The Victorian government has launched a $60 million Small Business Ventilation Program.
The funding will help eligible public-facing small businesses to improve building ventilation in areas accessible to customers and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Minister for Small Business,Jaala Pulford, said improving ventilation will not only help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it will also give customers confidence when walking through the doors of their local shops, cafes and bars.
“COVID-19 is still very much with us, so we are working with small businesses to help make premises safer,” Pulford said.
Under the program, two types of support will be available:
There is a $500 ventilation rebate for public-facing small businesses to undertake immediate actions such as purchasing equipment or hiring a qualified tradesperson to undertake minor services to improve ventilation in areas accessible to customers.
Ventilation grants are also available. Matched grants of $1000 to $5000 can be used to enable public-facing small businesses who employ staff to invest in larger projects such as building works, engaging professional services or equipment to improve ventilation in areas accessible to customers.
A business can apply for both a Ventilation Rebate and a Ventilation Grant. The submitted applications can request funds for the same ventilation project, however the funds must not be allocated to the same eligible expenditure item.
Good ventilation is important because COVID-19 is airborne and primarily spread between people breathing in very small droplets or aerosols containing the virus. The risk of aerosol transmission is higher in a poorly ventilated space because fine aerosol spray from an infected person can remain circulating, linger and spread more easily.
At the same time the Victorian government has released a Small Business Ventilation Guide. It covers natural ventilation as well as mechanical ventilation.
“Business owners must use their judgement and make decisions that are appropriate for their business to improve ventilation and air quality,” the guide states. “This may involve seeking professional advice before committing to a purchase.”
The Small Business Ventilation Program is part of a $200 million stimulus injection to help businesses recover from the pandemic.
For more information on improving ventilation in the workplace, visit coronavirus.vic.gov/ventilation.
One country that has taken ventilation seriously is the United States where the government is spending billions of dollars on a clean air campaign.
With the pandemic entering a new phase in the United States marked by fewer precautions and the rise of the even more transmissible Omicron subvariant BA2, the Biden administration has begun stressing the importance of mitigating the risk of indoor aerosol transmission, the primary driver of the pandemic.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued expert guidance to building managers, contractors and business owners, with two pages of recommendations that codify the best practices on ventilation, air filtration and air disinfection from academic experts and federal agencies of the last two years.
The agency said implementation could be underwritten with federal funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which President Joe Biden signed into law 12 months ago.
“Infectious diseases like COVID-19 can spread through the inhalation of airborne particles and aerosols,” the EPA document states.
“In addition to other layered prevention strategies, taking actions to improve IAQ can reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols, and other contaminants, and improve the health of building occupants. None of these actions will eliminate risk completely.
“The best combination of actions for a building will vary by space and location. When determining which actions to take to help protect occupants, building owners and operators should consider, for example, public health guidance, who and how many people are in the building, the activities that occur in the building, outdoor air quality, climate, weather conditions, and the installed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment."