Respiratory infections including Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer workplaces and public settings

Guidance for businesses and workplaces (including transport operators) on reducing the risk of respiratory infections including COVID-19 and supporting staff and customers.


The provision of fresh air into indoor environments will help to reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory infections including COVID-19. Further to this, employers must, by law, ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace.

It is important that while following this guidance, employers continue to comply with existing health and safety, fire safety and building regulations, as well as  the legal requirement to maintain a reasonable temperature in the workplace.

There are a number of ways to improve the supply of fresh air in your premises to reduce transmission of respiratory infections including COVID-19. Organisations should take account of the measures that are most appropriate for their specific setting. Organisations may wish to consider:

  • let fresh, clean air into your building – open windows, doors (excluding fire doors), and vents when you can. This will help to reduce any infected particles and reduce the risk of infections
  • understand your building’s ventilation system – do not adjust mechanical settings without expert advice. It is important to make sure that ventilation systems and/or extractor fans are used correctly
  • avoid relying upon ventilation systems which only recycle used air. Make sure that fresh air is introduced to all spaces
  • regularly monitoring the air quality within enclosed environments – you may wish to use Non Dispersive Infra-Red (NDIR) carbon dioxide monitors to indicate the carbon dioxide levels to help identify areas which may have poor ventilation. The Health and Safety Executive has produced guidance on the use of CO2 monitors
  • be aware of the occupancy level – more people together, for extended periods of time, means more ventilation is required
  • air out rooms between users or regularly throughout the day
  • if ventilation makes it feel cold– consider relaxing uniform requirements, so employees can continue to work comfortably
  • to aid occupant comfort, consider rearranging room layout so that workstations are in the ventilated space but out of the direct line or any draughts created
  • use indoor fans in combination with open doors or windows to further increase air movement

Appropriate risk assessments should be carried out for each specific indoor environment. Employers can access general advice and guidance on risk assessment, prepared by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In support of this, The British Occupational Hygiene Society created a COVID-19 risk matrix for employers.

We have produced further guidance on ventilation that sets out in greater detail the steps you can take to improve the provision of fresh air in your organisation. HSE also provides guidance on ventilation in the workplace.



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