Proper Ventilation in the Workplace – Why it’s Important

Proper ventilation in the workplace is covered under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. These laws say that workplaces need to be well ventilated in the proper manner. That means clean air is drawn from a source outside of the workplace and circulated throughout the building. The ventilation system should dilute and remove humid air. It should also provide sufficient air movement to give a feeling of freshness without causing a draught.

What Else Do the Regulations Cover?

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

Correct Workplace Temperatures

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. Some will feel hotter or colder than others when working in exactly the same building. But the guidelines are that workplaces should be kept at a temperature of at least 16C (61F) where most of the work is sedentary. Temperature should be at least 13C (55F), where the work involves more of a physical exertion. There are, however, exceptions to this. Our guide on the law gives more information on maximum and minimum temperatures in the workplace.

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, a company must carry out a full risk assessment taking both personal and environmental factors into account.

Personal Factors

These 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

These could include the ambient temperature and radiant heat. If the work is outdoors, things like direct sunlight, wind and rain and snow will also need to be considered and appropriate provisions put in place.

Situations where factors will need to be considered can include:-

  • Working in cold storage centres.
  • Food preparation e.g. kitchens & bakeries.
  • Foundries.
  • Launderettes.

Adequate steps should be taken to eliminate or minimise 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. An employee should also be given rest breaks or time away from working directly in the exposed environment. The minimum breaks employees are entitled to on shifts is relatively low. However it can improve productivity if they’re allowed time away from a hot or cold work environment.

Suitable protective clothing and changing room facilities will need to be in place. Employees should also receive training, acclimatisation and medical checks to ensure they are fit enough to work in extreme conditions.

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