Air Quality/Ventilation

Last reviewed on 22/11/2012 15:01

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Air quality at work

Without air, we cannot live. If the air we breathe is stale or contains too much carbon dioxide, it can result in problems such as headaches and nausea.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that every enclosed workplace (such as an office) is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air. These workplaces should be sufficiently well-ventilated so that stale air and air which is hot or humid because of the processes or equipment in the workplace is replaced at a reasonable rate with fresh, unpolluted air.

Fresh intake of air

Air taken from the outside is normally considered to be ‘fresh’, but air inlets for ventilation systems should not be sited where they may draw in excessively contaminated air (for example, close to an exhaust ventilation system outlet, or an area in which vehicles are manoeuvring).

Where necessary, the inlet air should be filtered to remove any contaminants. In many cases, windows or other openings will provide enough ventilation for part - or indeed all - of the workplace. Where this isn't possible, mechanical ventilation systems should be provided for those areas of the workplace that need it.

Draughts at work

Employees should be protected from uncomfortable draughts. In the case of mechanical ventilation systems, it may be necessary to control the direction or the speed of the airflow. Desks and working areas should be moved or, if that is not possible, screened to protect workers.

With mechanical ventilation systems that re-circulate air (including air-conditioning systems), the re-circulated air should be adequately filtered to remove impurities.

It is important that the filters are changed regularly, to prevent a build-up of bacteria. Airborne viruses, such as upper respiratory tract infections can be passed on through these systems if the air is purified and recycled. This 'purified' air should be mixed with fresh air, to avoid it becoming unhealthy (think about the air in an aeroplane, or in a 'sick building').

Mechanical ventilation systems (including air-conditioning systems) should also be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are clean and free from anything that may contaminate the air.

In addition to mechanical ventilation systems, portable air purifiers can be used for specific areas. These can be adjusted to suit individual requirements.

 

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