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HSE Provides Updated Advice on Ventilation During COVID

HSE Provides Updated Advice on Ventilation During COVID
04 March 2021
 

The Health and Safety Executive has expanded its advice for employers to provide adequate ventilation in their workplaces during the pandemic.

This guidance is intended to help employers identify and take action in poorly ventilated areas. It also provides guidance on other factors to consider when assessing the risk from aerosol transmission, and determining whether adequate ventilation is being provided to reduce this risk.

Ventilation measures are considered the most vital engineering mechanisms in infection control within buildings. Research from both REHA and CIBSE shows that adequate ventilation and effective air distribution can minimise the risk of cross-infection from 1.5 metres onward.

 

Identifying poorly ventilated areas

 

The HSE states that the priority for risk assessments is to identify areas of the workplace that are usually occupied and are poorly ventilated.

There are some simple ways to identify poorly ventilated areas:

 

  • Look for areas where people work and there is no mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation such as open windows, doors or vents etc.
  • Check that mechanical systems provide outdoor air, temperature control or both. If a system only recirculates air and has no outdoor air supply, the area is likely to be poorly ventilated.
  • Identify areas that feel stuffy or smell bad.
  • You may wish to use carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors. Checking CO2 levels will help you decide if ventilation is poor. The monitors are less effective in areas used by few people.

 

Improving Natural Ventilation

 

You can improve natural ventilation by fully or partially opening windows, air vents and doors (but not fire doors). Buildings are designed to provide an adequate amount of ventilation and, where this is through windows and air vents, you should be able to open them. If they cannot be opened, the ventilation in that area will be affected. 

If you identify an area that requires improvement, you should decide if that area should continue to be used until improvements are made.

It is important not to close windows or doors completely when people are using or occupying a naturally ventilated area. This can result in very low levels of ventilation. 

Lower temperatures and windy weather conditions in the winter months will increase natural ventilation through openings. This means you don’t need to open windows and doors as wide – look to see if trickle vents can be opened. 

Airing rooms as frequently as you can also improve ventilation. Open all the doors and windows fully to maximise the ventilation in a room. It may be better to do this when the room is unoccupied.

 

Air Cleaning and Filtration units

 

It is recommended that you can use local air cleaning and filtration units to reduce airborne transmission of aerosols where it is not possible to maintain adequate ventilation.

However, these units are not a substitute for ventilation. You should prioritise any areas identified as poorly ventilated for improvement in other ways before you think about using an air cleaning device.

If you decide to use an air-cleaning unit, the most suitable types to use are high-efficiency filters or ultraviolet-based devices.

Any unit should be appropriate for the size of the area they’re used in to ensure they work in the way they are intended to.

 

Ventilation in vehicles

 

Make sure workers switch on ventilation systems while they’re using work vehicles. They should be set to draw in the fresh air and not to recirculate it.

Encourage your employees to keep vehicle windows open. If it’s cold they can leave the heating on to keep the vehicle comfortable.

If it’s safe to do so, opening doors of vehicles between different passengers will help to change air quickly. Opening vehicle windows fully for a few minutes can also help clear the air before anyone else gets in.

The Department for Transport has guidance on making taxis and public hire vehicles COVID-secure. There is also HSE advice on social distancing in vehicles during the pandemic.

Picture: a photograph of a temperature gauge on a wall

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 04 March 2021

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