Indoor Air Quality
As workforces begin reopening their doors to employees, capacities at offices begin increasing closer to pre-pandemic levels and guests and visitors are once again allowed back to office spaces, having a reopening plan is essential to preventing outbreaks in the office environment. A great question to ask yourself, being an employer is what steps have you done to improve the indoor air quality in the office. Considering viruses including SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is transmitted and lives through the air, air quality has never been more important and should not be an afterthought.
Vaccination requirements and masking remain the first line of defense against Covid-19, ventilation improvements in schools and workplaces are essential to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Prior to the pandemic, indoor air quality has been a clear obstacle offices and facilities have been challenged with. A Harvard study conducted upon over 3,000 workers proved that sick leave increased by 53 percent among employees which were working in poorly ventilated areas.
With the average work day being approximately 8 hours, the more time which we are spending indoors with others, the more likely we are going to breath germs and viruses transmitted from one another. With the coronavirus being airborne, the infectious droplets of the viruses can linger into the air and build up in poorly ventilated spaces such as conference rooms. An example of this case would be Early in the pandemic when a coronavirus outbreak on the 11th floor of an office building in South Korea demonstrated how one infectious person can increase the risk for everyone in an office space. Out of 216 people on the floor of the office, 94 were infected.
Many buildings being occupied by offices may already have great ventilation, HVAC systems can actually filter our 99.97% of airborne particles including; dust, hair, pollen, bacteria, etc. While filtering out airborne particles is great, it is simply just not enough. Airborne pathogens including; Influenza, Meningitidis, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Coronavirus Disease, etc. Airborne pathogens are simply too small for HVAC systems and normal HEPA filters to capture, the size of airborne pathogens are under 0.03 microns.
Portable Air Disinfection
Portable air disinfection units are one way to filter out virus particles in the air. HEPA filtration units can be placed anywhere around the office, based on air flow, high risk level, or occupancy (Boardrooms, common areas, lobbies, etc.). In larger rooms, multiple HEPA units can be used to cover the whole area. Implementing portable air disinfection units can compensate for poorly ventilated areas within offices or can be added to work in unison with current HVAC systems in place. In some cases and areas portable air disinfection units can actually effectively double the ventilation rate for offices. A study in a Melbourne hospital recently showed that adding two portable air cleaners to a patient’s room eliminated 99 percent of aerosols in minutes, reportedly raising the protection level equal to about 30 air changes per hour.