Occupant Safety and IAQ Key to Reopening Buildings

Businesses have been reopening around the country at an encouraging pace. As the number of reopening’s increases, business owners must do so in ways that emphasize occupant safety. Commercial businesses such as gyms, bars, spas, and restaurants must protect their staff and patrons. Schools and universities need to protect their staff and students. This requires maintaining high standards of indoor air quality. Doing so reduces the risk of viral spread and gives staff and patrons confidence in their employers. This also gives businesses an edge over competitors who may not focus on IAQ issues.

Occupant Safety Concerns

According to a September 2020 survey of 400 U.S. workers conducted by the B2B ratings and review company Clutch, people are concerned about returning to work during the pandemic. In the fall of last year, only 19% wanted to return to the office soon while 15% percent did not want to return at all. Eighty-two percent wanted safety measures in place before returning and nearly 30% thought face masks should be a requirement in the workplace.

Another study conducted online by The Conference Board, a nonprofit think tank, found that nearly 30% of respondents had “little faith” that their colleagues would observe health and safety protocols after returning to work. Thirty-seven percent claimed to be unaware of plans by their employees for a safe return and also cited concerns about contracting COVID-19 at work and spreading it at home.

These surveys show that owners and managers need to take safety concerns seriously. To do this, it’s important to understand how the coronavirus spreads.

Viral Transmission and IAQ

We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus travels through the air in tiny droplets of liquid. When an infected person expels these droplets by coughing and sneezing thousands scatter into the air. At this point, they get inhaled by others in the room. They also land on surfaces where they can transfer when a person touches their mouth and nose. This is why handwashing policies and social distancing rules need enforcement. It’s why disinfection of hard surfaces is important. It’s also why HVAC systems need proper maintenance as poor ventilation impacts IAQ. A plan for cleaning, disinfecting, and monitoring is essential to occupant safety.

The Impact of Poor IAQ on Occupant Safety

Even if you take the coronavirus out of the equation, poor air quality is a threat to occupant health. For example, poor IAQ leads to a condition called Sick Building Syndrome. The symptoms of SBS include headaches, fatigue, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. SBS also leads to missed workdays and lower worker morale. Of course, this impacts the bottom line too. Managers must work to lower the risk of SBS and more serious viruses and bacteria such as the type that causes Legionnaires disease.

Every business opening after a shutdown needs a plan for disinfection. As well, facilities with reduced occupancy need a plan for returning to full occupancy. Taking the necessary precautions increases occupant safety and gives that business a competitive edge. The first step is testing.

Testing to Increase Occupant Safety

Testing for the presence of the coronavirus is important to a safe reopening. There are methods and systems available to help businesses put occupant safety first. For example, Pure Air Control’s Building Health Check provides a comprehensive evaluation of the indoor environment based upon HVAC zones. This evaluation includes mold assessments and allergen screenings. It includes an investigation of building performance after a shutdown and tracks temperature, relative humidity, and wall moisture.

Perhaps the most important part regarding IAQ is the HVAC Hygiene Assessment. This assessment looks at airflow and energy efficiency, air filtration, and duct leakage so repairs and adjustments take place. When working properly, HVAC systems create good IAQ and ensure occupant safety.

Healthy Building Program

The Certified Healthy Building Program is another way businesses can promote occupant safety after a shutdown. This program uses several systems and methods to reduce pathogens. It includes environmental coronavirus testing in the HVAC system as well as room disinfection.

Healthy Buildings Increase Occupant Safety

Here’s what Pure Air Control’s Healthy Building Program entails:

HVAC Cleaning and Restoration

First is the cleaning of HVAC units with high-pressure steam heated to 350° F. Restoration comes with the HVAC New Life™ process and includes PURE-Steam, PURE-Coat, PURE-Cell, and PURE-Liner to improve efficiency and extend the life of equipment

Removing Particles

PURE-Duct cleaning uses high-pressure air turbulence and HEPA filtration to knock loose dust and debris and keep particles from entering the occupied space.

Destroying Pathogens

PURE-Decon is a multi-tiered method of building disinfection that uses EPA-registered disinfectants to destroy bacteria, mold, viruses, and other pathogens including SARS-CoV-2.

Air Purification Technologies

There are two main technologies that work together to create a “self-healing” building and protect occupant safety. One is a systemic approach using Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization in the HVAC system to generate ions that safely and effectively inactivate airborne pathogens, particles and odors. The other is a localized solution utilizing True HEPA multistage Air Purifiers for in-room filtration and ventilation.

Pure Air Control’s Solutions

Business owners, facilities directors, and school administrators all have concerns about safe building occupancy. Start the safe reopening of your buildings today. Contact Pure Air Control Services at 1-800-422-7873 today or email us here.