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What HVAC PPM Can You Carry Out During the COVID-19 Crisis?

May 18th, 2020

Last updated: October 7th, 2022

With many facilities across the UK currently laying empty or utilised only by a skeleton staff, using the situation to carry out planned preventive maintenance (PPM) on key systems and machinery is one of the positives you can take from the current pandemic, except it isn’t quite that easy. Many business premises are on lockdown, which means that the specialist subcontractors required for PPM might not be able to gain access to a site, there are limited resources available to use on site even if you can gain access, and then maybe in-house teams who need to be present to help carry out PPM are not at work due to the pandemic.

Depleted and ever-changing resources are resulting in a constant amending to procedure and the frequent application of risk assessments to accurately reflect and control the changing situation. The effects of the pandemic and the accompanying Governmental guidelines are a new area for everyone, so we are all on a steep learning curve, but with PPM it is important to establish what we can still do to help protect our facilities and ensure they are kept well-maintained, ready for when restrictions are lifted and operations are eased back towards some form of normality, allowing us to get back to work safely.

Governmental Guidelines on PPM

Whilst the UK Government has emphasised a need to continue to make buildings safe, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has enforced its stance that statutory inspections should be adhered to, and although there has been some practical logic applied to that to reflect the current circumstances and the difficulty in being able to follow procedure 100%, the HSE have reminded employers that they have a legal duty to maintain work equipment. If equipment is needed to keep running during this time, there needs to be a documented risk assessment to address actions taken to control risks, should key maintenance tasks not be able to be completed. In addition to this, condition monitoring can also be critical at this time.

In a recent article on their website, the BSRIA stated that: “BFM respects statutory and mandatory requirements but has long advocated a review of non-statutory generic time-based interventions. Indeed, BSRIA’s BFM practitioners travel to sites up and down the country and across the globe, supporting building owners and operators with independent, authoritative advice on how to maximise business-function-critical building service uptime, whilst minimising cost and time resource investment. Targeted use of condition monitoring can often provide more uptime than intrusive maintenance permits and avoids the risk of maintenance induced failures.”

PPM Actions You Can Undertake

So in terms of HVAC systems and equipment, how can businesses act to ensure their critical infrastructure is monitored and controlled where regular PPM is not able to be carried out at this time?

Vacant buildings need to be left in a state where key equipment is shutdown and left safe, materials are stored safely and all security issues are addressed. However, even if a skeleton staff are the only occupants of a building, the critical HVAC systems need to be monitored and controlled to ensure safety parameters are maintained even at reduced usage.

Water systems – flush these out where possible to try and clean a system of any biological build-up, and as far as you can, maintain the system’s normal operation. So hot and cold water systems should be kept at their respective temperatures, and sensors should be used to operate pumps, which are used to keep the water moving through the systems as normal.

Heating systems – as with water, heating systems should be used as normal, where this is practical, and given we are approaching the period of the year in which these systems would be shutdown, this might be a good time to bring that procedure forward.

Ventilation/air conditioning – whilst there is still plenty of speculation over whether the Coronavirus is transmitted through airborne particles, a common agreement is that keeping fresh air coming into a building is the best way to go. Therefore, re-circulating outside air through ventilation and air conditioning is considered best practice, as is the extraction of used ‘inside’ air. This may require some manual intervention to fully open dampers and close recirculation paths to increase/reduce these normal airflows.

Robinsons Facilities Services are happy and available to advise on what PPM can be carried out during shutdown or partial shutdown scenarios. And of course, where we are able to access your systems and work on-site, we can make planned maintenance visits or bring forward scheduled visits, to help with the ongoing operation of your HVAC machinery, equipment and systems during this unprecedented period, so give us a call today.

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