To-date we have made numerous attempts to contact various government departments, however, due to the lack of response or acknowledgement, we are again writing to stress the need for the Government of Ireland to indicate to businesses, educational and medical facilities to get an independent true assessment of the current state of their ventilation system and advise on how it can and should be configured to reduce the risk of airborne transmission.
EAM Group completed a review of the ‘Return to Work Protocol’ from the perspective of how the management of assets and engineering knowledge could be better utilised to control or prevent the spread of the virus. Also, in an effort to further understand the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus, we have completed some research into building ventilation systems (mechanical and natural) and in particular findings from both CIBSE ‘COVID-19 Ventilation Guidance and REHVA Specific Guidance Document including ‘guidance to avoid central recirculation during SARS-CoV-2 episodes’.
We are specifically referring to the advice detailed in Section 7D Heating, Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) from the Return to Work Safety Protocol Covid-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers which states that ‘air conditioning is not generally considered as contributing significantly to the spread of COVID-19. Switching off air conditioning is not required to manage the risk of COVID-19’. We strongly believe this is misleading, inaccurate and needs to be addressed.
We feel that now is the time for our government bodies to be proactive and implement procedures and regulations which promote prudent economic investments.
As the Government of Ireland has placed the entire nation on Level 5 of the Plan for Living with Covid, businesses are now closed providing an ideal opportunity to undertake ventilation assessments, develop ventilation strategies and put a plan in place to re-open and remain open as we are required to live with the virus and adapt our lives and how we do business accordingly.
Following the recent Covid outbreak in a nursing home in Co. Galway, the virus transmission mode is becoming increasing more apparent to all, it is in the air within these build environments and now engineering controls need to be introduced to tackle and suppress this virus. The purpose of Engineering Controls is to provide safer environments for people to remain protected while indoors. Engineering Controls are additional to the existing protection measures recommended by NPHET, wearing of face coverings, washing of hands, social distancing, limiting social gatherings and the use of social support bubbles.
Based on recent findings/publications from CDC and WHO, SARS-Cov2 is an airborne transmission virus and ventilation is a key Engineering Control in managing the transmission indoors.
Following an analysis of individual rooms, the ventilation system, maintenance records, existing air change assessments, and the generation of a Ventilation Assessment Strategy; we believe that this assessment will result in a recommendation to introduce Engineering Controls such as:
- Alterations to ventilation system configuration,
- Air filtration and recirculation systems,
- CO2 monitoring,
- Installation of or modifications to mechanical ventilation systems and
- Accurate management of natural building ventilation.
We would further recommend the removal of human intervention therefore consideration should be given to the installation of automatic systems, example of such could be the automation of window openings and fan operations when linked to CO2 levels in a room.
We would emphasise the need to train those on the appropriate use of these systems and generate a management and monitoring strategy to ensure compliance and permit independent auditing and assessment.
The Government of Ireland should provide support and the necessary direction to business owners, educational and healthcare facilities, food processing plant, food preparation premises, pubs, restaurants and coffee shop (‘Occupied Environment’), to emphasise the importance of ventilation, and insist upon the completion of ventilation assessments and the introduction of monitorable ventilation strategies.
Thank you for taking the time to read our views, however, based on the evidence outlined above, we would strongly recommend that the ‘Return to Work Protocol’, last dated 9th May 2020, be reviewed and updated accordingly.
If you require any assistance in this area, we would be happy to help. Please contact us by phone or email.