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Recommendations from the COVID-19 Ventilation Short Life Working Group for Further Education, Higher Education, Community Learning and Development minutes: 19 October 2021

Published: 15 Dec 2021
Date of meeting: 19 Oct 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the COVID-19 Ventilation Short Life Working Group (SLWG) for Further Education (FE), Higher Education (HE), Community Learning and Development (CLD).

15 Dec 2021
Recommendations from the COVID-19 Ventilation Short Life Working Group for Further Education, Higher Education, Community Learning and Development minutes: 19 October 2021

Items and actions

Representatives from FE, HE and CLD discussed their ventilation with the Covid Ventilation SLWG on 19 October 2021.

Feedback from the SLWG during the meeting was as follows:

  • all should be focussing immediately on badly ventilated areas, rather than improvements to already ok areas. Focus initial efforts on assessment of areas of poor ventilation and high occupancy (number of people and length of time).
  • sample CO2 monitoring or other assessment (e.g. flow test) can be used to identify problem areas and target interventions. CO2 monitors can also be useful triggers for occupant intervention and management of spaces (vent and window opening, number of people) and may help to balance ventilation and thermal comfort, and help to raise awareness.
  • 12-17 l/s/person is a very high ventilation rate
  • it could be that simple reassurance measures could be taken such as in relation to mechanical ventilation systems which have been checked and are being monitored

Following further consideration after the meeting, the SLWG have made the following recommendations in relation to FE/HE/CLD:

  • institutions are reminded of their general responsibilities in respect of adherence of Health and Safety and Building Standards regulations, and that ventilation is one of a suite of mitigation measures that are required to protect against transmission
  • whilst recognising the large variability across estates and the challenges in undertaking detailed assessments, it is recommended that spaces that are regularly occupied by staff and students should have their ventilation provision identified (this space uses windows / is mechanically ventilated, etc.), and this should be available to users
  • more detailed assessment and/or measurement is recommended in spaces where risks may be high, for example due to poor ventilation or high occupancy
  • institutions should ensure that where ventilation in spaces has been physically checked or monitored, that this is very clearly communicated to users (staff and students)
  • for those institutions which have not been able to measure the air flow rates in every setting, particularly spaces that are naturally ventilated, the use of CO2 monitors is recommended. CO2 monitors should be used by appropriately trained staff. Guidance on their use is available from the Health and Safety Executive. The institution could have a central stock of monitors, which they rotate round different spaces, and some could be made available on request for staff/students to have a certain area checked that they have concerns about.
  • if Trade Unions wish to continue to refer to metrics, they could use those set out elsewhere: for example, CIBSE Guidance indicates desirable rates of 8-10 l/s person which equates to 800-1000 ppm; however in terms of identifying spaces that have levels that indicate ventilation is poor and that an action is needed, the SAGE paper on mitigations recommends that multi-occupant spaces that are used regularly and are poorly ventilated (below 5 l/s/person or above 1500ppm CO2) should be identified and prioritised for improvement; and spaces where there is likely to be an enhanced aerosol generation rate (e.g. through singing, loud speech, aerobic activity) should aim to ensure ventilation is sufficient to maintain CO2 concentrations below 800ppm (typically 10-15 l/s/person).
  • in order to provide reassurance with regards to ventilation practices in FE/HE at a national level, it is recommended that institutions provide a report every 2 months on the current situation with regards to the ventilation across their estates: following the initial overall ventilation provision identification, the regular report could cover what is new or different, what issues are arising, what actions have been taken, any provision update. It would be useful to share case studies for interventions and good practice across the sector. Any recorded monitored data should be retained, as this may provide a useful dataset for further work in this area, and can be used to identify environmental conditions should infections occur in these spaces.

Where mechanical systems are in use, a summary of flow rates4 for occupied rooms should be provided, but it is recommended that these are translated into common metrics, e.g. l/s person (rather than ach) and relate this to planned occupancy loads. Where spaces are naturally ventilated, a summary of the measured CO2 rates should be provided where monitoring has been undertaken. Where poorly ventilated spaces have been identified, an idea of what % of the estate these are, and what remedial measures have been undertaken should be provided.