Tuesday, September 28

Hand dryers banned under SOPs to improve ventilation of S’wak’s non-residential buildings

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Dr Su said it is more hygienic to provide disposable paper towels for people to wipe their hands and throw into the bin. — AFP file photo

KUCHING (Sept 14): The use of hand dryers in kitchens, toilets, and shower rooms within buildings has been banned as part of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing’s (MLGH) standard operating procedures (SOPs) to improve ventilation for non-residential buildings.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences public health and occupational physician Prof Dr Anselm Su said this is one of the methods to prevent excessive aerosol generation in an indoor environment.

“When a person is infected with Covid-19, their hands and body are all contaminated with the virus. A hand dryer produces very high-speed air current to dry your hands, so it will generate a lot of aerosols in the environment.

“As such we do not encourage the use of hand dryers. It is more hygienic to provide disposable paper towels for people to wipe their hands and throw into the bin. That is why we put it in the SOP,” he said during a Zoom briefing on the SOPs today.

Jointly developed by the ministry and Unimas, the SOPs aim to achieve optimal air dilution, air exchange, and air filtration in all non-residential buildings in Sarawak to keep the risk of Covid-19 transmission as low as possible.

Earlier Dr Su also explained current scientific evidence suggests that in addition to direct droplet transmission, Covid-19 viruses can be transmitted by aerosols suspended in the air and moved by air currents.

He said besides social distancing, personal hygiene, surface decontamination, and personal protective equipment (masks), another measure is ventilation control.

“To reduce the risk of airborne transmission, we need to dilute the air and exchange the contaminated air with fresh air as frequently as possible.

“The principle of clean ventilation means that the outdoor clean air goes through filtering, chilling, and supplied to the indoors, where the clean air is consumed before being expelled outdoors.

“However, in Air Conditioning and Mechanical Ventilation (ACMV), the consumed clean air is not expelled outdoors but circulated through the filter, chilling and supplied again,” he said.

He also recommended the use of High Efficient Particulate Air (Hepa) and Ultra Low Penetration Air (Ulpa) filters, which have high minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of Merv 17 and above to filter 99.95 per cent of viruses and carbon dust.

The SOPs based on space configuration for enclosed buildings cover Space with Centralised Air Conditioning System; Space with Openable Windows and Split Air Conditioning System; Space with Openable Windows and without Air Conditioning System; Space without Windows or where Windows cannot be Opened and without Centralised Air Conditioning System; Space with Wide Front and Back Entrance Openings; Kitchen within the Building; and Toilet and Shower Room within the Building.

Separately, the ministry’s environmental health officer Billy Sujang said the SOPs are necessary in order to improve the current situation and will be accompanied by detailed guidelines on implementation.

“We hope that our businesses can be back to normal again with some improvements. This is our commitment to the community, to come up with the SOPs.

“These SOPs are not only for this pandemic but it will be (for years to come) as we don’t know what other diseases in the next three years. We work together so that we can see the number (of cases) go down,” he said.

SOP Ventilation Infographic (ENG)