The importance of ventilation hygiene for air quality

The quality of the air that we breathe is incredibly important for a variety of aspects of our health. Whilst the air quality outside is subject to things such as pollution, we usually expect that our indoor air quality will automatically be cleaner and better for us, but this is not actually the case.

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There are many things inside homes, offices, workplaces and schools that can affect our indoor air quality and one of the biggest things that can contribute to this is the hygiene of our ventilation. In this article, we take a look at what ventilation hygiene means, how it can be maintained and what difference it makes to our indoor air quality.
The benefits of good ventilation

Ventilation is important because we tend to spend the majority of our time indoors. Therefore, this is the place that most of the air that we breathe comes from and so if the ventilation standards are not high then we can be breathing in poor quality air that can affect our health.

Ventilation does not just refer to the air that we breathe, but also what is in that air. Even indoor air can contain huge amounts of pollutants, bacteria, moisture and unpleasant odour, especially if there are a lot of people all in one space. A good ventilation can filter much of this out, controlling impurities and ensuring that the air that circulates is cleaner.

Take a look at the window that is nearest to you. Does it have condensation on it? If it does, then it can not only cause damage to the surfaces around it in the form of mould and rot, but it can also be hazardous to your health. This is because a damp atmosphere can trigger allergic reactions and respiratory problems, and so good ventilation is needed to help clear this from the air.

It is impossible not to notice that when someone comes to work or school with a cough or cold, it very quickly spreads around everybody else. There can be a number of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is due to the fact that bacteria and viruses are carried in the air. That means that as soon as one person coughs or sneezes, they are capable of spreading their germs to everyone around them without even realising it.

A good ventilation system can catch many of these viruses in its filter and prevent them from being breathed in by others, stopping them in their tracks and benefitting everybody else’s health.
What is ventilation hygiene?

It is easy to see that ventilation can play a huge part in maintaining the air quality of an indoor space, but a ventilation system is only as good as its own hygiene. This means taking good care of your ventilation system to ensure that it is clean and in good working order so that it is able to do its job properly. By failing to clean and maintain a ventilation system, you are potentially risking the health of your employees, as well as compromising on your energy efficiency and increasing your costs.

It is not just good practice to ensure that your ventilation system is taken care of, it is also part of the law. The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Approved Code of Practice and Guidance explains that there is a duty to clean ventilation systems and ensure that they are subject to regular maintenance, as does ACOP 52.

This process also ensures that you are compliant with Section 17 of the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order, and many insurers will also require cleaning and maintenance to be carried out in accordance with B&ES TR/19 guidance. The British Standard BS EN 15780 can help to define what is required in terms of cleanliness.

The importance of ventilation hygiene
Ensuring that your ventilation hygiene is up to scratch does not just mean that you are abiding by health and safety laws, it also means that you are maintaining high levels of indoor air quality. By regularly inspecting and maintaining your ventilation system, it is much quicker and easier to identify any problems and rectify them before the indoor air quality suffers too greatly. It will also give you a good indication of how often this needs to be done so that you can put a regular maintenance schedule together.

Your ventilation system is likely to encounter a number of different types of contaminants. There are particulates, which are solids like dust, dander, soot, pollen and smoke particles that float in the air, as well as microbes such as bacteria, fungus, viruses, spores and mould. In addition to this, there are likely to be a number of gases that are not only released by things such as cleaning chemicals, but also ones that come from furniture, carpets and insulation.

All of these get caught in the filter to ensure that the air remains clean but these need to be removed in order for the filter to continue to work properly. If this does not happen, then blockages and obstructions can occur, pollutants can build up there and the health of the occupants becomes compromised.

It is also important to check for any damage as part of your hygiene inspections. Any parts which are broken or not working properly will affect how effective the ventilation system is and could lead to a distinct drop in air quality.
It is also important to remember that any damage or blockages can also present a very real fire risk.

When a ventilation system isn’t working, many people resort to opening a window, thinking that fresh air will help, but outdoor air is often less than fresh and can let in a whole new world of pollutants for you to breathe in.
Maintaining the hygiene levels of your ventilation system is crucial when it comes to ensuring that you have high standards of indoor air quality. This can protect the health of everyone in the building and ensure it is a cleaner and better place to be.

Ian Gregory is the Managing Director of IAQ Services and has over 25 years of experience in the industry at all levels, from Site Supervisor to Operations Director and trainer, running the BESA Academy and City & Guild accredited Fire Damper Testing and Ventilation Hygiene training courses.


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