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Government Guidance and Legislation on Clean Air

In August 2022, the United Nations General Assembly declared that everyone on the planet has a right to a healthy environment, including clean air, water and a stable climate.1 A new bill before the UK parliament—the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill—now sets to force the government to take action to bring air quality in every community up to World Health Organisation minimum standards.2

Government guidance on clean air

In the UK there are 28,000 to 36,000 deaths per year caused by air pollution. It is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK. Often when we think of air pollution, we think of it outside, yet most people spend 90% of their time indoors!

In-line with this, there has been a set of guidelines published by the government that gives recommendations to improve the quality of air we breathe, whilst also making improvements to reduce the spread of viruses within the workplace.

So what is the guidance in the UK right now?

What the law says: “Under regulation 6 of the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, employers must ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by enough fresh or purified air.

Bringing in fresh air to occupied spaces can help to reduce the concentration of respiratory particles, lowering the risk of airborne transmission of respiratory viruses.

Employers should continue to comply with the requirements for cleaning, ventilation, and welfare facilities in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 or the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 to control occupational health and safety risks.”

For business owners the right solution will be the one that protects employees but has the least impact on business operations.

To achieve this, there are a few straightforward steps that you should take to ensure your duty of care to your employees is being met. 

Solutions for clean air

BESA (Building Engineering Services Association) puts forward the following guidance:

“Indoor air quality – Understand and properly monitor indoor air quality (IAQ), in particular the potential effects on the workforce in enclosed environments.”

“What we don’t measure, we can’t manage” – Right? So that’s the important difference within this guidance; it is the addition of the concept of monitoring indoor air quality.

Much of government guidance focuses around carrying out actions to improve air quality, but not recording the ‘before’ or more importantly ‘after’ doing so. This means that you have no idea about the success of the actions.

By monitoring the quality of the indoor air, you can see what improvements should be made and the effectiveness of enhanced ventilation when applied. Envelo believes that this is a far better philosophy to adopt. Integrating monitoring and measuring into a company’s health and safety process gives you an understanding of progress and going forward the ability to demonstrate adherence to the guidelines. 

What if there is no mechanical ventilation system in your workplace?

For many workplaces this is a reality due to the age and the type of building that is being used. There are some key steps that can be taken to ensure that your team is in the safest working environment possible.

The best practice in this scenario is to understand what natural ventilation is possible within the workspace and then ensure this is best used to keep the air quality as high as possible. To understand the quality of air in your workplace and its impact on your employees, air monitoring should be installed. This can be done at minimal cost.

What is the best advice to take away from the current guidance? 

There are a couple of key areas in which all the various governmental guidance does align, and that is in the area of enhanced ventilation. Firstly, make sure there is plenty of fresh, clean air brought into the workplace at the rights times. Secondly, what you don’t want to do is increase your energy costs, (any more than you need to).

Using Envelo’s intelligent platform ventilation can be automatically increased as required and decreased when it’s not; thus, saving energy costs and consumption.

It is also worth investigating any spaces within the workplace that are still not ventilated and see if there is either a way to use the space differently or bring in additional ventilation. These are the good takeaways from the advice outlined currently.

What for the future though?

The biggest advancements are in the field of remote monitoring and understanding how good the air quality is within your workspace. There is a plethora of technology that enables exactly this, but they vary in quality and sometimes only work as stand-alone systems potentially creating additional problems.

At present, the guidelines are not mandatory, but it is likely they could well become a requirement. In this scenario you would likely need to provide evidence that the requirements are being followed. Envelo can combine all the data from multiple devices into a single platform, so that you can produce reports and gain insights on how healthy your spaces are; massively simplifying the task of management.

What else you can do to help protect your team?

Practical steps that can be taken include:

The installation of modern monitoring devices and a platform to help you and your team effectively manage the risk. Such devices and platforms should also give you the understanding of how your teams behaviour may be impacting the overall workspace air quality levels.

By integrating this type of system as early as possible, your team will be best protected against the spread of viruses and illness. This would also put you ahead of the likelihood of the need to record how you are managing the air quality risk within the workplace as a matter of health and safety in the future.

There are some major positives to undertaking this kind of philosophy to clean, safe air in the office. Many studies have shown that good air quality promotes increased productivity of between 30-40%, better wellness within your team, and fewer sick days.

Not only will you benefit from a health and wellbeing perspective, but many of Envelo’s customers are seeing a minimum 20% reduction in energy costs.

All the above benefits are translated into your bottom line.

Once you factor in the benefits of what clean, safe air brings to the workplace, including improving the health and well-being of your team, suddenly the government guidance looks less of a burden and a good way to generate a significant return on investment.

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