When you walk into an office, you’re exposing yourself to occupational safety and health hazards. It doesn’t matter what industry the business is in, there’s always risks in every office environment. From slipping after stepping in a puddle to straining your eyes from staring at your monitor for too long, it’s important to be aware of these safety concerns. One hazard that is easily overlooked is indoor air quality.
Indoor air quality refers to the quality of air within and around buildings as it relates to health and comfort. Without proper ventilation and sanitization, the air in an office can quickly become polluted and unhealthy to breathe. The smaller the office, the quicker this will happen.
It’s easy for the air inside of a building to become contaminated with pollutants, and the more people there are, the faster the effect will be. Have you ever worked in an office where the kitchen or lunch room is in the same area as the workspace? If so, then you’ve probably experienced a scenario where a coworker microwaved a particularly potent meal. That smell likely spread around the office quickly, offending every nose unlucky enough to be within range of the dastardly stench. Now imagine if this stench was instead an airborne pathogen like COVID-19.
The small confines of a workspace, like a doctor’s or dentist’s office, can create an environment that’s detrimental to one’s health. With a small office, a person who is sick can quickly spread their germs to others with a sudden cough or sneeze. This is why it’s so common for multiple people in an office to come down with the same illness at around the same time. The solution to this problem is to find a way to improve your building’s air quality. There are two steps that are necessary to achieve this.
The first step toward improving air quality is to have proper ventilation throughout the building. Without ventilation, the air inside won’t have anywhere to go and will become stagnant. However, if you have proper ventilation, stale air can be replaced with fresh air from the outside. There are different ways to ventilate your building, like opening the windows. Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit, though, is largely responsible for the cycling of air within your enclosed space. Having an efficient HVAC is crucial to maintaining good IAQ.
The second step toward improving Indoor Air Quality is to kill pathogens (anything that can cause disease like viruses and bacteria) in the air. Disinfectant works well for killing pathogens on hard surfaces, but it won’t work if you spray it in the air. For airborne pathogens, the solution lies in ultraviolet (UV) light and bipolar ionization.
There are three different types of UV light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Each type differs based on wavelength. Most of the UV radiation that reaches us on Earth is UVA, which has the longest wavelength of the three. UVB and UVC light is normally absorbed by our atmosphere due to their shorter wavelengths.
Studies have discovered that far-UVC light, which has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, can be useful as a COVID-19 deterrent without being harmful to human skin. In fact, this particular wavelength of light is known to kill up to 99% of the COVID-19 virus, according to Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
It works by damaging the virus internally, by creating lesions within its DNA and RNA. With the DNA and RNA damaged, the virus loses its ability to replicate. As a result, the virus is either effectively killed or deactivated.
Bipolar ionization, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily kill the virus like far-UVC light does. This technology works by releasing charged atoms that attach to viruses, deactivating them, and essentially making them harmless in the process. This solution has surged in popularity in recent months alongside the continued risks associated with COVID-19.
Simply speaking, your HVAC affects the air quality within your office. By installing far-UVC lamps or bipolar ionization technology inside your HVAC, air is purified before being expelled. At the same time, the HVAC is also working to remove the contaminated air in your office. By installing one of these solutions, your office will become a much safer environment for everyone.
At General and Mechanical Services, we specialize in commercial HVAC solutions. If you’re looking to fully re-open and want to help to protect your workforce and customers from airborne pathogens and viruses, General & Mechanical Services offers both far-UVC and bipolar ionization HVAC installation services. Our team can outfit your HVAC depending on the needs of your business.
To learn more about this topic or our services, contact GMS today!
Greg Lilly is a Johns Hopkins University graduate with over 30 years of experience in mechanical services focused on providing energy efficient solutions and strategies within facilities, central plants and data centers.