4 Tips To Improving Ventilation And Indoor Air Quality In Your Workplace (According To NEA)

Improve indoor air ventilation in workplace

In line with the Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) measures, MOM updated a checklist to help employers review their workplace safe management measures. To further mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, the National Environment Agency (NEA) also issued a guidance note for employers to improve ventilation and indoor air quality in working spaces. 

Coronavirus spreads more easily through virus aerosols in enclosed environments which are poorly ventilated. The NEA guidance highlights several areas that employers should look out for to minimise the spread through poorly ventilated workplaces, covering both centralised and non-centralised aircon premises, as well as the naturally ventilated premises. 

TipsCentralised AirconNon-Centralised AirconNaturally Ventilated
Check SystemsCheck aircon and ventilation systems to ensure
– adequate outdoor air supply
– continuous operation
– airflow movement in the right direction
– regularly inspecting and cleaning supply and exhaust fans
– no air leakage into occupied spaces from water seals in the sanitary system, cracks in pipes and ducts 
Check water seals in the sanitary system, cracks in pipes and ducts to ensure no air leakage into occupied spacesCheck water seals in the sanitary system, cracks in pipes and ducts to ensure no air leakage into occupied spaces
Maximise VentilationMaximise ventilation by
– setting maximum speed and capacity for
    – Air Handling Unit (AHU)
    – Fan Coil Unit (FCU)
    – Pre-Cool Air Handling Unit (PAU)
    — Fresh Air Fan (FAF)
    — Exhaust Air Fan (EAF)
– opening all air dampers
– ensuring air ducts are not blocked
– deactivating demand control systems
– installing additional supply or exhaust fans, or reduce capacity, if existing ventilation is inadequate
Maximise ventilation by
– opening windows and doors when possible
– operating exhaust fans at full capacity
– installing window mounted exhaust fans
Maximise ventilation by
– opening windows and doors when possible
– operating exhaust fans at full capacity
– positioning fans at windows to blow air outwards
– installing window mounted exhaust fans
Purge AirPerform air purging
– at least once a day for two hours 
– by operating aircon two hours before and two hours after each occupancy for buildings without purging system
Expel air from the indoor space by operating exhaust fans at full capacity. 
Purify AirEnsure that recirculated air is purified by installing in the AHU
– high efficiency filters 
– ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) 
Use portable air cleaners with
– high efficiency filters such as HEPA filters
– high clean air delivery rate- turn off ozone generation function (if present)This should be considered an interim measure

For workplaces within office buildings, industrial parks and other similar-type buildings, it will most likely have a centralised aircon. As you don’t have access to the systems, it will likely fall on the building owners/managers to ensure that the measures are adhered to.

The likelihood of you having to do something will be when your workplace has a non-centralised aircon or a naturally ventilated environment.

#1 Check Systems

The first thing to do would be to conduct a check on all the relevant systems related to the ventilation of your workplace. Such checks would typically be organised by the building owners and facilities managers and the guidance note provide them with updated recommended measures in proper operations and maintenance of air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation (ACMV) systems.

#2 Maximise Ventilation

Maximising ventilation is the main theme of this whole exercise. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on the ventilation needed in your work areas. The whole idea is to have as much airflow for air coming in, and as much airflow going out. 

When applicable, we can maximise fresh air in an area through natural ventilation which relies on passive air flow through windows, doors or through mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts.

#3 Purge Air

Stale and recirculated air within enclosed spaces may increase the chance of transmission. Purging air before occupying a workplace is an important measure to note. The measures you implement should get stale air out of the room before occupying it each day. 

Premises with mechanical ventilation typically are best-equipped with the function to purge air. Those with non-centralised aircon should turn on the aircon two hours before and after occupancy. And of course, the best way to purge air is to open all windows and doors wherever possible.

#4 Purify Air

Unlike naturally ventilated premises, air in aircon premises may get recirculated. The idea is to minimise recirculation, and at the same time filter and treat the air in aircon premises. 

For centralised aircon premises, high-efficiency filters and air-cleaning technologies such as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) can be used in AHUs to filter and treat recirculated air. As for non-centralised aircon premises, portable air cleaners should be equipped with high-efficiency air filters should be considered.

With the above guideline, there should be greater assurance and peace of mind for both the employers and employees.  

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