Ventilation in the Workplace

Ventilation in the workplace is covered under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which states that workplaces need to be adequately ventilated in the proper manner by which clean air is drawn from an external source outside of the workplace and circulated throughout the building. Whether by natural or mechanical means, it should dilute and remove humid air and provide sufficient air movement to give a feeling of freshness without causing a draught.

What Else Do the Regulations Cover?

As well as providing sufficient fresh air to breathe, the regulations also require that a workplace can successfully remove excess heat or, in some cases where it’s air conditioned, provide heat if necessary. A company must also ensure that any odours from food or any excess contaminants such as dust and fumes are properly removed. In some cases like a small office, for example, doors and windows may well be sufficient to comply with the regulations but in larger premises such as an industrial factory, mechanical ventilation will usually be required.

Providing the Correct Temperature

In addition to proper ventilation, companies also need to ensure that their workplaces are maintained at an appropriate temperature. Of course, when it comes to temperature, it can provoke a very mixed reaction from staff as some will feel hotter or colder than others when working in exactly the same building but the general guidelines are that workplaces should be kept at a temperature of at least 16C (61F) where most of the work is sedentary and at least 13C (55F), where the work involves more of a physical exertion. There are, however, exceptions to this.

Working in Hot or Cold Environments

There are many jobs in which you’ll be required to work in temperatures either above or below those recommended above. To comply with health and safety regulations however, a company must carry out a full risk assessment taking both personal and environmental factors into account.

Personal factors might include the physical extent of the job, the type of clothing worn and the length of continuous exposure to a given environment. Environmental factors could include the ambient temperature, radiant heat and, if the work is performed outdoors, things like direct sunlight, wind and possibly rain and snow will also need to be considered and appropriate provisions put in place.

Situations where these kinds of factors will need to be considered can include working in cold storage centres, food preparation e.g. kitchens, bakeries, foundries, launderettes etc. and adequate provisions will need to be put in place to eliminate or minimise the effects of working in extreme cold or heat.

This might include installing cooling systems, fans, heaters in fork lift trucks in cold stores, for example, and even an employee will be entitled to an adequate number of rest breaks and/or time away from working directly in the exposed environment. Suitable clothing and changing of clothing provisions will need to be in place and employees should also receive training, acclimatisation and medical checks to ensure they are fit enough to work in such extreme conditions and to be able to benefit from ongoing medical screenings.

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