Steps Can You Take to Eliminate Indoor Air Hazards

Steps Can You Take to Eliminate Indoor Air Hazards

If your workers are frequently ill or they complain about symptoms such as headaches, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, stuffy and sneezy noses, coughs or nausea that clear up once they leave the office, then poor indoor air quality—or IAQ—may be to blame. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, poor indoor air quality costs U.S. businesses tens of billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and added healthcare expenses.

What Constitutes an Indoor Air Hazard?

The air quality in your workplace is affected by a very large number of factors. The building itself—from its architectural design to its physical location—can play a part. Renovations produce excessive dust, while leaks allow the penetration of exterior moisture, leading to dampness and mold growth. Overcrowded offices and improperly operated and maintained HVAC systems can also cause a reduction in indoor air quality—as can the presence of contaminants founds in cleaning supplies, formaldehyde from carpeting, and ozone from copy machines.

Indoor air hazards typically fall into three categories. Biological pollutants include the mold mentioned earlier as well as animal dander, bacteria, viruses, fungi and pollen. Chemical pollutants include gases from products used within the building as well as chemical fumes that are drawn into the workplace from outside. Particle pollutants included dust—one of the biggest culprits in most offices—as well as dirt and other solid or liquid substances.

What Steps Can You Take to Eliminate Indoor Air Hazards?

Fortunately, poor IAQ is a solvable problem for most workplaces. Assessing the situation is the first step you must take. This may include surveying your employees on their symptoms as well as reviewing your workplace illness and injury records. The information you gather should help you ascertain the size of the issue. From there, consider the following actions to improve the indoor air quality in your workplace.

  1. Identify pollutant sources – Take a look at the products used within your workplace, from cleaning supplies to printer ink and bathroom tissue. If you find any that contain contaminants known to cause the symptoms your employees are experiencing, replace those products with healthier alternatives. Professional air monitoring tests may be helpful in the identification of potential contaminants.
  1. Keep your workplace clean – Dust surfaces—including walls—regularly and vacuum floors as frequently as possible. Avoided piles of clutter and office supplies as these only serve to collect more dust. If you cannot afford professional custodial services, require your employees to tidy their area daily.
  1. Evaluate air circulation – “Stale air” contains higher levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. It may be created when indoor air is excessively re-circulated or when the office ventilation is not sufficient to account for the number of workers within a given space. Opening windows may help, as will adjustments to your building’s ventilation system. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers—or ASHRAE—recommends a ventilation system provide your office with 20 cubic feet of fresh outside air per minute per person.
  1. Control for temperature and humidity – To optimize indoor air quality, experts recommend keeping the interior temperature of your workplace between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit as well as maintaining humidity between 30 and 60 percent. This adjustment alone can dramatically reduce the incidence of upper respiratory symptoms in the workplace.
  1. Maintain your HVAC system – A properly functioning heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is essential to the elimination of dangerous indoor air hazards. At minimum, you should schedule professional servicing of your HVAC system at least once a year. Even better, invest in maintenance every spring and fall. File copies of maintenance records so they may be analyzed in the event that poor indoor air quality problems pop up again.


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