If there is little doubt that air quality has been undervalued in the wellness debate, then Covid-19 has provided the ultimate wake-up call. Whilst our understanding of the virus will continue to deepen, some key aspects have been confirmed – including its ability to remain airborne for longer periods and greater distances than originally thought. All of which means that there is an onus on employers to ensure they are providing fresh, well-filtered air as their staff begin to spend more time in the office.
Compared to lighting and temperature control, it’s not hard to see why air quality has rarely received its fair share of attention. But that is beginning to change – and not before time either. As Professor Cath Noakes at the University of Leeds recently remarked: “Air quality is invisible to us so we ignore it, yet it affects us day in day out, carrying respiratory diseases which affect the probability of you getting infections.” (1)
The wider realisation of this fact means that there is going to be a greater focus on improving ventilation and reducing the existence of pathogens – the organisms that cause diseases. Many nations already have safety at work laws that include air quality, as well as detailed codes of practice for employers. But with Covid-19 and related research adding to our knowledge of airborne threats, the smart money is on there being tougher regulations soon.
So for those employers wishing to stay one step ahead, now is the time to find out if your air filtration and management systems are truly fit for the future.
‘Evaluate your air quality’
A good first step is to hire a specialist company to evaluate your air quality and make recommendations about improvements. This is now a very busy sector with lots of established companies, although it’s best to avoid using a third-party with connections to specific brands or products. Among other aspects, they will be able to help ensure that you are bringing as much fresh air into the building as possible, and that you are optimising your use of mechanical and natural ventilation. Opting for a comprehensive Indoor Air Quality Assessment could also prove to be valuable in the future if – as is rumoured – many countries look to introduce ‘ventilation certification’ schemes.
But there is also much that can be done on a technology level. For example, as well as ensuring that your mechanical ventilation systems are fully capable, it’s important to have a resource for ongoing monitoring. This ensures that any issues with or changes to air quality can be quickly detected and resolved. It’s also a responsibility for which a modern integrated building management system such as that made by Priva – which allows the creation of a healthy indoor climate with the best possible air quality and thermal comfort – can be ideal.
Whilst the issue of air quality is to the fore right now, the reality is that we are only at the start of a long journey. Big changes are on the way, while the importance of air quality to existing employees – and potential new ones – is certain to soar. So let this serve as a wake-up call for employers to be doing everything they can to ensure that the air in their workplaces is truly fit to breathe.