Workplace Report (May 2021)

Health & safety - HSE Monitor

Spot checks underline ventilation urgency

Health unions are pushing NHS trusts and boards to do more to tackle poor ventilation after HSE Covid spot check inspections across 17 acute hospital trusts and boards in England, Scotland and Wales found serious problems, and made recommendations for priority action.

“Long before Covid our health and safety reps were raising concerns about poor ventilation,” said Society of Radiographers’ national health and safety officer Ian Cloke. “In old buildings this can be a real problem, but it’s also happening in so-called hi-tech newer hospitals where many screening services are being provided in cramped, airless, windowless rooms.”

The union is encouraging health and safety reps to raise the HSE report of the inspections at trust and board-wide staff consultation level. The report highlights examples of good practice. For example, a maxillofacial department engaged a competent ventilation contractor to assess air changes in each treatment room and implemented a system to ensure the rooms with the greatest number of air changes were used for aerosol-generating procedures.

It also highlighted examples requiring improvement. For example, a risk assessment did not consider ventilation, and a room without windows or other means of ventilation was repurposed as a rest facility.

“One of the positives from Covid-19 has to be good ventilation being given the priority it deserves,” Cloke added. “After the HSE report there should be no excuse or hiding place for employers who refuse to address the problem.”

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