There is increasing public awareness about the effects of over exposure to poorly maintained working environments. In today’s society working practices have typically become more sedentary. Employees often spend long periods of time working at a single location or work station. Working patterns may be long and tedious. It is therefore important for staff to feel comfortable at their place of work. Failure to provide pleasant surroundings may result in hugely expensive staff turnover and absentee problems.
To enable us to work efficiently we require satisfactory levels of thermal comfort, lighting and noise control. We need pleasant and clean surroundings, adequate levels of relative humidity and sufficient quantities of fresh or purified air. In the course of time, poorly maintained working environments will have far reaching consequences.
HEALTH RISKS: Allergies - Ranging from allergic rhinitis to occupational asthma. Infection - Ranging from the common cold to Legionnaires’ disease.
FIRE RISK: The presence of combustible materials and the potential of sources of ignition. Kitchen fires and subsequent transmission through extract ductwork have been well publicised in recent years. The Association of British Insurers have publicised figures demonstrating the increase in recent claims and emphasized that losses may not be recovered if building owners and managers don't have a satisfactory cleaning regime and evidence the system has been fully cleaned.
DETERIORATION: Corrosion of the air handling system. Dust particles on sensitive equipment, computers etc. Dirt staining on furnishings and decor.
INCREASED COSTS: Reduced air-flow/increased energy consumption; reduced plant life; system components may become clogged up and rendered inoperable; high staff turnover and absenteeism.
Mechanical ventilation systems typically form a significant proportion of the building fabric and interior surface area. The associated ductwork is typically hidden and therefore not inspected or maintained!
In fully air-conditioned premises the occupants breathe ‘fresh’ air which has been distributed almost entirely via the ducted ventilation system. For energy conservation reasons a proportion of this air will have been recirculated many times.
It is not uncommon therefore, particularly on poorly maintained systems, to find significant contamination. This may include dusts, moisture, insects, vermin, pest droppings and building materials left behind following construction. Without control measures there are potential health risks to occupants and additional costs to building owners and managers. Health & Safety
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations and Health & Safety at Work Regulations require an employer to make a formal assessment of health risks from deleterious substances. These include dusts present in the air.
In addition, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) regulations state that new and existing ‘mechanical ventilation systems (including air conditioning systems) should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air’