Aug 4th, 2021
10 mins

Information from the HSE provides examples of practical steps to achieve adequate ventilation in workplaces and reduce the risk of transmitting Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Advice is also available for the following settings:

  • Portacabin with air conditioning
  • Meeting rooms with carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors
  • Canteen with mechanical ventilation system

A factory canteen has a mechanical ventilation system. It meets current building standard ventilation requirements. The business has grown in recent years and the canteen is now too small for the number of people using it at the same time. This means there are long queues at the food counter and every seat is full. When the canteen is crowded, workers are very close to each other. This increases the coronavirus droplet
transmission risk which good ventilation will not prevent.
Changes to achieve adequate ventilation 
The business has reduced occupancy of the canteen by staggering lunch breaks. This means that the canteen is not too crowded when workers are waiting to be served at the food counter or while seated at a table. The existing ventilation system is suitable for the space and minimises the COVID-19 transmission risk

  • Changing room with poor ventilation

A changing room in a production facility has no windows that open and no mechanical ventilation. Workers reported to management that the room felt stuffy. Different staff use the changing room frequently, especially at the beginning and end of shifts.
Changes to achieve adequate ventilation
The manager found that the room did feel stuffy, indicating that the ventilation was not good enough. They needed to get fresh air into the room. The trickle vents at the top of each window were closed. Opening them all would let some fresh air into the room, but additional arrangements needed to be put in place. The business has found an alternative space for staff to change. They now use another larger room with windows that open. Workers are instructed to open the windows wide between uses to let fresh air into the room.

  • Production space with extraction fans

A large production hall with a high ceiling has extraction fans mounted in the roof. A large roller door at the front of the space is frequently open for deliveries. Occupancy is not very high but most people work in one small area of the hall where they inspect finished products on a conveyor belt.

Changes to achieve adequate ventilation
Overall ventilation in the production hall is sufficient. However, the ventilation doesn’t mitigate the aerosol transmission risk in the area where the worker occupancy is high The business has redesigned the workspace so that workstations are spread out across the production
hall and the aerosol transmission risk is reduced. The business has not had to make any changes to ventilation in the main production hall

  • Office with mechanical ventilation

A large office space has a mechanical ventilation system that provides heating and cooling. It’s set on 80:20 recirculating to fresh air intake. The business doesn’t know how to alter the settings to allow for more fresh air or if the system is already delivering a suitable amount of fresh air to the office workers.
Changes to achieve adequate ventilation
The business needed a competent ventilation engineer to help them A ventilation engineer checked the system performance and found it had deteriorated as the business hadn’t maintained it for a while The engineer has done some remedial work and checked the system now meets ventilation requirements in current building standards
This means the business can meet ventilation needs and can operate the mechanical ventilation system on 100 per cent fresh air intake

  • Office complex with air conditioning

A large office complex has air-conditioned meeting rooms. The facilities manager has found out that the air conditioning units do not draw in fresh air. Instead, they recirculate air within the rooms to provide thermal comfort.
There is a high risk of airborne coronavirus transmission for people using the meeting rooms.
Changes to achieve adequate ventilation
The business provides some ventilation in the short term by opening windows As all the windows have security stoppers to restrict opening, the business now supplements the natural ventilation by using portable air cleaning units to filter the air There are now four portable units to service the volume of air in the main office space and additional units for each meeting room. In the longer term, the business is considering mechanical ventilation for the office area when everyone returns to work in the premises The business has considered increasing natural ventilation but rejected this as the meeting rooms are next to a noisy main road. Noise from the traffic would mean staff would close the windows. This means opening the windows isn’t a suitable long-term solution.

  • Packing room with mechanical ventilation

A chilled packing room in a food production facility maintains low room temperature by operating the mechanical
ventilation system on full recirculation mode. This means there is poor ventilation and a high risk of airborne coronavirus transmission for workers in the chilled packing area.
Changes to achieve adequate ventilation
As a short-term measure, the system has been operated at its maximum fresh air intake. The company’s ventilation engineer informed them that the system was only capable of providing a maximum of 15 per cent fresh air intake. This has not met the minimum recommended fresh air per person working in the chilled room. The ventilation engineer has now confirmed the system design can accommodate HEPA filters without impairing the airflow. These clean the air in the room by filtering out virus particles from the air which passes through the filter.

For each example, advice is set out on the changes needed to achieve adequate ventilation.

The document can be found here.

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