How does COVID-19 spread?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 is transmitted between people in various different ways. The disease, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, can spread from a person’s mouth or nose via infected particles when they breathe, speak, cough, or sneeze. Whilst bigger droplets soon fall to the ground, aerosols containing the virus may remain suspended in the air. When a person inhales in the contaminated droplets, they can become infected with the virus. This is referred to as airborne transmission. The virus is most likely to spread when people are in close contact with each other, usually less than a metre apart.
Transmission of the virus is most common within indoor settings which are poorly ventilated. This is because the virus can build up in the air in these spaces, increasing the risk of transmission. The virus can remain in the air even after an infected person has left the room, making its spread even more likely.
People can also become infected when they touch contaminated surfaces before touching their mouth, nose, or eyes without washing their hands. More research is being carried out to provide a better insight into how it spreads, and which settings are riskier.
What are the ventilation requirements in the UK?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that all workplaces in the UK must have an adequate supply of fresh air. Whilst this can be from natural ventilation such as open windows and doors, it can also be from controlled ventilation where the air is supplied and/or removal mechanically.
For workplaces that produce dust, mist, fumes, gas, or vapour, a local exhaust ventilation (LEV) or extraction system may be required. An LEV system can remove airborne contaminants in the air by drawing them through a hood or booth before people breathe them in, helping to protect workers' health. The HSE states that an extraction system should be easy for workers to operate and should enclose the process as much as possible.
The system should effectively capture the harmful substances before they are released into the air. The air should then be filtered and discharged into a safe space. The HSE also requires businesses to maintain LEV systems regularly and ensure that tests are frequently carried out to make sure they are working properly. Ventilation cleaning is recommended for these systems.
What is air changes per hour in UK building regulations?
When it comes to air changes per hour building regulations UK, businesses need to be up to speed. Air changes per hour, which is often abbreviated to ACPH, ACH, or air change rate, measures the air volume either added to or removed from a space within one hour, divided by the volume of the space. Air is constantly exchanged between buildings and their surroundings due to both natural and mechanical ventilation. The rate at which it is exchanged is expressed in ‘air changes per hour’ (ach). If a building’s air change rate is 1 ach, this means that all of the air that is inside of it is replaced within 1 hour.
Specific air change rates are necessary for controlling internal temperatures and for exchanging stale, contaminated air with clean, oxygen-rich air. The building requirements for air change rates vary according to the type of space, usage, location, and level of occupation. Approved document F provides further guidance on air change rates in the UK.
Why is ventilation so important?
Proper ventilation is essential for reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Ventilating a space brings in fresh air and removes older, stale air that may contain virus particles. The more fresh air that is introduced, the faster any airborne virus particles can be removed. This reduces the chances of the virus spreading and making people ill with the virus.
Professional ventilation cleaning is recommended to eradicate the millions of harmful particles and contaminants that travel through ductwork every day. Pollutants can quickly build up in your system’s ducts due to dust, dirt, debris, tvc’s, mould, yeast, and bacteria. This not only leads to a poorly functioning system but poor air quality and health issues for people within the building.
Creating a COVID-safe workspace
The HSE states that employers are accountable for health and safety management. An employer must do whatever is reasonably practical to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of the employees, as well as others who may be affected by their business. This means that they must protect workers and others from anything that could cause them harm, controlling risks to health or injury that could arise at work. As a result, it is an employer’s duty to create a COVID-safe workspace. One way you can do this is by ensuring that the work environment is well ventilated. Invest in ventilation duct cleaning services to ensure that your ventilation system is working as efficiently as possible.
Whilst ventilation does not prevent the virus from spreading through close contact, it is one of the most important actions you can take to keep your staff and visitors safe. Adequate ventilation can reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.