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Will air conditioning spread Covid-19 in the UK?

The short answer to this question is: no. The UK government has said that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus in the workplace is extremely low. However, understandably there are still lots of people who are still worried, especially since the majority of Britain’s workforce is back in the office again, and once again sharing their air in close proximity with colleagues. So, as experts in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems here at Askews, we thought it was worth alleviating some of those concerns in this week’s blog.

Why are people concerned about Covid-19 and air conditioning?

Concerns over the spread of viruses in air conditioning systems are quite understandable, since it’s been known to happen with bacteria like mould and legionella. In fact, we’ve written a post right here on the blog on how poorly maintained air conditioning units can end up spreading harmful microorganisms.

However, ‘poorly maintained’ is the operative phrase here. Bacteria and other microorganisms tend to breed and thrive in systems which are neglected for a long time, and not properly cleaned or kept in good repair. There’s no reason that well-maintained air conditioning systems should pose any risk to heath. In fact, quite the opposite – they can actually reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 by keeping a constant flow of air through the room.

The government have noted that filters with extremely narrow openings, such as high-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) and even more powerful low-particulate air filters (ULPA) can effectively remove coronavirus from circulating within a closed environment.

What can employers do to mitigate the risks?

Air conditioning should already be a priority to some extent – by law, employers must already ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace, and that hasn’t changed. What’s more, we’ve already spoken recently about how good ventilation can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. The key thing is to keep the air circulating, so that fresh air is constantly being brought into the building.

dirty air conditioning filters

If you use a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms within the building, then the government recommends that you switch off the recirculation function, and use the system to bring in fresh air from outside instead. You may even want to consider additional measures, such as simply opening windows and doors (although with the mixed weather we’ve been experiencing recently, you may wish to make a judgement call on that one!).

Prioritising maintenance of your air conditioning unit is another way you can ensure that you’re fulfilling your duty of care to your staff, so that it’s not at risk of actually spreading other irritants or bacteria, like we outlined above.

That’s where we can help here at Askews. We provide a range of heating, ventilation and air conditioning services, and have more than 20 years of experience behind us. You can book a routine service and maintenance call right here on our website. Just click here for a free quote, or alternatively, you can call us on 01282 863 825, and we’ll be happy to see what we can do!

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