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Ventilation is Essential for a Safe Return to Work
Over the past year, we have learned more about how COVID-19 is transmitted and how to reduce infection risk. As facilities managers start to plan the return to the office, it's important to remember that vaccination protects only the vaccinated person, and we can't yet be sure what this means for herd immunity. Research has shown that most cases are spread through indoor transmission. Droplets spread the disease up to 2 metres; to prevent droplet and contact transmission, we need social distancing, face coverings and careful hygiene.
Ventilation systems will play a central role in reducing airborne virus, as aerosols under 10 microns in size, like COVID-19, can travel further and remain in the air for longer. There is also a legal obligation on employers to ensure that workplace ventilation is sufficient to protect workers' health.
Here are some recommendations:
- Identify areas which need improvement. Adequate ventilation is defined as air movement of 8-10 litres/second/person with <800ppm of CO2 but needs vary. This depends on factors like the type of industry and activities involved, number of workers, size of room, time workers spend in the area, humidity and availability of sunlight.
- Remember that natural ventilation from open windows and doors is best, but draughts can be a problem in winter. Regular breaks, moving workstations away from colder areas, and adjusting heating can all help.
- Consider the option of air cleaning, especially where ventilation is a problem. Air conditioners with HEPA Filters remove viruses but need to be situated accurately as their range is short. UV systems destroy the virus' genetic information
- Start ventilation at least an hour before people arrive and keep it running as long as possible after they leave. Maintain rapid changes between inside and outside air.
- Install a system without getting expert advice. There are many different mechanical ventilation systems (HVAC), and you need to find the ideal one for your workplace. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers publish a document giving COVID-19 related information. Ventilation must be effective to current design standards.
- Ignore Maintenance. All should be regularly cleaned and maintained, by competent persons. It is important to increase the air supply, avoid air recirculation between rooms, to provide the fastest change possible between inside and outside air.
For more in depth information about your ventilation requirements get in touch with us.
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