The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just released new guidance on providing good ventilation in the workplace.
Studies have shown that sufficient fresh air is associated with:
- improved health
- better concentration
- higher levels of satisfaction with an environment
- lower rates of absence from work
- better quality of sleep
- reduced exposure to a wide range of air pollutants
That’s the science but it’s also the law.
Under regulation 6 of the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, employers must “ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air”.
Ventilation is the process of bringing in fresh air from outside and removing indoor air, which may:
- be stale
- be hot and humid because of work machinery and processes
- contain pollutants and other impurities
Improving the air
Now you know that making an improvement is good for everyone the first thing to do is
As part of your legal duty to provide sufficient fresh air, your workplace risk assessment should identify poorly ventilated work areas:
- look for areas where there is no natural ventilation (open windows, doors, or vents) or mechanical ventilation (fans or ducts bringing air in from outside)
- identify areas that feel stuffy or smell bad
- consider using a CO2 monitor to identify poor ventilation
It may help to list areas in your workplace or use floor plans to record how areas are ventilated.
Remember to include changing rooms and areas used for breaks, such as canteens.
Talk with your team
Talking will help you assess the risk and put in effective measures to improve ventilation.
Questions to ask
- How do we bring fresh air (ventilation) into our workplace?
- Think about natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents you can open fully or partially
- If we use mechanical ventilation, is it set correctly and do we maintain it?
- How can we improve ventilation?
- Think about areas that feel stuffy or smell bad – open windows, air vents and doors (not fire doors)
- If we have recirculating systems, do we bring in some fresh air?
- Are temperatures in the workplace comfortable?
Discussing the outcome of your risk assessment and the measures identified will also help them understand how they can play their part in improving ventilation at work.
It’s Chilly in here!
Don’t forget team members should not be exposed to uncomfortable draughts. For mechanical ventilation systems, it may be necessary to control the direction or speed of airflow.
Workstations should be moved or screened if necessary.
If your space is naturally ventilated, there are simple steps you can take to make sure your workplace has enough fresh air without opening windows wide and making it too cold:
- partially opening windows and doors can still provide adequate ventilation
- opening higher-level windows will create fewer draughts
- using trickle vents rather than opening windows
Regularly air rooms that rely on natural ventilation, by opening windows and doors in between use.
For more information on using CO2 monitors and calculating ventilation levels go to https://www.hse.gov.uk/ventilation/assessing-the-risk-of-poor-ventilation.htm