The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has launched a scheme to help ventilation hygiene specialists demonstrate their competence, quality and standards.

With building owners and operators becoming more aware of the fire risks posed by poorly cleaned and maintained systems, there has been growing demand for a robust process to verify the quality of cleaning – particularly of grease extract systems used by commercial kitchens.

This growing awareness has created a booming market, which has attracted some non-specialist hygiene providers who don’t necessarily understand their responsibilities; or the importance of delivering clean systems, good advice and proper post-clean reporting to clients. This has led to increased scrutiny by insurance companies alarmed by the high number of claims following building fires.

BESA, therefore, launched the ‘Ventilation Hygiene Elite’ scheme at its recent national conference in London. The scheme, which is approved and administered by the Association’s independent certification arm BESCA, is based on BESA’s long-established best practice standard TR19.

BESCA will audit firms’ work to ensure standards are maintained and manage a database of post-clean reports, which can be used as an auditable trail by the member firm; their clients and insurers. BESCA will also carry out ongoing surveillance of each registrant to confirm continuing compliance. The amount of surveillance may reduce year-on-year if the company continues to display a high standard of work. A BESCA certificate for all notified cleans that meet the requirements will be automatically generated for issue to the end client.

Safety Since it was first developed in 1998 by BESA’s specialist ventilation hygiene group, TR19 has been widely accepted by the building engineering services sector and British insurers as the standard to which ventilation systems should be cleaned. The guiding principle of TR19 is that a defined, measurable level of cleanliness should be achieved to improve safety and comfort in buildings.

The ‘Elite’ scheme is now open to all who operate in the sector, not just BESA members, who can provide proof of competence and professionalism. Eligible BESA members, who meet the scheme’s criteria, will be allowed to join for free, but all firms will be subject to the ongoing audit process.

 “The scheme will help build up an auditable trail for the ventilation hygiene provider,” said BESA membership director Wayne Terry. “It is also a good way of recording your employees’ work and ensuring they are maintaining high standards. It also reduces insurance risk and should, therefore, have a positive impact on premiums.”

The Elite scheme is designed to protect clients, giving them the peace of mind that comes from employing a verifiably competent specialist ventilation hygiene contractor.

This will help them keep their staff safe while also satisfying the increasing demands of insurers and protecting their corporate reputation.

The scheme is also an excellent way for a ventilation hygiene company to market themselves, with help from BESA, as providing a robust and verifiable industry recognised expert service.

“Ventilation hygiene is an area of real strategic importance for BESA and the industry at large,” said Mr Terry. “The market is already enjoying healthy growth as a result of increased awareness among building owners of the crucial health and safety role played by specialist firms.

“However, we also have to guard against the inevitable ‘cowboy’ element, who seek to undercut bona fide firms and fail to invest in the training and equipment needed to provide a professional and, therefore, safe service.

“The Ventilation Hygiene Elite scheme, delivered by BESCA, allows professional ventilation hygiene firms to prove their competence and impress on clients the importance of having this work done to the highest standards,” added Mr Terry.

Grease extract systems are regarded as a high priority area, which is why the Elite scheme is being launched at that market. However, in time BESA plans to extend the scheme to all areas of ventilation hygiene and maintenance.

For more information or to join the scheme visit the VHE scheme page.