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Air con/No air con - that is the question!

In Covid times, what is the answer?

Health and safety legislation already requires employers to ensure that there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. This legal requirement has not changed during the pandemic.

However, new HSE guidance sets out how employers can maximise the fresh air in the workplace to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission due to coronavirus.

This 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 using fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside, or

  • a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation, for example where mechanical ventilation relies on natural ventilation to maximise fresh air

Employers should consider ventilation alongside other control measures needed to reduce risks of coronavirus transmission as part of making the workplace Covid secure, such as social distancing, keeping the workplace clean and frequent handwashing. This is because whilst increased ventilation will reduce the aerosol transmission risk, it has minimal impact on:

  • droplet transmission (where people are within 2 metres of each other)

  • contact transmission (touching surfaces)

The HSE guidance applies in most workplaces and will help employers:

  • assess the risk from aerosol transmission in enclosed areas

  • identify poorly ventilated areas

  • decide on the steps they can take to improve ventilation

Employers can reduce the risk of aerosol transmission by:

  • making sure infected workers (or any visitors with coronavirus symptoms) do not come into the workplace

  • providing adequate ventilation with fresh air

  • limiting the number of people in an area

  • thinking about activities that increase deeper breathing (including singing, physical exertion and shouting)

  • workers spending less time in occupied areas

HSE guidance states that determining whether the workplace has adequate ventilation should be considered as part of the overall workplace risk assessment.

If you would like a risk assessment form, please submit a request here.

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