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The facts of office ventilation 25/01/2015

Office ventilation need not be a tricky business. While it’s the company’s responsibility to provide a reasonably comfortable working environment, it should not take enormous expense to make this possible. In fact, the government has published guidelines for workplace ventilation that all companies need to abide by, but they’re not enormously strenuous, and generally leave it to the individual organisation to find a solution to suit.

According to the Health and Safety Executive guidelines, all workplaces need to supply adequate fresh air for their employees and visitors. However, the onus is on the company to decide how this is achieved. In many cases, this can be from natural ventilation, such and through doors and windows and the provision of a fan to allow a flow of fresh air.

However, in many cases , particularly if there are likely to be many people present (for example, in a shop where numbers may fluctuate greatly), natural ventilation will normally be enough to provide a steady stream of fresh air, nor would it be sufficient to control dusts and vapours from cleaning materials and the like. This being the case, guidelines suggest  planned, powered general ventilation as an integral part of a set of control measures. This would normally mean an HVAC air conditioning system. 

The HSE guidelines refer to these systems as “Local exhaust ventilation” or LEV and defines it, rather wordily as “an engineering control solution to reduce exposures to dust, mist, fume, vapour or gas in a workplace”. Essentially, LEV systems exist to draw dust or fumes through a hood and away from the worker, while this is less likely to be used in an office space, the principle remains the same. The system should be easy for staff to use, and should capture harmful particles and contain them rather than releasing them back into the working environment.

Essentially, whatever the working environment, whether it be office, shop, or factory, it is the duty of the employer to ensure that workers, customers and visitors are not exposed to harmful substances. In the case of offices, this is relatively simply applied through good quality ventilation systems. In factories, however, there is a greater onus on industrial safety and the quality ventilation services.

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