Over time, contaminants, dirt, dust and airborne micro-organisms can accumulate inside your properties ventilation ducts, potentially leading to a number of problems.
- Build ups of dust and grease over time can be extremely dangerous and a simple spark can easily cause them to ignite, spreading fire rapidly along the ductwork through the building.
- In cases where legionella bacteria has been left to breed to dangerous levels, contaminated water droplets if aerosolised can be inhaled into the lungs and cause serious illnesses such as legionnaires disease. This very real threat has the potential to make people extremely sick, suffering long term health problems and in some cases can be fatal.
- There are a number of health issues that can arise or be exacerbated as a result of prolonged
- exposure to air from dirty ductwork including - allergic reactions, coughing, sneezing, nausea, headaches and asthma.
Is Duct Cleaning A Legal Requirement?
The Health and Safety Commission states that building owners, operators and employers have a legal duty to ensure that their ventilation systems are clean and do not present a hazard to customers, employees or the public.
Section 6 of the Health & Safety Executive at Work (ACOP 1992) states the following:
- Effective and suitable provisions should be made in order to ensure that every enclosed workplace is sufficiently ventilated with an appropriate quantity of fresh or purified air.
- The air that is introduced should be (as much as is possible) free of any impurities which could be harmful or cause ill health.
- Ventilation systems must be checked, maintained and cleaned on a regular basis to make sure that those within the property are breathing in good quality air.
In the event of a legionella outbreak, illnesses or a fire that can be linked back to dirty ductwork, you will be expected to be able provide clear evidence that the systems have been maintained and cleaned. Failure to do so can invalidate your insurance, make you liable for compensation claims for those whose health has been affected not to mention the potential fines, penalties and in some cases even jail time that can happen if you are found to be negligent.
The Benefits Of A Clean Ventilation System
Fresh air in buildings is the key to safe, comfortable and efficient working conditions and in order for this to happen it is essential that the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) ductwork systems are kept clean.
All duct systems can become fouled over a period of time. The rate and severity of contamination can be attributed to a number of factors; however, it is possible to mitigate these issues through sensible hygiene maintenance and regular cleaning.
Often employers, building owners, landlords and facility managers consider things such as ductwork cleaning to be an ‘added and unnecessary expense’ or something that is out of sight and therefore out of mind, making them easy to forget about and neglect. Unfortunately, this can be a costly and potentially deadly mistake which can have severe consequences for all involved.
Professional ventilation duct cleaning can provide many benefits including;
Improved Air Quality – Removing the build-up of dust, dirt, mould, allergens, mildew, pollutants and contaminants can vastly improve the indoor air flow and air quality, creating a cleaner, purer inside space for all those who frequent the building.
A Healthier Environment – The build-up of allergens, dust, spores, viruses and impurities can affect the health of those within the property, especially anybody who is vulnerable, elderly, susceptible to allergies or has existing health issues such as asthma. Cleaning the ventilation ducts helps to greatly reduce the contaminants in the air making it a much safer, healthier place to live, visit or work.
Reduced Repairs – When a ventilation system becomes dirty and contaminated, it can make it harder to circulate and move the air through the ducts, putting extra stress on the system. This can affect the systems functionality and its ability to reach desired temperatures. Under these circumstances the increased wear and tear will likely lead to part failures that require more frequent repairs and replacements parts. Regular cleaning and maintenance will help to improve airflow, lessening the burden on the system and allowing it to function effectively without putting additional stress on vital components.
Reduces Risk of Fires – An important advantage of cleaning ventilation ducts is the reduced risk of fire that comes as a less direct but extremely beneficial side effect. The collection of dust in air vents leading to heat sources such as heating elements or furnaces can be a disaster waiting to happen with a mere spark being all that is needed to ignite the dust build up and cause a fire.
Fire dampers within ventilation systems can help to contain the damage but as with most things when it comes to health and safety, prevention is always better than cure.
Economic Benefits – For heating and air conditioning systems, removing the build-up of dirt, grime and contaminants can make a noticeable difference in the airflow which has a direct effect on the efficiency of the system, reducing the amount of electricity required and therefore lowering overall running costs.