Factories and office blocks depend on ventilation systems to keep air clean and comfortable to work in. What some fail to appreciate is that ventilation systems themselves need to be cleaned. Without adequate maintenance ventilation systems can turn from a help into a hazard.
While legionella is an extreme example, many cases of “sick building syndrome” remain unsolved. If lots of staff are falling sick, or notice they feel less ill after leaving work, you should investigate potential problems with your ventilation. Even when good cleaning regimes appear to be in place, it’s not unknown for cleaning and maintenance mistakes to introduce detergents or oil fumes into ducts.
Poor temperature control is another problem. Vents blowing hot air into upper levels on hot days is a common source of complaints. During the recent heatwave many HVAC systems failed to provide adequate control not because they weren’t designed for it, but because they were not adequately maintained in readiness.
Similarly, icy blasts and noisy vents often prompt workers to switch off vital dust collection equipment.
Dust and temperature control are not a luxury, they are mandatory. Many pieces of employment and health and safety legislation regulate workplace safety but an important standard of practices for air cleaning systems is TR19 from the Building Engineering Services Association.
Many insurance policies are voided if your equipment and maintenance practices do not conform to TR19. For that reason it is important to document your regimen and record all maintenance.
Design and maintenance of ventilation systems and ductwork parts is a complex task. Ductwork parts are not necessarily expensive (see https://www.dustspares.co.uk/ductwork-parts/) but there is no substitute for experience when it comes to putting the system together.
How frequently should you clean?
TR19 suggests every 3 months in areas where it is heavily used. “Heavily used” would certainly include dust suppression areas on a factory floor, but also includes offices occupied over 12 hours per day. A typical office used 6-12 hours per day is considered “moderate” and should be cleaned six monthly. An area with less than 6 hours use can reasonably be left a year.
Regular cleaning keeps the machinery efficient and can actually reduce your overall running costs. On the other hand, a system making your workers tired and sick could be costing you far more.