Last reviewed 7 December 2020

Government scientists have repeatedly stressed the importance of ventilation in reducing the spread of coronavirus infection during the winter months when more people are likely to be meeting or working in enclosed spaces.

According to experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), increasing the occupancy of a space without altering the ventilation “increases the probability of airborne transmission by four-fold”.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has now issued updated guidance that will help employers in most workplaces to identify poorly ventilated areas of the workplace and which provides steps they can take to improve ventilation, while maintaining a comfortable temperature.

Following the SAGE advice, it emphasises that good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air and therefore reduces the risks from airborne transmission.

Recognising that simply sitting with the windows open is not practicable during the winter months, the guidance points out that adequate ventilation does not mean that workplaces have to be cold.

Natural ventilation can be used with heating systems to maintain a reasonable temperature in the workplace, it argues.

The HSE offers some simple ways to identify poorly ventilated areas in the workplace and suggests that those working in an environment with a complex ventilation system should consult guidance from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

The HSE guidance also covers the question of ventilation in vehicles, warning that systems should be set to drawing fresh air into the vehicle, and not recirculating air.

The Department for Transport (DfT) guidance Coronavirus (Covid-19): taxis and PHVs has information on ventilation and making these vehicles Covid-secure.