HTM 03 states that supply ducting will require internal cleaning when it becomes contaminated with visible dirt, so this is how it should look on inspection.

n An Authorised Person (AP) – on-site staff trained specifically to have the technical knowledge needed for the practical implementation of the engineering policy and procedures.

n A Competent Person (CP) – these are people trained and delegated to carry out routine maintenance and testing work.

n An Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) representative – this is a new departure for VSGs, and probably a welcome one. Who can argue against IPC recommendations?

n A User – this will be a representative of the clinicians managing the departments where the equipment is installed. The User(s) will give voice to the logistical issues accompanying maintenance and inspection work.

n Contractors – specialists who have close contact with, and knowledge of, your infrastructure.

Enrolling trusted contractors Enrolling trusted contractors makes sense to us; they can help you turn guidance into a costed, audited inspection and testing regime, and to prioritise and plan maintenance. Of course, we would say that as just such a third-party adviser and service-provider (contractor) to many different types of Trust and buildings. Having experience of both air and water services, we’d be confident that this

alignment of the approach to these two essential services is a logical move that will bear fruit. What alignment does not mean is that the two can be combined – while the Duty Holder and Designated Person could be the same for both, Authorised Engineers and Competent Persons have different skillsets for air and water hygiene. However, it’s worth exploring the scope for efficiency and cost savings if the same contractors work across the board for you. You may not always like what consultants and contractors have to say. After all, we are the people who produce the ‘Red-Amber-Green reports’ that inevitably mean more work and more expenditure, but we have insights into where there may be efficiencies, such as dovetailing cleaning and inspection with fire damper testing.

Review your training and support With a revamped, and, it is to be hoped, enthused regime embracing the entirety of your ventilation infrastructure, your own Authorised and Competent Persons should be enabled to broaden their skillsets. Now might be a good time to review the training and support you give them. For instance, is the AP role really one of pure management, as current training courses would seem to suggest? Or should those people be equipped with practical knowledge and experience of the jobs they ask CPs and contractors to do? That would put them in a better position to challenge contractors’ costs and timescales, and to allocate procedures to the most cost-effective people. Should the competency of CPs extend beyond the intricacies of, say, air change rates in ultraclean ventilation (UCV) areas, and include the everyday practicalities of changing fan belts and filters in the general ventilation systems? After all, most estates will have more routine ventilation infrastructure than ultraclean. It’s business for us, but, from your point of view, does it make sense to hire contractors and pay their skilled technician rates for such basic tasks? There may be different ways to divide the labour.

Lastly, we’d suggest that estates management and maintenance teams become involved in capital project work. We still see new installations that lack the inspection hatches we think are needed, and / or see them sited in the wrong places to facilitate long-term maintenance. Insist on having your say, and ideally reserve the right not to sign the job off. Treating Parts A and B as part of the whole should generate synergy. Based on what see in the field, we do see the revisions of HTM 03 as positive changes. They build on what works, and they amend where real-world experience has shown potential shortfalls. The policy and management changes that you will be enacting to accommodate the new guidance are an opportunity, and, if nothing else, we urge you to unlock the potential of your own people.


Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of IHEEM (FIHEEM). He is managing director of air and water hygiene specialists, Airmec. His company has an extensive client base in the health and public sectors, which he says has given him a broad perspective of the practicalities of maintaining estates with buildings of varying ages and uses. He also sees at close hand the challenges of management and budgeting.

February 2021 Health Estate Journal 55

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