Close
Learn more

News & Knowledge

Scroll

cpms-guides

COVID 19 & Building Maintenance

The UK Government has advised that essential maintenance and repair remains important work and government guidelines must be followed.

Due to COVID 19 many buildings will become low use or empty, as businesses close and working from home increases. Estate and building owners, landlords and tenants will therefore seek to adjust maintenance appropriately.

The extent to which maintenance can be varied will differ based on the utilisation, building/ estate configuration (e.g. centralised systems or separate standalone systems by areas) and operational requirements.

In many cases buildings will not require to be fully mothballed. Instead they may become low use with skeleton staff and low-key maintenance implemented. Elements of the building may be needed to support the working from home staff, such as server rooms to support the online working.

WHAT MAINTENANCE WORKS SHOULD BE DONE?

Planned Preventive Maintenance Standard, Mothballing & Reactivation can be applied to varying degrees depending on the building and situation. Users will need to assess their clients’ needs and apply principles of risk assessment to producing a method of working to satisfy the government requirements for COVID 19 in relation to, statutory and insurance requirements (legal, lease stipulations etc.) and the amended contractual needs of clients.

Key minimum levels of maintenance activity should ensure :

  • Statutory Compliance
  • Property Security
  • Building Fabric Protection
  • Business Critical Systems Operation
  • Adherence to any Insurance cover requirements

There has been no Government relaxation on carrying out ‘Statutory’ Planned Maintenance tasks, as Statutory Tasks by their very nature are designed to ensure Health and Safety, if the current regime is operating to SFG20 and continues to do so the property will be safe and compliant. (HSE Guidance)

LOW USE OCCUPIED SPACES – KEY MAINTENANCE

If low use low key maintenance is employed, then a maintenance strategy will need to be implemented and followed. This will primarily look at maintaining statutory/insurance requirements and maintaining the security of the building. Examples of requirements to be maintained in under utilised buildings is as follows.

  • Water system hygiene requirements under L8
  • Cooling tower L8 compliance and local authority compliance
  • Fire detection system testing and maintenance
  • Passive fire protection testing and maintenance including fire doors, fire stopping, fire dampers etc
  • Inspection and maintenance of active fire protection such as sprinkler and fire suppression systems, fire extinguishers etc.
  • Electrical safety checks under EWR 1989 & BS7671 (18th edition electrical regulations)
  • Gas safety inspections and maintenance
  • F-GAS compliance as a legal requirement for air conditioning and refrigeration systems
  • Security systems monitoring and maintenance
  • Pressure System Safety Regulations for e.g. compressed air and pressurised steam systems(HSE Guidance)
  • Compliance under LOLER for passenger lifts and lifting equipment if they are still to be in service. (HSE Guidance)

The above are examples of common compliance items, but there are many more that could apply, therefore individual site assessment are required to establish the key compliance areas for the site in question, CPMS can provide guidance if required

H&S ADVICE ON BUILDING MAINTENANCE WORKS

Maintenance work can continue providing the current government safety advice is adhered to.

Follow this link for access to the guidance.

Please see Section 4: Going to work, in the above link which states “With the exception of the organisations covered above in the section on closing non-essential shops and public spaces, the Government has not requiredany other businesses to close –indeed it is important for business to carry on.

It is important to note that if the government guidelines cannot be followed in the first instance you should raise this withthe site manager. A risk assessment should be completed detailing what the risks are and why these will/may/could affect your ability to do the work. These concerns should be raised with the site/responsible manager to see if a solution can be found before the job is cancelled. Any works that cannot be completed must be communicated to the client with the reasons why and a copy of any evidence and risk assessment.

WATER SYSTEMS IN BUILDINGS

The legal responsibility for legionella control lies with the Dutyholder, CPMS can provide expert advice to their customers to assist them in compliance. Each Dutyholder must make their own determination for each circumstance but the following principles should be considered when making decisions on what to do to control legionella during the COVID-19 outbreak

1) The expectation for evaporative cooling systems is that they will be maintained as usual or switched off safely – there is no leeway in this

2) The expectation for water systems supplying critical services, for example hospitals, is that they will be maintained as usual – there is no leeway in this

3) Hot and cold water systems in buildings that are empty or with under occupancy must address the issue of stagnation:

a. If the building is still partially in use take additional measures to keep the remaining occupants safe:

i. If possible, drop stored water levels in tanks to maintain <24 hours storage ii. Flush to simulate use – weekly flushing may not be sufficient

iii. Monitor temperature to ensure thermal gain in cold water is controlled

iv. If fitted, consider temporarily increasing levels of potable water treatment dosing – consider other consequences of this such as corrosion and make the decision on balance of benefit

v. If controls are lost (temperature, biocide levels, etc.) the guidance in HSG274 is to sample for legionella weekly

vi. Consider other short term measures to keep remaining occupants safe such as point of use filters at designated locations with other areas shut off

b. Buildings that are temporarily shut down (mothballed) should follow the guidance in HSG274 Part 2 paragraphs 2.50-2.52:

i. Do not drain down pipework

ii. If possible, remove sources of heat and external thermal gain

iii. Lock off, place signage on doors and otherwise advise potential users that the system has been taken out of use

iv. Have a plan in place for recommissioning the water system

For all of the work above there should be a task risk assessment in place to ensure operatives are working safely.

RECOMMISSIONING WATER SYSTEMS

It is essential that when buildings reopen following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, that any water system is not simply put straight back into use. During the period of shutdown it would be sensible to formulate a recommissioning plan for each water system to allow safe start-up and assurance to users that it is safe. Dutyholders are likely to be able to access competent help from service providers remotely during the period of restricted movement.

Any plan for recommissioning buildings must take into account the safety of the operatives carrying out the work. It is foreseeable that the hazard present within water systems in this situation would be greater than normally expected. Reasonably practicable measures such as limiting aerosol, minimising exposure and use of RPE should be considered.

Evaporative cooling systems should already have robust start-up and shut-down procedures in place and the expectation is that these will be followed.

The minimum expectation for small, simple hot and cold water systems would be flushing through with fresh mains water. Larger buildings, those with tanks, showers, calorifiers and more complex pipework the expectation is likely to be for more extensive flushing followed by cleaning and disinfection.

During flushing all valves should be operated in the fully open position so that any particulate matter can be flushed through. Of particular importance are float-operated or other restrictive valves which need to be manually opened to ensure clearing of particulates and prevent fouling of the valves. Where a clearing velocity cannot be achieved, consideration should be given to removal of valves to enable an effective flush

Where cleaning and disinfection is carried out, it is very important to monitor the decrease in disinfectant level over the course of the contact time. Loss of more than 40% disinfectant concentration could indicate influence of biofilm. See BSI PD855468 for more guidance.

Where buildings have been empty for some time and during warm weather, it is likely that some increase in bacteria levels and biofilm will occur. These water systems may require more than a simple disinfection at 50ppm of chlorine for an hour to be successful. Be prepared for the need to repeat some disinfections to achieve success. Manage customer expectations and be careful to agree the process rather than guarantee the result.

In all cases where systems are being recommissioned it is sensible to have evidence to prove/reassure that the recommissioning process has been effective. Sampling to BS7592 should be considered for recommissioning plans to validate the effectiveness of the process. As per HSG274 part 2, samples should be taken 2-7 days following recommissioning and not on the day of disinfection. Follow up samples may need to be considered as part of the recommissioning plan.

While each individual water system is likely to need individual consideration, it will be helpful to be aware of the bigger picture with regard to demand on services. There will be an increased demand for flushing and disinfection, sampling and other system recommissioning work. Be aware of this, make your customers and supply chain aware and manage expectations accordingly.

There is potential for multiple outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease following the COVID-19 outbreak if actions taken now are not carefully considered. Please make your customers aware of this, and that the responsibility for legionella control lies with the Dutyholder.

HVAC – PREVENTION

The primary mechanisms for preventing the transmission of coronavirus remain regular, thorough handwashing using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, coupled with strict adherence to social distancing requirements and staying at home. Surfaces which may be contaminated also need regular cleaning following the protocols set out by PHE.

Dilution of internal air should reduce any risk of potential airborne viral transmission by reducing exposure time to any airborne viral aerosols, and also reduce the chance for these aerosols to settle on surfaces. Evidence shows that virus can survive on some surfaces for at least 72 hours and hence any action to limit surface contamination is beneficial.

It is recommended that any ventilation or air conditioning system that normally runs with a recirculation mode should now be set up to run on full outside air where this is possible.

In buildings with mechanical ventilation systems extended operation times are recommended. In demand control systems CO2 set points should be set to 400ppm to increase the delivery of outside air. Ventilation should be kept on for longer, with lower ventilation rates when people are absent. It is not recommended to switch ventilation systems off in any buildings, even those temporarily vacated, but to operate them continuously at reduced speeds.

Recirculation of air between spaces, rooms or zones occupied by different people should be avoided.

However, in the case of any systems serving a single space, partial recirculation of air within that space, such as through a local fan coil unit, is less of a concern. The reason is that the primary objective is to maximise the air exchange rate with outside air and to minimize the risk of any pockets of stagnant air.

If a local recirculation unit enhances air disturbance and hence helps reduce the risk of stagnant air, then this should be considered when developing a strategy. Note that although these are relatively uncommon today, ceiling fans within a space can provide this function.

Emerging Findings

Proving modes of transmission during an outbreak is difficult. However, multiple recent studies are showing evidence of indirect contact (which may be linked to airborne spread) and have also linked airflow patterns to infection cases.

This has been particularly the case in high occupancy areas, in spaces with little fresh air, and when people generate a lot of aerosols (e.g. shouting and singing). Given the growing body of evidence suggesting airborne transmission may be a route of infection and knowledge of aerosol generation and transport it is prudent to ensure ventilation is operating appropriately to protect occupants.

The following measures, using outside air wherever possible, should help to reduce the risks from airborne transmission.

Prevention

The primary mechanisms for preventing the transmission of coronavirus remain regular, thorough handwashing using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, coupled with strict adherence to social distancing requirements and staying at home. Surfaces which may be contaminated also need regular cleaning following the protocols set out by PHE.

Dilution of internal air should reduce any risk of potential airborne viral transmission by reducing exposure time to any airborne viral aerosols, and also reduce the chance for these aerosols to settle on surfaces. Evidence shows that virus can survive on some surfaces for at least 72 hours and hence any action to limit surface contamination is beneficial.

It is recommended that any ventilation or air conditioning system that normally runs with a recirculation mode should now be set up to run on full outside air where this is possible.

In buildings with mechanical ventilation systems extended operation times are recommended. In demand control systems CO2 set points should be set to 400ppm to increase the delivery of outside air. Ventilation should be kept on for longer, with lower ventilation rates when people are absent. It is not recommended to switch ventilation systems off in any buildings, even those temporarily vacated, but to operate them continuously at reduced speeds.

Recirculation of air between spaces, rooms or zones occupied by different people should be avoided.

However, in the case of any systems serving a single space, partial recirculation of air within that space, such as through a local fan coil unit, is less of a concern. The reason is that the primary objective is to maximise the air exchange rate with outside air and to minimize the risk of any pockets of stagnant air.

If a local recirculation unit enhances air disturbance and hence helps reduce the risk of stagnant air then this should be considered when developing a strategy. Note that although these are relatively uncommon today, ceiling fans within a space can provide this function.

By using this page you agree to our Cookies Policy