Disinfecting Premises Using Fog, Mist, Vapour or Ultraviolet (UV) Systems During the Coronavirus Outbreak
The HSE has issued this guidance. It notes that, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, fog, mist, vapour or UV treatments may be suitable options to help control the spread of the virus, by cleaning and disinfecting a larger space or room. Any use of these treatments for these purposes should form part of the COVID-19 risk assessment. Users must be competent and properly trained.
Selecting the correct treatment will depend on:
the size of the area to be treated, its shape and how easily it can be sealed off if delivering an airborne product
whether there are hard or soft surfaces – soft furnishings may act as a ‘sink’ for the airborne chemicals and emit them for some time after treatment (it may be possible to remove items such as sofas before treatment)
the type of business you have – some areas may be better suited to UV surface treatments than airborne chemicals or vice-versa.
Disinfectants applied as a fog, mist or vapour may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. Discuss with suppliers what safety features they can provide to prevent inadvertent access to a room during treatment. For example, safety sensors, simply locking rooms during treatment if feasible, or safety signage as part of a safe system of work.
The guidance says:
do not spray people with disinfectant
do not disinfect large outdoor spaces.
Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you are using the product safely and effectively. Advice on the law on chemicals is set out.
The guidance goes on to cover sealing off rooms – which is necessary to avoid risk of human exposure to the potentially harmful treatments. Disinfectants may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. It suggests that rooms that are very difficult to seal may not be suitable for delivering airborne chemicals.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is carrying out spot checks on businesses that have reopened since the UK went into lockdown.
The UK regulator’s inspectors are visiting workplaces across a range of sectors following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including over COVID-19 and ensuring compliance. They are also carrying out proactive checks to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19.
Between 9 March and 29 June, the HSE received 23,569 COVID-related contacts, of which 7784 were COVID-related concerns, 9944 were COVID-related calls and 5871 were COVID-related advice requests.
Of the 3856 businesses contacted between 26 May and 2 July, 2386 spot checks were carried out by a mixture of phone checks and site visits. The phone checks included obtaining visual evidence such as photos and video footage.
Out of nearly 4000 spot checks, 295 were follow ups to check on issues with cleaning regimes, social distancing as well as failure to engage with the regulator. All but 41 of these were deemed compliant after the second check. The remaining 41 are currently subject to inspector visits and further investigation.
HSE state that ‘Putting dutyholders on the spot, and checking on how they are managing risks, has always been part of our regulatory approach.
‘This has continued to be the case throughout the pandemic. We’ve responded to workplace concerns and are inspecting some workplaces in response. This will continue as more businesses return to work.’
Advice has been published by HSE with regard to Air Conditioning within buildings.
HSE say that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace is extremely low.
It is advised that you can continue using most types of air conditioning system as normal. But, if you use a centralised ventilations system that removes and circulates air to different rooms it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply.
You do not need to adjust air conditioning systems that mix some of the extracted air with fresh air and return it to the room as this increases the fresh air ventilation rate. Also, you do not need to adjust systems in individual rooms or portable units as these operate on 100% recirculation.
Following the call to return to work, where work cannot be undertaken at home, it was announced by the UK Government that ‘spot inspections’ of workplaces would be undertaken to ensure that COVID-19 safe measures are being adhered to and put in place by employers to ensure the safety of their staff.
Some 4500 complaints with regard to workplace safety, specifically relating to COVID-19, have been received by HSE and it has been reported by SHP that HSE will be resuming their workplace proactive inspections of Construction Sites following an injection of cash from the Government.
Quite when these inspections will begin is a little vague and how soon these inspections will roll out to other manufacturing sectors is as yet unknown, however it will be happening.
As Britain’s statutory regulator of occupational health and safety The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken action to ensure that our important role continues effectively as the COVID-19 situation unfolds. These actions are being guided by the specific needs and characteristics of the various sectors we regulate and in line with advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Health Protection Scotland.
HSE recognises the threat presented by COVID-19 to industry, our
staff, and the broader community and in recognition of this we have
transitioned our workforce to operate remotely.
HSE’s staff and inspectors remain contactable and we continue to
engage with duty holders and other stakeholders with teleconferencing and other
tools in place of face-to-face meetings.
Despite the demanding circumstances, compliance with occupational health and safety legal requirements remains with duty holders and HSE will continue its regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk and based on our available regulatory capacity.
Our regulatory approach will take a flexible and proportionate
account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic.
As a consequence, HSE:
has suspended targeted inspection activity of high-risk industries that are not part of the major hazard sectors, including construction and manufacturing
has carried out a short pause on our offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industry inspection activities so we can give duty holders time to overcome various immediate pressures and challenges and we will then focus our regulatory work so it is re-prioritised onto critical areas and activities. We will continue to regulate major hazard industries throughout this time undertaking regulatory functions remotely
will endeavour to undertake regulatory activities which do not require site visits as normally as possible, for example Approvals and Authorisation work for biocides and pesticides, Statutory Permissioning activities such as Licensing, Safety Case / Report Assessments, Thorough Reviews, Combined Operations Notifications, Wells Notifications, Land Use Planning Applications, Hazardous Substances Consents etc
will, across all sectors, continue to investigate work related deaths, the most serious major injuries and dangerous occurrences and reported concerns from the workforce or the public where people are being exposed to risks from work activities and we will still take action to secure compliance with the law. We will conduct as much of our investigation activity using technology as possible, without compromising the collection of evidence and our ability to secure effective control of risk and, where appropriate, justice
will do as much of our regulatory intervention work as we can remotely, but we will still mobilise to site, including offshore, where it’s necessary to provide public assurance that hazards are being effectively managed and to secure compliance with the law. Where a site visit is required social distancing guidelines will be followed.