HSE updates guidance on ventilation & air conditioning for ‘back to work’

HSE updates guidance on keeping workplaces safe to help companies assess the risks and continue to reduce COVID-19 transmission

Following the removal of most restrictions in the UK relating to Covid-19, the HSE has updated (9th August 2021) its advice on keeping workplaces safe to help companies assess the risks and continue to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Here at Priva UK & Ireland, we welcome the HSE’s clear and regular communications at a time when many employers are bringing home-based workers back into their pre-pandemic working spaces.

The HSE’s latest guidance covers:

  1. Identifying poorly ventilated areas and using CO2 monitors
  2. Assessment of fresh air (ventilation)
  3. Improving natural ventilation
  4. How to improve mechanical ventilation 
  5. Balancing ventilation with keeping workplace temperatures comfortable
  6. Air cleaning and filtration units
  7. Ventilation in vehicles

The law says employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. This has not changed during the pandemic. You can do this by using:

  • natural ventilation – fresh air comes in through open windows, doors or air vents. This is also known as ‘passive airflow’, or
  • mechanical ventilation – fans and ducts bring in fresh air from outside

Whilst ventilation isn’t the only way of making sure you’re working safely, Priva welcomes the detail on how companies can:

  • identify poorly ventilated areas
  • decide on the steps you can take to improve ventilation
  • assess the risk from breathing in small particles of the virus (aerosol transmission) in enclosed areas

How to assess the risk of aerosol transmission

Adequate ventilation can look different depending on the workplace or setting. FMs and building managers can reduce the risk of aerosol transmission by:

  • making sure infected workers (or anyone with COVID-19 symptoms) do not come into the workplace
  • providing adequate ventilation with fresh air

The HSE advises as follows:

  • Deciding what adequate ventilation looks like in your workplace should be part of a risk assessment
  • When you have completed an assessment, there are examples of improving ventilation to reduce transmission.
  • You should also make sure any control measures you identify by your risk assessment take account of the public health regulations and guidance for the nation you are working in. 
  • Find the latest advice for England, Scotland and Wales

Video on using ventilation to tackle COVID-19

The HSE’s excellent video gives basic advice on how you can use ventilation to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in your workplace. Click below or follow this link to view it.

Our latest white paper, published in June and free to download now. ‘Healthy buildings: why now is the time to invest in building technologies’ highlights the need for organisations to meet or surpass existing guidelines for air quality. To download Priva’s Healthy Buildings, white paper, follow this link.

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