The coronavirus, responsible for the pandemic which has affected most of the world in the last few weeks, is a manageable threat if the appropriate preventative measures are implemented.
The World Health Organisation has already published a document presenting its guidelines on how to protect employees’ health in the workplace.
In view of the fact that many company premises have ventilation systems to ensure regular air circulation in buildings, the AiCARR (Italian Association of Air Conditioning, Heating and Cooling) has decided to offer some additional advice, to complement that of the WHO, in order to minimise the risks. At this link you can find the document, of which we will make a brief summary: https://www.aicarr.org/Documents/News/200313_AICARR_SARSCOV2_19.pdf
A brief overview of the coronavirus
Before looking at the measures for protecting workplaces recommended by AiCARR, it is important to consider a brief overview of Covid-19 and its transmission routes. As we already know from the news, Sars-CoV2-19 (the virus’ full name) is an aggressive coronavirus variant.
The dangerous nature of this virus is determined not by the mortality rate (the number of fatalities in relation to the number of infections), but by its rapidity of transmission. It is a highly contagious virus, with an incubation period of between approximately 2 and 14 days.
Its principal means of transmission is via the respiratory secretions (such as breathing, sneezing, coughing) of an infected person, which provide a vehicle for the virus to travel through the air and infect others. It can also be transmitted via direct contact with a contaminated surface.
In light of this, it is clear that it is now imperative for companies to adopt all necessary protective measures to safeguard employees at work. Ventilation systems play a crucial role in this, because they are able to purify the air, thereby reducing the potential spread of Covid-19.
AiCARR’s prevention recommendations
According to AiCARR, the correct management of ventilation and air-conditioning systems in buildings can make a real difference to the prevention of infection. The first recommendation involves the occupation of rooms and other areas. The association suggests raising permitted levels from one person every 7 square metres to one person every 25 square metres.
Another useful tip is to constantly and regularly air the rooms, especially those without a mechanical ventilation system. This allows any contaminated particles to be dispersed externally, reducing the chances of infection (thanks also to the unfavourable environmental external conditions which limit the virus’ survival).
If the building is equipped with ventilation systems for air renewal, AiCARR suggests keeping them on as long as possible (even, where permitted, continuously, for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). This enables the particles to disperse and avoids them being deposited on surfaces.
Filtration of the air is another very important point in the fight against coronavirus. Adopting high efficiency filters reduces the presence of the particulate, but also of bioaerosols (airborne suspensions of infected particles). Preventing the supply air from mixing with the extracted or expelled air can also help in the purification process. According to the WHO’s guidelines, at the current time, one-off deep cleaning of ventilation systems is not necessary. It should still be emphasised however, that, if a company decides to take such measures, it is advisable to contact specialists trained in the use of all appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
By following these simple rules, every company can protect its workers from the risk of Covid-19 contagion.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith