Ventilation During The COVID-19 pandemic

Monday, December 13, 2021

The latest government guidance is to work from home where possible but for many businesses, that's simply not an option, the advice on ventilation for workplaces has been updated in accordance with the UK's Plan B response to the Omicron variant.

Here's what you need to know:

The Law

The law says employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. This has not changed during the pandemic and arguably has become even more important

Why is it important in relation to the virus

Someone who has coronavirus breathes out small particles (aerosols) of the virus.

Adequate ventilation reduces how much virus is in the air, so it reduces the risk of breathing in the virus.

What steps should you take? 

  • Identify areas of poor ventilation,
  • Look for rooms that are small or with doors or windows that do not open
  • Consider spaces that are often susceptible to smells and staleness such as storage areas or stockrooms
  • Think about areas which often get overcrowded such as staff rooms or kitchens 

Improve Ventilation Naturally 

  • Open windows and doors wherever you can 
  • Never prop open a fire door 
  • If you have vents in your workspace or building ensure they are open 
  • Consider if you can use crowded spaces differently - for example, staggered lunch breaks

Invest in a Ventilation System

  • If it is not possible to get enough natural fresh air consider installing a ventilation system
  • Ensure your system is fitted properly and working correctly
  • Whoever is responsible for your systems on-site should be fully trained and understand how they operate. 

What else should you be aware of?

  • The more people who use or occupy an area, the greater risk of transmission. Try to reduce how many people use one space at any given time 
  • Larger work areas are lower risk because they have more air to dilute the virus and tend to be designed with ventilation rates in mind. 
  • Activities that cause deep breathing such as exercise or shouting increase the generation of aerosol and therefore increase the risk of transmission - even where the ventilation is adequate. 
  • You should not use desk or ceiling fans in poorly ventilated areas 
  • You can use a Co2 monitor to help identify poorly ventilated areas 
  • Providing adequate ventilation should not mean that your building or site is uncomfortably cold

What ventilation doesn't do 

Although ventilation is important it doesn’t reduce:

  • droplet transmission (from people being in close contact)
  • contact transmission (touching surfaces)

You should still make sure you are working safely by:

  • keeping your workplace clean 
  • ensuring that workers and others are washing their hands frequently

You can find more information on assessing ventilation and identifying risks here 

 

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