Workplace Report October 2021

Health & safety - HSE Monitor

HSE: good ventilation needed to keep workplaces safe

“Covid-19 isn’t going away and complacency isn’t an option,” said Health and Safety Executive (HSE) head of Covid sector policy Dr Alexander Tsavalos. The safety watchdog reminded employers of the legal requirement to provide an adequate supply of fresh air in enclosed areas and highlighted its updated guidance on ventilation as more people returned to their workplaces last month.

This sets out advice on identifying poorly ventilated areas, the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors, how to improve natural and mechanical ventilation, balancing ventilation with keeping warm, and ventilation in vehicles.

“Ventilation helps reduce how much virus is in the air,” Tsavalos added. “It helps reduce the risk from aerosol transmission, when someone breathes in small particles (aerosols) in the air after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.”

Employers should consider good ventilation alongside other control measures needed to reduce risks of transmission as part of working safely, including updating risk assessments, keeping workplaces clean, and frequent handwashing. Workplace risk assessments must look at how the premises are ventilated and how fresh air is brought into the building, the HSE made clear.

Unions and safety campaigners have long called for more attention to be paid to aerosol transmission of the virus and the crucial role of ventilation in keeping workplaces safe.