The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published updated guidance emphasising the importance of good ventilation within workplaces as a key way to mitigate Covid-19 as workers gradually return to physical working.
As coronavirus spreads through the air, the virus can build up in poorly ventilated areas, which increases the risk of infection and it is a legal requirement that employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace, the HSE has said.
However, cleaning, good hygiene and handwashing protocols all still need to be in place alongside effective ventilation, it has added.
The updated guidance looks at how to identify poorly ventilated areas, the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors, how to improve natural and mechanical ventilation, balancing ventilation with keeping warm and ventilation in vehicles.
HSE recommends that maximising the fresh air in a space can be done by:
- natural ventilation which relies on passive air flow through windows, doors and air vents that can be fully or partially opened
- mechanical ventilation, such as using fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside, or
- a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation
Covid-19 and ventilation
Dr Alexander Tsavalos, HSE’s head of Covid sector policy, said: “As more and more people return to their place of work, employers and workers need to continue to work safely to keep coronavirus at bay and this includes having good ventilation systems in place.
“Ventilation helps reduces how much virus is in the air. It helps reduce the risk from aerosol transmission, when someone breathes in small particles (aerosols) in the air after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.
“You can improve natural ventilation in the workplace by doing simple things like opening windows and doors and can improve mechanical ventilation by understanding how your systems work and by making sure they’re working properly,” he added.
CO2 monitors in the workplace could also help, Dr Tsavalos advised. “Although CO2 levels are not a direct measure of possible exposure to Covid-19, checking levels using a monitor can help you identify poorly ventilated areas,” he said.
The HSE has said it will continue to carry out spot checks and inspections by calling, visiting and inspecting all types of businesses.