Experts have warned employers to ensure that workplaces are properly ventilated or risk disruptive sickness absence levels this autumn and winter.
The warning from GAMA Healthcare follows a new poll of more than 3,000 Britons conducted for the infection prevention specialist by Deltapoll, finding that four in five workers (80% of full-time staff and 79% of part-time employees) claim ventilation of indoor areas is important to preventing infection from illnesses including Covid and influenza.
However, only 40% of full-time workers and 36% of part-time staff expressed concern about the air quality in their local area.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy estimates there are 5.6 million private sector businesses in the UK. Clinical specialists from GAMA Healthcare have warned that those in poorly ventilated workspaces risk higher sickness absence levels with the potential for more cases of respiratory infections, such as flu, after levels were suppressed by public health measures during the pandemic.
Dr Phillip Norville, clinical and scientific director of GAMA, said: “Workers are rightly recognising that good ventilation can help reduce the risk of picking up respiratory illnesses, like colds, flu, and Covid. We are going to see more cases as we come into autumn and winter, and people spend more time indoors – but if you’re working indoors in a poorly ventilated space, that risk is increased.
“Employers can provide reassurance to their staff by making sure they’ve put steps in place to ensure workspaces are properly ventilated – whether that’s by opening windows or using mechanical air filtration units. This can also help reduce sickness levels, which can seriously affect a business’s productivity.”
The survey comes after organisations like the British Engineering Services Association called for the government to set specific targets for indoor air quality (IAQ) so that buildings can become ‘safe havens’ that protect occupants from pollution while the longer-term work of cleaning up the external environment goes on.
And others warn that businesses are not doing enough to improve indoor air quality.