The compliance of organisations’ air and water quality facilities to legal performance standards has held up well during the pandemic, according to safety and risk management organisation Assurity Consulting.
Speaking yesterday at one of its compliance update webinars, the company’s director of market development, Greg Davies, explained how the pandemic had caused concern about largely vacated buildings with potentially high volumes of static water accumulating or water being only infrequently used. Concerns were also expressed during the early days of the pandemic about indoor air quality.
However, the picture painted through analysis of Assurity’s clients has proved reassuring. Considering the performance of buildings it has been contracted to consult on, Davies presented air and water systems performance figures across three date periods: for 2021 to date, for 2020 as a whole and for the five year average of 2016 to the present.
Taking microbiological air quality testing as one metric, Davies reported no meaningful change in report results across all three of these performance assessment periods.
”Overall, microbiological air quality has been and remains very good, regardless of pandemic status.”
Carbon dioxide levels in the air have come down as occupancy has reduced.
“Over the last two years, unsurprisingly we've had a massive increase in the amount of outside air being drawn into premises and the overall quality of filters and maintenance of those units,” explained Davies.
”We’ve also had an awful lot fewer people in the environment, so from a carbon dioxide perspective it's been very good.”
Turning to water quality and water towers, Davies said that total viable count (TVC) testing – which estimates the number of microorganisms present in a water sample – had remained consistent. Results requiring action under HSG274 part 1 criteria were typically running about about 5 per cent, not noticeably different to the five year average.
Also, the detection of legionella in cooling towers was running at lower than the 1 per cent rate in the five year average.
However, Assurity’s data for total viable count testing of hot and cold water systems showed a marginal increase on the five year average. In 2020, the figure for systems requiring action had jumped to 18 per cent from the five year average of 10 per cent, although in 2021 this figure had fallen back to 14 per cent.
Said Davies: “This may reflect more people going back and the strategies for flushing [systems] working better with areas where problems could have occurred in 2020 having been identified and resolved and therefore we're seeing numbers come back down.”
”As far as legionella for hot and cold water systems, the five year rolling average was two per cent and last year we saw about 2 per cent. But equally, as with the cooling towers, we’ve been a reduction this year.”
Looking to the future, Davies said that ongoing uncertainties over future building occupation would only make the need to reassure stakeholders all the more important.
“Having verifiable information and systems that support your management, and are flexible enough to cater for your needs, is going to be vital.
The full hour-long webinar, which includes a contribution by Allison English of Leesman on the future workplace, can be viewed here.