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The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) of Ireland has published a new Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Once enacted into law in 2023 all employers will have a compulsory duty of care to their employees regarding theprovision of good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
This new code of practice will ensure that all places of employment provide proper indoor air quality. Businesses are set to face the risk of criminal prosecution for having poor indoor air quality that could lead to the spread of Covid-19 and winter flu.
This new code of practice on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has been produced in the wake of criticism that the previous17-year-old regulations failed to take account of the threat of airborne viruses to workers.
It states that the code of practice can be used as part of “criminal proceedings” against an employer for failing in their legal duty to provide a safe workplace for their staff.
The new code will apply to all workplaces including schools and nursing homes.
Orla Hegarty, an assistant professor in UCD’s School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, said the new code on workplace ventilation would help to protect workers’ health.
“It's not just Covid we're talking about. It is colds and flu and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] that arefilling our hospitals as well. The broader benefits will be very significant ifit's resourced properly,” Hegarty said.
The code sets out a requirement to keep the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the workplace below 100 parts per million. The code does not make CO2 monitors mandatory but says they are a “useful way” of checking if a workplace has poor ventilation.
“People exhale CO2, so if there is a build-up of CO2 in an area it can indicate that ventilation needs improving,” it states.
It recommends that businesses with high levels of CO2 should respond by opening windows for longer periods, putting in air conditioning units or installing more vents.
Employers will have to carry out a risk assessment of their workplace ventilation, most likely by hiring a ventilation specialist, and make the results publicly available to all their workers.
Hegarty said that HSA inspectorswould have to carry out workplace inspections to ensure the new code was being implemented.
“There's too much ‘softly softly’negotiation in this country and things don't get done. But this is a public health issue. We need to have proper enforcement,” she said.
The government asked the HSA todraw up the new code of practice in response to a private members’ bill on workplace ventilation from Paul Murphy, the People Before Profit TD. He said that the new code was belated but welcome.
“We need to resource the HSA so that it can monitor ventilation in workplaces. It shouldn’t require a worker to report it,” Murphy said.