The government’s chief medical adviser has told businesses to invest in better ventilation to improve health and safety within buildings in the longer term.
Professor Chris Whitty said that improving the air quality in buildings would improve workers’s health in general and help to protect against future health emergencies, as well as aid recovery from the pandemic.
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference, Whitty told business leaders to look closely at how they could improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) in their buildings to provide better long-term working conditions for their employees.
“We have realised the extraordinary importance of improving the ventilation of workplaces, not just for Covid but also for many other respiratory infections,” he said. “If we invest in that now, we’ll both help the aftermath of Covid, but also cut down on things like ’flu outbreaks.”
Whitty added that investment in ventilation was the second most important step businesses could take behind helping their staff get fully vaccinated, and highlighted the direct link between poor IAQ and health conditions that put extra pressure on the NHS.
The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) welcomed Whitty’s comments.
Chief executive David Frise said that the pandemic had raised the profile of building ventilation. “Improving indoor ventilation reduces the risk of transmitting diseases between people, so investment made now will have significant long-term economic and social benefits,” he said.
Earlier this year, the British Council for Offices warned that UK offices should guarantee adequate ventilation ahead of a return to work after the pandemic lockdowns.
It said that poorly ventilated indoor spaces had been linked to Covid-19 super-spreader events and that ventilation in these offices must be “addressed urgently”.
In February, professor Cath Noakes, one of the two engineering members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told a BESA webinar that the building engineering industry needed much more scientific data to help it to improve protection from viral infections.
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