Ventilation and Worker Safety During COVID-19
As COVID-19 vaccination rates rise, many U.S. workplaces have partially or fully reopened. To help keep on-site employees safe, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) says businesses should consider implementing COVID-19 prevention programs. One key measure both OSHA and the CDC recommend: enhanced ventilation.
Along with a “layered approach” that includes physical distancing, face masks, hand hygiene, and vaccines, the CDC states ventilation improvements can “reduce the concentration of viral particles in indoor air and the risk of virus transmission to unvaccinated workers in particular.” The CDC notes it’s best to implement these engineering controls with the support of experts or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. However, workplaces can use the following best practices to increase the overall effectiveness:
- Conduct regular inspections and maintenance procedures to ensure ventilation systems operate properly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and design specifications, and provide acceptable indoor air quality for current occupancy rates
- Check HVAC filters to determine whether they are up-to-date and appropriately installed
- Install air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, also known as MERV-13, or those of the highest compatible value
- Add portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems, particularly in spaces with high occupancy or limited ventilation
- Inspect and maintain local exhaust ventilation in areas, such as restrooms and kitchens, to ensure full capacity and functionality
- Open windows and doors to maximize natural ventilation and the amount of outdoor air supplied if weather permits
- Use fans to bring in additional outdoor air, with optimal placement to prevent contaminated air from flowing directly from one worker to another
- Disable demand-controlled ventilation or set the thermostat fan to “on” for continued airflow to occupied spaces
- Reduce or turn off recirculation
- Consider utilizing ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) to enhance air cleaning, especially if ventilation options are limited
OSHA and the CDC recommend workplaces conduct risk assessments prior to implementing any mitigation tools. If you need assistance developing a COVID-19 indoor air quality management plan, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.