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    Ventilation and Air Conditioning During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

    Published on August 19th, 2021 | by David Clifton

    Recently we have seen the lifting of some of the Governments restrictions regarding the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

    COVID-19 should be seen as an ongoing hazard in the workplace and should be managed accordingly with your COVID risk assessment reflecting your control measures, this assessment should be suitable and sufficient.

    COVID-19 transmits when people breathe in air contaminated by droplets and small airborne particles. The risk of breathing these in is highest when people are in close proximity, but they can be inhaled over longer distances, particularly indoors.

    The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 regulation 6 state that effective and suitable provision shall be made to ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air. This has not changed throughout the pandemic.

    The more people who use or occupy an area, the greater the risk that an infected person is there, increasing possible exposure to aerosol transmission.

    The risk increases if an area is poorly ventilated and occupied by more than one person.

    Good ventilation has been demonstrated as an effective control measure to combat the transmission of COVID-19, the more fresh air that is brought inside, the quicker any airborne virus will be removed from the area. This can be achieved by two methods: Natural Ventilation and Mechanical Ventilation, please see below…

    • Natural ventilation

      Natural ventilation is possibly the easiest and most cost-effective method of improving ventilation with in a workplace, this can be achieved by fully or partly opening windows, air vents and doors. Don’t prop fire doors open, unless a fire door retainer is effective.

      Where there is a risk that a person could fall from a window consider installing window retainers.

      You should explain the importance of adequate ventilation to your workers so they can play their part in reducing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

    • Mechanical ventilation (including air conditioning)

      Mechanical systems will provide adequate ventilation if they are set to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation.

      If your system draws in fresh air, it can continue to operate. It’s healthier not to recirculate air from one area to another.

      Recirculation units for heating and cooling that do not draw in a supply of fresh air can remain in operation as long as there is a supply of outdoor air. This could mean leaving windows and doors open.

      If you are unsure of your systems seek advice of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineer or adviser.

    • Identifying poorly ventilated areas and using CO2 monitors

      CO2 measurements should be used as a broad guide to ventilation within a space rather than treating them as ’safe thresholds’.

      Outdoor levels are around 400ppm and indoors a consistent CO2 value less than 800ppm is likely to indicate that a space is well ventilated.

      An average of 1500ppm CO2 concentration over the occupied period in a space is an indicator of poor ventilation. You should take action to improve ventilation where CO2 readings are consistently higher than 1500ppm.

    • The use of fans in the workplace

      The use of desk & freestanding fans to increase the effectiveness of ventilation in the workplace can safely be achieved by correct fan placement and will vary based on room configuration.

      Avoid placing fans in a way that could potentially cause contaminated air to flow directly from one person to another.

      Fans are no substitute for good ventilation and should only be used as a vehicle to enhance an already good ventilation provision and should not be used in poorly ventilated areas.

    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced a useful online video, it explains how having adequate ventilation can help you reduce the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission in your workplace. It includes advice on identifying poorly ventilated areas and using CO2 monitors, improving natural and mechanical ventilation.

    For further information about workplace ventilation best practice and ventilation during COVID, please get in touch with us today.

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