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Migrant Clinicians Network Reveals Ventilation Checklist for Safe Workplaces

Person working with window open

By Robert Kinnaird

As COVID-19 primarily spreads through the air, workplaces with poor ventilation are among the most endangered by the virus. To address the problems poor ventilation can create, even beyond the current pandemic, Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN) has created a checklist in partnership with the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM) that workers and employers can use to ensure the safety of their workplaces.

"Since we are not always able to modify buildings or improve the structural ventilation systems, it’s important to know there are still feasible ventilation improvements available to us to improve indoor air quality,” said Marysel Pagán Santana, DrPH, MS, MCN’s Senior Program Manager in Puerto Rico. “For instance, air purifiers can support the process by filtering some of the air in the room. Choosing the correct one will help to remove particles that can be small enough to bypass disposable or cloth facemasks, particles that are small enough to remain for hours in the air."

Proper ventilation can dramatically slow the spread of sickness in a workplace, preventing workers from falling ill. Increased virus transmission rates occur in environments where employees are working in close contact with each other without proper air flow or personal protection. In some workplaces, ventilation can also be vital for removing toxins and debris from the air that are harmful for long-term lung health. All workplaces, from the office to the factory, need proper ventilation and air filtration to keep the employees safe. Personal protection like masks and respirators can help individual workers in workplaces with poor ventilation. Fans and open windows also can help keep the workplace safer and air purifiers are an effective way to improve air quality without completely modifying the building itself, especially during this pandemic.

MCN has seen the importance of outlining clear ventilation guidelines that can easily be used in any workplace over the past year. The ongoing fight against COVID-19 has shown that unseen particulates can be more dangerous than other workplace hazards due to their ability to go unnoticed. Ventilation guidelines need to be clear. When using air purifiers to improve ventilation, guidelines are needed to calculate their efficacy for workplaces, so that both employers and workers can have the resources they need to ensure they are creating a safer workplace. 

MCN’s new checklist can be used to help with ventilation strategies and to help assess which air purifiers fit the needs of your workplace. The checklist provides a basic formula to calculate the volume of air in a room and the clean air delivery rate (CADR), both of which can be used to figure out the rate of air exchanges per hour (ACH). The ACH of a workplace should be at least 4.5, meaning that every hour, the air of the room is completely refreshed with purified air four and a half times.

The Checklist also contains additional information to assist workplaces with their air quality and worker protection, explaining the effectiveness of other air quality tools.

The Checklist is now available for download and distribution in English and Spanish on the NRC-RIM site.


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