Preparing building HVAC systems for a return to work


Tuesday, 14 July, 2020



Preparing building HVAC systems for a return to work

When many Australians began working from home, buildings and offices were left empty and their heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) systems put into hibernation. With coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions easing and workers returning to places of work, building systems must be considered as part of a safe return by building managers. Adrian O’Connell, Chief Executive Officer of Standards Australia, acknowledged that while there is a lot to be considered when returning to a building, environmental health must not be overlooked. “The transition of working from home to back to office will have its challenges for many organisations, but having a prepared building does not have to be one of them,” O’Connell said.

The Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3666 Air-handling and water systems of buildings — Microbial control standards series is a useful tool that helps manage building air quality and risk related to hazards like Legionella. “Precautions should be taken and regulations and standards considered when preparing the space for returning occupants,” Nicholas Burt, Chief Executive Officer of the Facility Management Association of Australia, said. “With two Legionella outbreaks already taking place earlier this year, the risks associated with turning these systems back on are very real,” said Tony Gleeson, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating. “The good news is there are practical steps that can be taken to safely flush them out.”

Prior to facilities being opened for use, all water outlets should be flushed for at least three minutes each. Before using appliances such as drinking water fountains, fixtures should be opened to flow for at least half a minute. Before starting any cooling water system, a cooling tower clean should be conducted and care must be taken to disinfect all system water. Legionella testing may also be conducted to ensure pipework has not been colonised by Legionella during periods of stagnancy.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/urbans78

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