Ventilation and COVID-19

From Monday 28 March, the University moved to Stage 0 of its Business Continuity Framework.  While restrictions are removed, there remains a risk of COVID-19 transmission and all members of the University are asked to take steps to reduce COVID-19 risks and be considerate towards others.  This includes: 

  • Letting fresh air in when indoors 
  • Respecting those who choose to wear a face covering 
  • Respecting other people’s space 
  • Keeping up to date with COVID vaccinations 

Extensive work has been carried out over the past two years to check spaces for mechanical or natural ventilation and ensure fresh air can be supplied into spaces.  As such, spaces that have mechanical ventilation or openable windows and vents can be used as they were designed, without restrictions on numbers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognises that if spaces are poorly ventilated, then adjustments can still be made.  Very few spaces have been identified within the University as poorly ventilated.  The HSE’s guidance on ventilation during the pandemic identified a poorly ventilated space as follows:

  • Spaces where there is no natural ventilation (open windows, doors, or vents) or mechanical ventilation (fans or ducts bringing air in from outside).  Noting there are very few spaces in the University where this occurs.
  • Spaces where mechanical ventilation system only recirculates air and has no outdoor air supply.  Noting the University has already adjusted its systems to maximise fresh air into spaces.
  • Areas that feel stuffy or smell bad.

If individuals are concerned about the ventilation in their work spaces, they should discuss this with their departmental safety officer or building/facility manager.  These individuals should be able to confirm the local ventilation arrangements and clarify if a space is poorly ventilated. 

If there is still uncertainty, then carbon dioxide monitors can be used to help assess the ventilation rate.  Carbon dioxide monitors must be of the NDIR type (e.g. Aranet4)  They have their limitations, but provided they are used appropriately, then they are an easy and useful way of assessing the ventilation in spaces.

If after completing the above you still have concerns over the ventilation in your space, then contact Estates Services [for mechanical ventilation enquiries] or your area or divisional safety officer [for natural ventilation enquiries].  They can assist with any specific assessment and provide further advice on making appropriate adjustments.  

Finally, the use of air cleaning or filtration units are unlikely to be needed in the University.  If they are considered necessary for poorly ventilated spaces, then departments are asked to speak to specialist suppliers, and their safety officers, who can advise on the type, size, location, use, and maintenance requirements before deciding to install.