Greater Manchester Hazards Centre (GMHC)
provides health and safety advice across the North West.
GMHC is a not for profit organisation which campaigns, lobbies and advises workers on occupational health, safety and welfare issues. GMHC produces fact sheets and information packs; sets up and supports health and safety campaigns; raises awareness; co-ordinates a network of health and safety representatives in the North West; and has developed a health and safety App to support workers and trade unionists
Follow us on Facebook…
Wednesday 14th April 2021
The risks of airborne coronavirus transmission could be a barrier to a return to work for a third of workers, according to a poll.
A survey, carried out by facilities management company Rentokil Initial, suggested that 30% would like to see assurances on their building’s indoor air quality.
The poll, of 2000 representative adults, also indicated that 68% believe businesses and employers should do more to provide clean air in the premises while 62% of respondents supported the idea of making air purification systems mandatory in public buildings and education facilities.
On both findings, the poll revealed slight increases in the number of respondents expressing concern compared to the results of the same poll carried out in November.
Many employers are currently in discussion with staff about a return to work following furlough or a period working from home: on 29 March, the legal obligation to work at home unless circumstance made that impossible was removed.
However, UK government guidance still states that people should ‘continue to work from home where they can’.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has made clear that assessing ventilation requirements is a vital part of the COVID-19 workplace risk assessment that must be carried out prior to resuming workplace operations; risk assessments should be carried out in consultation with workers or their representatives.
Jamie Woodhall, UK technical and innovation manager at Rentokil Initial, said: ‘These survey results show that tackling air quality and preventing the airborne spread of Coronavirus clearly remains an important challenge, alongside the vaccine rollout.
'CO2 concentrations regularly greater than 1500 ppm [parts per million] are indicative of poorly ventilated spaces and attention should be given to improving the outside air provision'
‘The scientific evidence continues to build and it is very clear how important good ventilation and air purification is within indoor spaces. When it comes to easing of lockdown measures, the expectation from the public is that businesses and employers need to do their bit in helping to ensure that they are providing clean air, so that the risk of catching an airborne virus indoors is reduced.’
Hywel Davies, technical director of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), said it had received a high number of enquiries on safe ventilation from the university sector and office-based businesses, with CIBSE’s COVID-19 Ventilation Guidance having been downloaded 70,000 times.
In an email to IOSH magazine, he said: ‘The guidance … is also referenced by the HSE as a source of guidance. The concern is of course with those who are not enquiring: what, if anything, are they doing?’
Noting that ‘measuring’ ventilation performance is technically difficult and can only be achieved when the building is occupied, he nevertheless stresses that “assessments” can be done on unoccupied premises by competent FM teams without any special standards or devices.
This involves examining the maintenance history of any air supply or mechanical ventilation systems, and determining whether it relies on an outside air supply or recirculation – the latter posing more of a risk of aerosol transmission.
Davies added: ‘There is, sadly, no substitute for a bit of hands on investigation, by someone in the building. For larger building, the office manager many need to do some investigation.’
The British Council for Offices recently published a research paper, Thoughts on ventilation design and operation post COVID-19, which stresses the importance of adequate ventilation ahead of the return to work.
Derek Clements-Croome, Professor Emeritus at University of Reading and lead author of the report, said: ‘Ensuring a high standard of indoor air quality may be the most important thing we can do to fight COVID-19, combined with social distancing, washing our hands and wearing masks. Yet too many UK offices have inadequate ventilation. Germany is providing finance to upgrade ventilation systems in buildings and the UK government should consider doing this too.’
The CIBSE guidance Davies refers to suggests that non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors that measure the concentrations of CO2 built up inside a room could be a useful tool to assess ventilation levels – and thereby give one indication of the risk of aerosol transmission inside the space.
‘Sensors for monitoring air quality in existing buildings are an emerging area and it’s not that straightforward'
It says: ‘CO2 concentrations regularly greater than 1500 ppm [parts per million] are indicative of poorly ventilated spaces and attention should be given to improving the outside air provision.’
However, ‘equivalent CO2’ or eCO2 devices that simply estimate CO2 levels based on the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds should not be used, and even NDIR sensors should only be part of a wider ventilation strategy, the guidance says.
As Davies explained: ‘If I take a typical open plan office for six to eight people pre-pandemic, and it’s now being occupied by three people all well-spaced, the CO2 levels are typically below 800ppm. Is that because the space is well ventilated, or because the ventilation only has to cope with 50% occupancy? So care is needed over the use of CO2 sensors.
‘Sensors for monitoring air quality in existing buildings are an emerging area and it’s not that straightforward. It’s also important that people do the simple things to improve ventilation described in the CIBSE guidance before buying extra detectors or spending money in other ways.’
Another option open to facilities teams and health and safety managers is to install ‘germicidal UV’ devices that use light in the UV-C spectrum to kill coronaviruses. According to Rentokil-Initial, these filter air and also pass it through ‘a mesh of chromed nano titanium dioxide tube filters that are polished with activated carbon. The emitted UV light reacts with the mesh, and in a process called 'photocatalytic oxidation' produces hydroxyl radicals, which acts as a disinfectant and breaks down the organic molecules’.
Dr Colm Moore, area technical manager for the UK, Ireland and the Baltics at Rentokil Initial says: ‘Unlike traditional air purification systems, the UVC technology provides a photochemical deconstruction of the RNA and DNA of microorganisms, deactivating their reproductive processes so that the Coronavirus, and other viruses, can no longer spread, before the air is released back into the room.’
CIBSE’s guidance notes that controlled experiments do show that GUV air-cleaning devices are effective at deactivating a range of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
However, there is little verified best practice guidance available on ‘real world’ factors such as dosage and exposure time, and how these interact with airflow and ventilation rates.
Discussing these devices, Davies said: ‘It can be safely applied to deactivate [coronaviruses] in buildings, but it’s a fairly specialist area and should only be undertaken by competent installers using properly tested and certified equipment. UV can be hazardous to people on exposure, and so safety precautions covering maintenance and operation are essential – there is HSE guidance on that too.
‘Once installed, and then used as the basis for increasing occupancy, it’s essential that there are alarms if it fails – because it’s not now protecting people – and rapid reaction which may involve an evacuation of certain spaces is triggered.’
The survey’s evidence on levels of staff concern on ventilation comes as a paper by the University of Central Florida suggests that ventilation and mask-wearing are the key controls to prevent indoor airborne transmission – a findings that suggest masks should be mandated while social distancing rules can be recalibrated.
Using computer models of ventilated and unventilated university classrooms, a study published in the journal Physics of Fluids – used the Wells-Riley equation to assess the probability of indoor transmission and Computational Fluid Dynamics to understand air movements.
It found that a ventilation system incorporating a good air filter reduced the infection risk by 40-50%. In the ventilated space, the steady current of air directed aerosols into a filter; in the no-ventilation scenario, the aerosols congregated above the people in the room.
The computer modelling also found that masks help to warm exhaled air, allowing any expelled aerosols to rise vertically rather than reaching adjacent students.
Michael Kinzel, an assistant professor at the university, concluded that the results support recent guidance from the US Centre for Disease Control to reduce social distancing in elementary schools from six to three feet where mask use is universal.
COVID-19 risk assessments: using the evidence (IOSH magazine)
Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance (CIBSE)
HSE ventilation guidance (The Health and Safety Executive)
PPE hygiene: the importance of effective decontamination (IOSH magazine)
Research paper: Thoughts on ventilation design and operation post Covid-19 (The British Council for Offices)
Study: Using computer models of ventilated and unventilated university classrooms (Physics of Fluids)
The Manchester Ship Canal tragedy that saw six men killed in horror explosion remembered
The Bob's Ferry disaster occurred on Manchester Ship Canal 51 years ago today
• 07:37, 14 APR 2021
Enter your postcode for local news and info
Manchester Ship Canal, at Latchford Lock, Manchester, in 1970 (Image: Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives)
Sign up to the MySalford newsletter and don't miss a thing happening in and around the city
When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.
In the early hours of Tuesday, April 14, 1970, the smell of oil was wafting in the air from the waters of the Manchester Ship Canal.
Bernard Carroll, a 27-year-old ferryman from Partington, was transporting workers on the five minute journey across the canal via a 20 foot open boat at the time.
Concerned about the unpleasant smell, Bernard suspended his transport services while he informed the police.
Upon investigation, he spotted a trail of oil in the waters near to another boat, named Bob’s Ferry, at the canal's crossing between Bob’s Lane in Cadishead and Lock Lane in Partington.
In an attempt to warn those onboard the ferry of the nearby oil spill, Bernard jumped into a nearby rowing boat and made his way across the canal.
That was the last time Bernard was seen alive.
Before he was able to reach Bob’s Ferry, though, a huge explosion was heard throughout the borough.
At 5.30am, the canal was engulfed in a mile-long sea of flames that soared about 60 feet high.
Nearby houses were evacuated and all that locals could do was watch on in shock until the flames eventually calmed down.
A trawler boat in the docks at Manchester Ship Canal in 1967 - four years before the disaster (Image: mirrorpix)
When the boats were recovered, Bernard was found dead while five passengers were rushed to hospital with severe burns.
Three other passengers from the ferryboat were left unaccounted for but the aftermath of the explosion made it impossible for police to search the waters.
The bodies of those passengers would only be found two weeks later.
A couple of days later, Robert Kilgour, one of the passengers initially rescued, also died from his injuries in hospital.
• Taxi driver rescued after turning left and following sat nav into the Bridgewater Canal
• Thief fleeing police with designer handbag ran face-first into a road sign
At the time, the blast was shrouded in mystery. People had their own theories revolving around what had caused the unusual smell and the oil spill.
It was suspected, and later confirmed, that the oil had been spilled from a tanker unloading at the nearby Shell chemical plant.
Just a few hours before the explosion, a Dutch-owned vessel called Tacoma was being loaded with 1,800 tons of petrol at Partington Coaling Basin.
Standard safety protocols at the time required two workers to observe such operations in order to ensure that no petrol spilled out.
But it was later discovered that the vessel had been left unattended for four hours.
The Manchester Ship Canal today (Image: Manchester Evening News)
Two workers, who were later suspended from duty, admitted to spending the early hours of the morning at a nearby canteen while the vessel was loading up.
While they were socialising and drinking coffee, 14,000 gallons of petrol was able to freely flow into the canal.
A definite reason for how the fire started was never recorded, but some theories suggested it began after a passenger lit a cigarette while onboard the ferry.
During a June 1970 inquest into the tragic events, Coroner Leonard Gorodkin reportedly said: “We will never know just what caused the petrol to ignite and this is a most horrifying story.
Read more of today's stories here
“As a result of this inquest I hope people will realise that safety regulations are not just bits of paper."
The inquest concluded that Albert Wimbleton, 56, Brian Hillier, 18, Roy Platt, 29, Alan Cliff, 17, and Bernard Carroll, 27, all of whom were from Partington, had all died as a result of misadventure.
Daniel MacAlister, George Morrell and Stephen Hunter survived the explosion but were left with permanent injuries.
In 2014, a commemorative event was held to mark the 44th anniversary of the disaster.
More than 230 people on board a ship that visited the site of the accident in 2014. (Image: Hamilton Davies Trust)
Stephen Hunter, the sole living survivor, was joined by more than 230 people on board a ship that set sail from Salford to the site of the accident.
Wreaths were thrown into the water while a two-minute silence was held.
“I was 17 at the time of the disaster four weeks from my 18th birthday, which I spent in Withington Hospital burns unit,” Stephen told the Hamilton Davies Trust at the time.
“I don’t remember much about the disaster, I try to put it to the back of my mind.”
23 mins ago
Former Barrow shipyard worker dies following years of asbestos exposure
By George Lythgoe @GeorgeNWEM Reporter
INQUEST: Coroner's Court, Cockermouth
A RETIRED shipyard worker died as a result of industrial disease due to asbestos exposure, an inquest heard.
Thomas Kilburn died at the age of 87 at Furness General Hospital on November 2, 2020, Cockermouth Coroner’s Court was told.
The Conyers Avenue resident was believed to have been exposed to asbestos during his time working in the shipyard in Barrow which was ruled as the most likely cause of his mesothelioma, according to assistant coroner Mr Craig Smith.
After his condition deteriorated, he was admitted to Furness General where he suffered from progressive mesothelioma for which he received palliative care on the ward.
The coroner concluded said the cause of death was by industrial disease.
12 Apr 2021
The TUC in Yorkshire & the Humber is today (Monday) urging shoppers to help keep shop workers safe by asking about ventilation in stores.
Ventilation in workplaces, such as open doors and windows in shops, is a key factor in mitigating infection risk, according to the national Hazards Campaign, and a broad consensus of scientists.
The TUC is urging shoppers to keep their distance, think about ventilation, and speak up for shop workers if you think something isn't right.
Commenting on today’s (Monday) easing of restrictions, TUC Yorkshire & Humber Regional Secretary Bill Adams said:
“As we reopen the economy, we must not drop our guard on workplace safety. If workplaces aren’t Covid-secure, coronavirus cases could spiral out of control again.
“Ministers must tell the Health and Safety Executive to crack down on bad bosses who play fast and loose with workers’ safety. It’s a national scandal that not a single employer has been prosecuted and fined for putting workers or the public at risk.
“Vaccinations can't be a substitute for comprehensive health and safety measures to make workplaces safe.
“And the government needs to wake up to the fact that a lack of decent sick pay undermines safe return to work. Ministers must raise statutory sick pay to the level of the real Living Wage, and make sure everyone can get it.”
• Hazards Campaign has collated research on ventilation here: https://www.hazards.org/infections/venting.htm
Follow us on Twitter…
Not allowed to work from home and employers not controlling the transmission risks inside workplaces!! https://t.co/HwNLmOV3MF
So the problem of infection spread is far less to do with people breaking the rules than with rules which allow - often compel - many people to go out to workplaces, many of which are unsafe and doesn't enforce the right to work from home if possible https://t.co/jgsqrmWHs3
What about ventilation? And all those workplaces not controlling the risks?? https://t.co/WVQS3fAFtx