How To Maintain Air Quality When Outside Air is Polluted
Maintaining a clean environment is the most important distinguishing factor between a safe and a hazardous workplace. When working in hospitals where the risk for HAIs, or hospital acquired infections, is high, ensuring that things are properly disinfected is even more important for everyone’s health— worker and patient alike.
Surfaces and equipment aren’t the only things that need to be cleaned. Maintaining air quality is extremely important for infection control. But while this is paramount, it can be hard to keep up air quality when the outside air is polluted and makes its way into the building. The outside air is subject to government national air quality measures, but they aren’t always met. Knowing how to keep the air in your work environment clean despite the challenges is key in preventing the spread of HAIs.
Outside Air Pollution
Poor air quality leads to thousands of hospital trips a year in the United States, let alone the rest of the world, where that number rises exponentially. There are government health standards for pollution, but not all places in the United States are up to code. The particles that circulate in polluted outside air get into the lungs of people breathing and can make them have respiratory issues. Beyond respiratory issues, some of the particles in the air carry disease and infection, and can lead to heart disease, stroke, or lung cancer.
Outside pollution is a huge public health issue. Making sure that the air inside of a hospital or long-term care facility—particularly if that air is inside of a hospital where people are already at a higher risk of getting an infection— is clean can be a trial. But it is necessary to ensure the safety of those around the construction site.
Inside the Hospital
Because patients in the hospital already have preoccupied immune systems, they are especially at risk for HAIs. Guidelines state that in rooms or other spaces that have immunocompromised patients, there need to be 15 air changes per hour. If the facility doesn’t have immunocompromised patients, then the air needs 12 air changes per hour. Other rooms with specialized purposes, such as operating and delivery rooms, need up to 25 air changes per hour.
The risks mean that hospitals are attentive to what the requirements are, and can already know what preventative measures need to be prepared, such as dust containment units for projects with ceiling access, and AnteRooms for keeping dust and particles in a particular location in the healthcare facility. Making sure that you have the equipment for these projects is essential, as these are the best ways to prevent HAIs.
It is important to note that you will never be able to impact the outdoor air quality. If you are working in a hospital that is located in an area that you know, or find out from research, has a higher level of pollution, you need to find ways to help protect the patients inside during a project. The air from outside can enter the building and harm the patients inside the hospital. Maintaining air quality is of primary importance.
The best way to ensure that the indoor air quality is properly filtered and able to combat any outside air that might enter the hospital is with a negative air machine. A negative air machine is able to create a pressure difference, forcing the air in an isolated area to circulate. When the air circulates through a HEPA filter, the particles that could cause HAIs if they came into contact with patients are filtered out, so clean air continues to circulate.
Some negative air machines allow you to pump air directly out of the hospital, but in areas with a high level of outdoor pollution, this could lead to more problems as people around the hospital are already at an elevated risk for lung infection. Getting a HEPA filter, and making sure that it is changed as needed, will help you protect the patients inside the hospital with compromised immune systems from getting additional infections.
In hospital construction, you are always battling against the spread of HAIs. One of the main ways that these infectious particles travel is through the air, and in areas with polluted air outside the hospital, the risk is even greater. To protect patients— and workers— from the dangers of viruses, bacteria, and polluted dust in the air, a negative air machine is the best bet way to protect against hazardous conditions and maintain air quality.