Ventilation in the workplace, non-domestic settings and in vehicles

Ventilation should be considered as part of making your workplace or indoor public space COVID-secure.

It is important to identify and deal with areas that are not well ventilated. The more people occupying an area that is poorly ventilated, and the longer they remain in it, the greater the risk of spread of COVID-19.

Control measures such as avoiding certain activities or gatherings, restricting or reducing the duration of activities, providing ventilation breaks during or between room usage should be considered alongside ventilation for reducing the risk of airborne transmission.

Any actions to improve ventilation should not compromise other aspects of safety and security (for example, avoid propping open fire doors), and should consider other consequences such as health and wellbeing impacts from thermal discomfort.

Employers should provide employees with clear guidance on ventilation, why it is important, and instruction on how to achieve and maintain good natural ventilation or to operate systems if there are user controls.

The Health and Safety Executive provides advice on Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Make sure mechanical ventilation systems are maintained in line with manufacturers’ instructions. Set ventilation systems to using a fresh air supply and not recirculating indoor air, where possible. Assessing the requirement and performance of ventilation systems in many environments requires engineering expertise. In addition, ventilation design may be specific to the setting.

For some existing and older buildings, ventilation systems may not have been designed to meet current standards and additional mitigations may be needed. If you are unsure, seek the advice of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineer or adviser.

Detailed ventilation guidance for workplaces and public buildings during the pandemic is provided by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

Ventilation in vehicles

Like buildings, enclosed vehicles including cars, vans, and buses can also be high-risk for spreading COVID-19. It is important that vehicles are well ventilated to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Make sure you understand and abide by the current rules and restrictions and follow guidance on safer travel for passengers if you need to travel.

When operating or travelling in vehicles:

  • switch ventilation systems on while people are in the vehicle. Make sure you set to drawing fresh air in, not recirculating air
  • to improve ventilation, windows can also be opened (partially if it’s cold). Heating can be left on to keep the vehicle warm
  • for vehicles that carry different passengers, such as taxis, clear the air between different passengers or at the journey end so the vehicle is aired before anyone else gets in
  • opening doors where it is safe to do so will help to change the air quickly. Opening windows fully can also help to clear the air in the vehicle

The Health and Safety Executive also has advice on social distancing in vehicles during the pandemic.

This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide.