  It should be remembered that a clogged or greasy extract fan will also consume more electricity to run than a clean one, so this should be included in energy saving plans.  Where a common warm air system serves the entire building, it should be replaced, where possible, by individual self-contained heating systems, so that common areas and dwellings do not share the same system.  Alternatively we can replace the original grills with fire rated valves which help to contain the spread of fire.


Bathroom ventilation systems often draw in dust, fibres and dirt particles which begin to clog the system.  This can make it less effective, allowing less air to circulate and causing unpleasant odours to circulate. Regular cleaning to TR/19 guidance is important to ensure a good indoor air quality.


Planned preventative maintenance is vital in multiple occupancy buildings.  Gaining access to dwellings in order to carry out this cleaning may be difficult, but should be a priority; it will be essential to communicate the importance of this regular maintenance to occupants so that access for cleaning is granted.  In every communal ventilation system regular cleaning, regular testing and cleaning is not only a legal requirement, but also a vital safeguard for residents and visitors.

How fresh is the indoor air in your golf club?

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Fresh air is one the main attractions of taking up golf but, once inside the clubhouse, how fresh is your indoor air? Not certain? The Swiftclean team will help get you up to scratch on maintaining the health of your ventilation systems, ensuring that time spent in the clubhouse isn’t undoing all the health benefits of playing.

Clean your ventilation ductwork

The cleanliness of your ventilation system is vital; removing steam, condensation and airborne impurities; and providing an invaluable constant source of fresh air for those relaxing off the course and working in your property.

Good quality indoor air quality is essential for the health and wellbeing of everyone, especially those working in or visiting your property regularly. After all, the only place you want anyone to be under par is on the course.

It is a legal requirement, for the sake of your guests, members and employees, to keep your ventilation system compliant with TR/19, the leading industry guidance document on ventilation hygiene, issued by the Building Engineering Services Association. This means regular cleaning at intervals set out in TR/19 guidelines.  If you don’t comply with the law in this area, you could also compromise your buildings insurance.

Clean air, happy guests

By | Ductwork Cleaning, Kitchen Extract Cleaning, Legionella, News | No Comments

Clean air, happy guests

By providing expert ventilation cleaning, Swiftclean’s services help you to comply and allow you to focus on the many other priorities that draw on your attention, safe in the knowledge that you are safeguarding guests and employees alike and meeting Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations.

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Kitchen extract ductwork – A hidden fire risk?

The restaurant kitchens at your golf club are central to its success, but they come with a particular hidden risk. Cooking produces airborne fat, oil and grease (FOG), resulting in the formation of grease deposits on the inside of the kitchen extract ductwork which are a serious fire hazard.

Award-winning Swiftclean is one of the UK’s leading specialist Kitchen Extract Fire Safety Cleaning experts, providing full compliance with TR/19, the leading industry document covering ductwork cleaning. Failure to have ductwork professionally cleaned by a specialist, to remove grease deposits, can be perceived as negligence in the eyes of the law, leaving you open to prosecution and uninsured.

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Pouring compliance on cold water

Although golf clubs have many members and guests, all will share the same water supply and, therefore, the same water borne risks. Numerous types of bacteria can be present in water, including the potentially fatal Legionella; neglected tanks are extremely high risk areas for the spread of disease. When conditions in water systems are allowed to deteriorate, legionella and other bacteria can proliferate.

Swiftclean offers water tank compliance services to ensure your system is safe and remains compliant with L8, the approved code of practice and guidance for the control of legionella bacteria in water systems. Maintaining compliance requires regular inspection, the correct standard of cleaning, ongoing monitoring and, where necessary, full refurbishment or replacement of sub-standard water tanks. Swiftclean provides expert support in all of these areas.

Read more about legionella and water tank cleaning