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Clean air crucial for curbing Covid-19 spread

South Africa is bracing itself for a third Covid-19 wave. According to scientists, this is due to the slow start to the vaccination programme and relaxed level 1 restrictions. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has stated that: “If that third wave comes, it should be managed (in such a way) that we keep the economy going and protect lives.”

“To this end, employers need to ensure that they fulfil their moral and legal obligation of providing a safe and healthy workplace for their staff,” says Koen Van Wynendaele, Daikin South Africa Managing Director.

He continues, “There is growing evidence that Covid-19 infection can occur from airborne exposure to the virus, particularly in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation[i]. With this in mind, employers need to consider the air quality of their workplaces.

“Not only is clean air crucial in limiting the spread of Covid-19, with ventilation and air purification technologies proving effective in inactivating the virus[ii], but it can also have a significant impact on the well-being and productivity of employees.”

The MD unpacks some of the ways clean air can contribute towards a healthier, more profitable workplace.

  • Reduced absenteeism: With enclosed spaces like offices being breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses, employees tend to get sick or suffer from allergies which often leads to absenteeism. Cleaner air can cut this down.
  • Better decision-making: A study conducted by the Healthy Buildings programme at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making performance among participants[iii]. In fact, when participants were exposed to increased ventilation rates, lower levels of chemicals, and lower carbon dioxide, researchers saw the biggest improvements in areas such as planning, staying prepared, and strategizing during crises[iv].
  • Improved productivity: Poor air quality negatively affects the central nervous system, resulting in headaches, difficulty concentrating and tiredness – all of which result in decreased work ability, and in turn, productivity loss[v]. It is not surprising then that better air quality results in productivity improvements of 8-11%[vi].
  • Worker retention: As bad air quality can cause health issues amongst employees; it might lead to talent leaving for healthier work environments. Not only can cleaner air help prevent the loss of valuable employees, but it could also reduce the time and cost involved in job posting, interviewing, and onboarding replacement staff.
  • Increased morale: People want to work where they are valued; and will work at companies that invest in their health and wellness.

“Given that we spend 212 days a year on average at work, surely businesses need to make clean air a priority especially seeing that 800 000 people die every year due to poor air quality in their workplace[vii] which is no doubt being compounded by the Covid-19 crisis,” concludes Van Wynendaele.

Sources:

[i] thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30514-2/fulltext

[ii] https://www.daikin.co.za/en_us/press-releases/streamer-technology-study.html

[iii] https://hbr.org/2017/03/research-stale-office-air-is-making-you-less-productive

[iv] https://hbr.org/2017/03/research-stale-office-air-is-making-you-less-productive

[v] https://www.wbdg.org/files/pdfs/phytofilter_bjarne_olesen.pdf

[vi] https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/compressed_WorldGBC_Health_Wellbeing__Productivity_Full_Report_Dbl_Med_Res_Feb_2015.pdf

[vii] https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/pollution-and-health