With the first measures towards easing lockdown announced yesterday by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, manufacturers across the UK are looking at ways to get more of their employees back to work safely. Among issues of social distancing, PPE and hand hygiene, employers and site managers will need to take into account the humidity level in the building.
The World Health Organisation has confirmed that COVID-19 is able to survive under certain indoor air conditions. Research has shown that dry indoor air is associated with higher infection rates among building occupants. This is because viruses and bacteria can survive in aerosols transmitted in dry air. Furthermore, the drier the air, the more infectious the droplets. This is because in lower humidity, our respiratory immune system is less able to fight off infection. Data shows, however, that virus and bacteria droplets are less infectious in the mid-range relative humidity of 40 – 60%.
We also know that viruses, such as COVID-19, can travel through the air into an air handling unit (AHU) when the air in a building or production area is dry. So even though sites are observing all the correct procedures with regard to social distancing, hand washing etc., employees can still be at risk of infection even if they haven’t been in close contact with an infected person in the same building. These findings highlight the importance of properly humidifying and ventilating manufacturing sites, and of course, hospitals, schools, offices, public buildings etc.
In many countries, including the UK, there is little regulation on minimum indoor humidity levels. With the focus very much on other measures to prevent infection, maintaining 40 – 60% humidity levels have been somewhat overlooked, despite evidence of its efficacy in helping people defend themselves against infection. Adjusting the level of humidity in buildings will help prevent the spread of infection, prevent another spike in coronavirus cases and save lives.
For more information on how an air handling unit controls humidity, read our post about How Air Handling Units Work. For our top tips on maintaining good indoor air quality during the pandemic, click here. For help and advice on indoor air quality and your air handling unit, please get in touch here or contact us on 01785 256976 or at email@example.com