UK workers have voiced their concerns about the indoor air quality of their workplaces as evidence builds around airborne coronavirus transmission.
A recent survey conducted by facilities management company Rentokil Initial revealed 68 per cent of people believe employers should do more to ensure clean air is being provided, while 62 per cent believe air purification systems should be mandatory in public buildings and education facilities.
Compared to results from the same survey conducted in November 2020, people in the UK are becoming increasingly worried about the risks of airborne coronavirus transmission.
In 2020 the World Health Organisation updated its guidance to say coronavirus could be transmitted through aerosols in the air, a development that appears to be affecting public attitudes in the UK.
Half the country’s population still consider contact with other people the most concerning route of transmission, but 30 per cent of participants said they will not go back to work unless their employer assures them of the indoor air quality. This is a 19 per cent increase from last year’s survey.
Rentokil Initial’s UK technical and innovation manager Jamie Woodhall says preventing the airborne spread of coronavirus is an important challenge, alongside the current vaccine rollout.
“The scientific evidence continues to build and it is very clear how important good ventilation and air purification is within indoor spaces. When it comes to easing of lockdown measures, the expectation from the public is that businesses and employers need to do their bit in helping to ensure that they are providing clean air, so that the risk of catching an airborne virus indoors is reduced.”
In a separate survey conducted by technology firm Infogrid, 61 per cent of participants said improved air quality to reduce the spread of COVID-19 would make them feel safer when returning to work.
CEO of Infogrid William Cowell says the research clearly reveals UK workers have serious reservations about returning to the workplace.
“Organisations need to take action now to prepare the workplace. Not only to make their employees feel safe but to safeguard their ongoing welfare. Employees are now more conscious than ever of how their workplace impacts their wellbeing.”
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), assessing ventilation requirements is an important part of the COVID-19 workplace risk assessment that must be carried out before workplace operations can resume.
The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has been receiving a high number of enquiries from universities and office-based businesses regarding safe ventilation. CIBSE’s COVID-19 Ventilation Guidance has also been downloaded 70,000 times.
The British Council for Offices published the research report Thoughts on ventilation design and operation post COVID-19, which emphasises the importance of ensuring proper ventilation.
Lead author of the report and Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading Derek Clements-Croome says ensuring a high standard of indoor air quality is one of the most important things that can be done to fight COVID-19 but too many UK offices have inadequate ventilation. He suggests the UK government follow Germany’s lead in providing finance to upgrade ventilation systems in buildings.
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