Ventilation in the workplace – Workplaces have to be properly ventilated to allow sufficient fresh air in and air filled with dirt and even toxic substances to be removed. The moment ventilation equipment fails can poses danger almost immediately. Regular inspection and assessment of risks attached to possible mal-functioning in this regard, is advised.

Most companies are aware of the need and the standard according to which confined spaces have to be ventilated. But the workplace knows many more poorly ventilated workplaces which suddenly become a health hazard.

Ventilation of premises is important, as well-ventilated premises maintain temperature and humidity levels at an acceptable level, ensuring that employees are comfortable and productive. Ventilation also controls the flow of fresh air to the workplace. The more access people have to fresh air, the better they will perform as the constant flow of oxygen will stimulate muscles and the brains. All business premises should be subjected to a risk assessment regularly to determine the quantity of fresh air employees get. The risk assessment should also consider the percentage of hazardous substances in the air at specific premises and how much they are above acceptable levels.

Insufficient fresh air may lead to tiredness, lethargy, headaches, dry or itchy skin and eye irritation. Contaminated air, dust, gases and odour from a building can be a danger to both employees and premises, as they can transmit airborne diseases or cause an explosion.

When an area is not well-ventilated toxic gases could build up and, ultimately, suffocate employees or even explode when ignited.

To prevent such situation from happening, and depending on the nature of the business being carried out, health and safety officials could consider various measures to improve ventilation.

In places where work is less intensive (for example, in offices), opening a door or window would be an ideal way of providing ventilation, providing no co-workers will be affected by a draft or change in temperature. Individual employees can opt for the use of an electric fan, as an economical way to control ventilation within an office space.

At larger companies, where production is massive and where fumes, dust and substances can build up excessively, other means of ventilation could be considered. This includes mechanical ventilation. Diluting pollutants in the air, by continuously adding fresh air to the contaminated air, is essential to prevent the air from becoming a health hazard.

Each form of ventilation has risks attached to it. Open doors and windows are a security risk, while mechanical ventilation ceases to function if the power supply fails. It is important to assess the risks that are attached to these challenges to determine which solution will work best. Ignoring the risks is simply not an option, as employees may collapse due to high body temperature or get injured due to drowsiness caused by either heat or a lack of oxygen.

How much ventilation is required is often based on the preferences of both customers and employees. But note that inspectors from the Department of Labour could close down premises if they believe that the ventilation is not up to standard.

Verifying ventilation is something that shouldn’t be left until the very last moment. If companies want to maintain a high workflow, they should make sure that they control the through-flow of air through their premises.

Posted date: 9th Jul 2014
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