Alan Macklin, Technical Director at Elta Group
As the lockdown begins to ease across the UK, and businesses across a range of sectors start to reopen, attention is turning to how employees can be safely welcomed back to the office.
The role of ventilation
The role that ventilation plays in maintaining a safe and healthy workspace environment has always been important, as one of our previous blogs on Sick Building Syndrome highlighted. Ventilation’s part in managing a safe return to work has received increased attention in the past couple of months, and is something that has been regularly highlighted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).
More recently, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Technical Lead for Infection Prevention and Control, Benedetta Allergranzi, referenced mounting evidence of airborne transmission of the coronavirus in ‘crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings’. So how can facilities and office managers use ventilation to make workspaces as safe and healthy as possible?
Checks and maintenance
The lockdown has meant that buildings have remained closed for several months, with many employees working from home. One of the first tasks when reopening a building is to restart ventilation systems, which will have been inactive for a period of time, taking a thorough and strategic approach to ensure they are working as they should be.
Regular checks and maintenance should become a matter of routine even after a return to work, with recommendations including to purge ventilate for two hours before and after occupancy, and maintain trickle ventilation even when the building is not occupied i.e. overnight.
Reduced occupancy and social distancing
Reduced occupancy does not mean facilities and office managers should reduce ventilation rates. It is this very combination of fewer people and higher rates of ventilation that helps to reduce the amount of time and level of exposure to infectious diseases.
Where measures have been taken to provide protection against transmission, such as screens between employees, attention should be paid to ensure that a flow of fresh air is able to replace any stagnant air that may become trapped by the screens.
As workplaces start to reopen, consideration should be given to whether existing systems can cope with the possible increase in demand. The role that ventilation has to play in making office spaces a safe and healthy environment means that achieving good IAQ must be a priority.