What this means for businesses regarding indoor air quality
On January 21, 2021, a Presidential Executive Order was signed regarding the policy of ensuring the health and safety of American workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (1)
Before this order was issued, OSHA developed a Covid-19 planning guide (2) to help businesses identify workplace risk levels and determine what measures were appropriate to implement.
The order states that the Federal government should take swift action to reduce Covid-19 transmission risk in the workplace. Section 2 of the order specifies that under the OSHA Act, revised guidelines will be given to employers and that coordination with state governments will be executed so as to ensure adequate protection against Covid-19 for all workers.
Specifically, the EO orders OSHA to:
1. Issue revised guidelines to employers regarding Covid-19 worker safety measures. Note: this is NOT a directive for OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards.
2. Consider whether new – but temporary – mask wearing requirements are needed.
3. Review OSHA enforcement efforts.
4. Launch a national program related to Covid-19 violations creating occupational risk.
5. Coordinate with states that have workplace safety plans to help ensure adequate worker protection.
6. Partner with US Department of Labor’s public affairs office and OSHA regional offices to create and implement a multilingual outreach campaign.
The White House set forth this order not just to underscore the importance of following existing OSHA regulations, but to reduce – if not eliminate – workplace risk of Covid-19 transmission.
What does this mean in terms of indoor air quality? It means that anything that could negatively affect worker health and safety – in the context of this current pandemic – should be addressed and remedied. Cleaning, social distancing, and mask-wearing isn’t enough if workplace air is unhealthy. A clean and uncontaminated environment is crucial for worker wellness.
The EPA states there are three basic strategies (3) to improving indoor air quality:
1. Source Control
2. Improved Ventilation
3. Air Cleaners
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) goes further and states that air purifiers have the potential to further reduce exposure to virus-laden aerosols and serve as a useful supplement to other protective procedures. (4)
Regardless of industry, every profession has its own challenges when it comes to indoor air quality. Fortunately, the key to providing a healthy IAQ is the same regardless of the type of business. The solution is employing air purification / filtration methods.
Here are just five examples of businesses and their specific IAQ challenges:
Primary schools, unlike personal residences, commercial buildings, and office structures, tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces. For example, K-12 schools struggle with social distancing in congested areas such as cafeterias and classrooms (5), while colleges face challenges with areas such as student housing and lecture halls. Germ-sharing is communal at many schools. But it doesn’t need to be.
Many dentists operate out of small offices where proper ventilation may be compromised. Unhealthy air could threaten worker health every time a patient opens his mouth – which is done often and without a mask during dental procedures. The aerosols created during patient treatment are emitted into the air and linger unless airflow and ventilation are suitable. (6)
Spas, Salons, Barbershops
These types of businesses are often located in smaller, tighter spaces which can create an environment ripe for transmitting illness. Workers are unable to social distance from their clients, putting them in harm’s way if someone is sick. Air purification and constant air flow help combat viral transmission.
In any healthcare facility, the potential for communicable diseases to enter a worker’s breathing space is an ongoing risk. Even more so at nursing homes, where transmission and death rates are particularly high. While only 7% of the country’s cases have occurred in nursing homes, residents there represent 40% of all US Covid-19 deaths. (7)
Gyms, Health Clubs, Sports Facilities
Indoor places where heavy breathing and sweating regularly occur require extra attention. (8) When people are outside, droplets from exhalations, coughing, and sneezing are dispersed into the air more quickly. But indoors, viral spray can linger, increasing the potential for transmission.
What Can Businesses Do to Improve IAQ?
Before new guidelines are issued and officially in place, businesses of all types can safeguard worker health by reducing the threat of viral transmission. In addition to social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning and disinfecting, establishments – wherever space and funding will allow it – can add portable HEPA filtration systems to their virus-combating arsenal.
The reason why air cleaners with HEPA filtration are powerful tools against viral transmission is that they are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. Used exclusively, air cleaning and filtration are not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective way to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates.
Our portable HEPA filter air cleaning systems come in three different models, the filtration and recirculation capabilities ranging in room sizes as small as your typical classroom to multi-use areas up to 1200 sq. ft.