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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Indoor Air Quality

It’s a known fact poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can be hazardous to workers’ health, and there are many factors that can affect IAQ. Such factors include, but are not limited to, poor ventilation, problems controlling temperature, high or low humidity and recent remodeling and activity both inside and outside the building. For the past several months, during the pandemic, focus has been on ventilation and air cleaning to find ways to reduce the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of FAQs specific to indoor air quality and COVID-19, including the answer to where professionals who manage such buildings as offices, schools and commercial buildings can get specific information on ventilation and filtration to respond to COVID-19:

“Professionals who operate school, office, and commercial buildings should consult the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance for information on ventilation and filtration to help reduce risks from the virus that causes COVID-19. In general, increasing ventilation and filtration is usually appropriate; however, due to the complexity and diversity of building types, sizes, construction styles, HVAC system components, and other building features, a professional should interpret ASHRAE guidelines for their specific building and circumstances.”

Improvements to ventilation and air cleaning are important components in the fight against the virus, but they alone cannot eliminate the entire transmission risk. Physical distancing, wearing masks, surface cleaning and hand washing are also important in the stopping of spread of COVID. Taking steps to clear the air literally can help keep your most important assets – your employees – safe and healthy.

Tagged in: IAQ Indoor Air Quality

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National Indoor Air Quality Month is observed every year in October. It’s a good reminder to everyone to take a look at their homes and businesses and find ways to improve the air we all breathe as we typically spend nearly 80-90% of our time indoors.

OSHA has identified key elements that lead to IAQ complaints in the workplace:
• Improperly operated and maintained heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems
• Moisture infiltration and dampness
• Overcrowding
• Presence of outside air pollutants
• Presence of internally generated contaminates
• Radon

OSHA encourages businesses to think in terms of the “Three Lines of Defense” to reduce or eliminate the air quality hazards, and always apply the most effective method first, beginning with eliminating/engineering hazards and going from there.

Three Lines of Defense:
• Eliminating/Engineering Controls – removing, substituting and/or enclosing the pollutant source should always be the first option. If the source cannot be eliminated, then setting up engineering controls, such as a local exhaust, general dilution ventilation and air cleaning/filtration is the next step.
• Administrative Controls – next line of defense falls into three general categories:
  -Work schedule: eliminating or reduce the amount of time a worker is exposed to the pollutant
  -Training: educating workers on the sources and effects of the pollutants under their control, so they can proactively reduce their personal exposure
  -Housekeeping: keeping your workplace as free from dirt and pollutants through the use of mats at doors, proper storing practices, and the use of cleaning products
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – if the first two lines of defense are not feasible or enough to eliminate or lessen the exposure and keep your workers safe and healthy, then PPE should be used to control your workers’ exposure, including the use of respirators, gloves, protective clothing, eyewear, and footwear where necessary.

Air Quality Awareness Week 2021 is celebrated May 3-7, and the theme is Healthy Air – Important to Everyone! The goal is to promote events that increase air quality awareness and encourage people to check the Air Quality Index (AQI) daily. Read our recent blog explaining the AQI and how to check it for your area.

While AQI is a metric to check outdoor air quality, we cannot forget about indoor air quality since it is estimated the average American spends up to 90% of their lives indoors – so we have to think about IAQ – indoor air quality – as well. The EPA has identified IAQ as one of the top five growing concerns of today.
The health impacts of poor outdoor air quality are well known, but indoor air pollution is often between 2-5x greater than outdoor – and many times, even higher.

Poor IAQ affects us in many documented ways – headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs, as well as specific diseases, such as asthma and even cancer. There are many factors that affect IAQ, including poor ventilation, high or low humidity, remodeling and even activity outside the building that can affect the fresh air coming into the building.

According to OSHA’s General Duty Clause, employers are required to provide workers with a safe workplace. When thinking about Workplace IAQ, here are some tips to keep in mind:
• Keep your workplace clean – clean work areas mean less opportunity for mold, dust and allergens to be present and growing
• Use eco-friendly cleaning products to lower the amount of any harsh chemicals being released
• Use air-cleaning devices, such as air scrubbers, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers
• Change HVAC filters regularly and have your systems cleaned regularly
• When possible, turn off your HVAC system, open windows, and allow outdoor air to enter the building
• Add indoor plants to the office as they can help the IAQ by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air
• Conduct regular air tests as they will provide you with the right information to help you make IAQ improvements

Let us help you solve your company’s air quality and keep your most important assets – your employees – safe and healthy! Give us a call at 317-253-9737 or check out our website.

Did you know most people spend 90% of their time inside? The pandemic has brought indoor air quality (IAQ) front and center in the discussion on keeping people as safe as possible. IAQ refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures. Poor IAQ is not a new concept as most of us have heard of Sick Building Syndrome, where occupants may experience headaches, dry cough, dizziness, and even difficulty concentrating because of the poor air quality.

Inadequate ventilation is a key component, and right now in the COVID-era we are currently in, ventilation and air cleaning opportunities have been the talk of the town. Advanced ventilation systems allow for more airflow from the outside, as well as monitoring air quality and having air purification technologies in place to clean the contaminated air and prevent it from spreading to different areas. These technologies are becoming more commonplace, but definitely not universally adopted.

Even though COVID-19 has caused many businesses to look more in-depth at their IAQ, it’s also a chance to test for other air quality issues. There are literally hundreds of other air contaminates that cause issues in the workplace, but the most common and usually the most harmful besides the coronavirus are tobacco smoke, dust, mold and mildew, chemical pollutants and volatile organic compounds.

Concerned about the IAQ? Workplace Safety & Health Inc. can help you identify and manage risks posed by air quality through monitoring, mapping, fact-finding surveys and evaluations. Our program now includes COVID-19 testing, and our blog, Opening Back Up COVID-19 Free, lists those particular services.
During National Indoor Air Quality Month and every month, we are here to keep your most important assets safe – your employees. Contact us at 317-253-9737.

Everyone understands there are basic needs in life, including food, water, shelter and air, but what if one of those is contaminated? Let’s take the air in your workplace, for example. Many factors affect indoor air quality (IAQ), including poor ventilation, temperature fluctuation, humidity levels and anything that might be happening outside the workplace, like remodeling or construction work, where that air is being circulated into the building.
Poor IAQ affects our health in a variety of ways, including headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. The common pollutants causing the majority of the poor IAQ are as follows:

• Biological – Excess moisture and damp indoor environments support the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi, which can lead to a multitude of respiratory issues. Other common biological pollutants include dust mites, animal dander, Legionella, and pollen. These pollutants are found in many indoor workplaces to a certain degree, but inadequate maintenance and upkeep of building ventilation systems can exacerbate the issue.
• Chemical – Gases and vapors are the main sources of chemical pollutants, and they come from five main categories: products used in the building, products that can be pulled from outside into the HVAC system (including sub-slab vapor intrusion), accidental spills, products used during construction activities, and byproducts of combustion such as formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
• Particles – Non-biological particles can be anything solid or liquid suspended in the air that could present a respiratory hazard. In most cases, it could be airborne dust drawn into the building’s ventilation system, or if there is indoor construction under way, there will be dust from drywall sanding, wood sawing, etc.

As you can see, there are multiple sources for indoor air pollutants, and OSHA recommends the “Three Lines of Defense” when applying specific actions in the workplace to eliminate potential exposures. The first line of defense, which is the most effective, is eliminating and engineering the hazards out. This would include removal, substitution, and enclosure of pollutant sources – and if the hazard cannot be eliminated, then control the exposure. The second line of defense includes administrative controls, such as limiting the exposure through work schedules, training, and housekeeping. The third line of defense would be the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – meaning the use of respirators, gloves, protective clothing, eyewear, and footwear.

Good indoor air quality should be a given for your employees. Take some time this month, during IAQ Awareness Month, and make sure your workplace air is healthy and not harmful for your most important assets – your employees! Need help keeping your employees healthy and safe? Then call on us at Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. – 317-253-9737.

The goal of Air Quality Awareness Week, which is Monday, April 29-Friday, May 3 this year, is to promote events that increase air quality awareness and inspire people to take steps, big and small ones, to reduce their contribution to air pollution. Air pollution is not just outdoor motor vehicle and factory emissions, but inside as well, and frequently, indoor air can contain higher concentrations of hazardous pollutants than outdoor air.

So, let’s take a look at some of the top indoor air pollutants affecting workplace health and some tips on what you can do to help eliminate them.

Mold

Molds are all around us and are part of the natural environment, playing an important role in breaking down organic matter, such as decomposing organic matter. We would not have certain foods or even medicines without mold, but mold growth indoors can negatively affect a facility or workplace in many ways. Toxic mold can cause health problems such as itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, and can even cause respiratory issues including wheezing and asthma.

Mold is often times hidden – thriving in damp, dark places such as attics, crawl spaces, behind walls, in ceilings, underneath sinks and appliances and beneath wallpaper and carpet. To combat this indoor air pollutant, the facility should schedule regular mold inspections with a qualified mold specialist.

Dust and Allergens

Dust and indoor allergens are plentiful, and an estimated 50 million Americans are allergic to everything from dust and dander, to mold and mites. Allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes.

Best steps to help lessen indoor allergens is to have a clean office space, including frequent vacuuming (HEPA vacuuming can be even more effective). For the individual worker, cleaning around your work area on a regular basis with a wet cloth can significantly reduce the build-up of dust and allergens.

Cleaning Products and Chemicals

While cleaning your office is essential to cut down on dust and indoor allergens, the cleaning products being used often contain harsh chemicals that can irritate your skin and affect your breathing. In many cases, office cleaning happens when most of the staff is not at work, but if you are present or if you are the one performing the cleaning, you may want to wear protective eyewear and gloves.

Smoke

Nowadays smoking is not allowed in most office buildings, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into cigarette smoke while walking in and out of the buildings as people take their smoking breaks. You may also be exposed to different types of smoke that can negatively affect your health, including working with equipment that can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic agents. In such situations, proper ventilation is necessary.

Everyone deserves to live and work in a healthy environment, which definitely includes safe breathing air. Airborne irritants and toxic chemicals can certainly affect employees’ health and their productivity. It is essential for everyone to be aware of the types of indoor air pollutants that may be present and take steps to combat their negative effects.

Posted by on in Industrial Hygiene Consulting

Since the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, indoor air quality (IAQ) has become a common discussion point when it comes to keeping workplaces safe and healthy for their employees. In a past blog, we discussed the main sources of IAQ in the workplace, including building location, inadequate ventilation and hazardous material. OSHA also identifies these key attributes that lead to IAQ complaints:

• Improperly operated and maintained heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems
• Overcrowding
• Radon
• Moisture incursion and dampness
• Presence of outside air pollutants
• Presence of internally generated contaminates

Here are some typical Frequently Asked Questions concerning IAQ according to OSHA:

1. What is “Indoor Air Quality”?
Indoor air quality, also called indoor environmental quality, describes how the inside air can affect a person’s health, comfort and ability to work. It can include temperature, humidity, poor ventilation (lack of outside air), mold or exposure to other chemicals.

2. What are the most common causes of IAQ problems?
The most common causes are not enough ventilation, which includes not allowing enough fresh outdoor air to come in or contaminated air being brought into the building; poor upkeep of ventilation and HVAC systems; dampness and moisture due to water damage or high humidity; construction or remodeling; and indoor and outdoor contaminated air.

3. How can I tell if there is an IAQ issue at my workplace?
Do you notice your own symptoms, such as headaches and sinus issues, when you are at work, but they clear up after you leave the building? This could be a sign that the air contains contaminants. A couple other signs include unpleasant or musty odors, or the building is hot and stuffy.

4. Is there a test that can find an IAQ problem?
Even though there are specific tests for asbestos and radon, the majority of IAQ issues requires more measurements being checked, including temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide concentrations and air flow, as well as inspections and testing of the ventilation and HVAC systems. It’s also a good idea to do a building walk-through to check for odors and look for leaks and water damage.

5. What should I do if I think there is an IAQ problem at work?
Ask your employer to check the ventilation, HVAC systems and to make sure there is no water damage. Even though OSHA does not have specific IAQ standards, under the Act, it is your employer’s responsibility to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury. You also have the right to contact OSHA and request a workplace inspection.

The importance of the air we breathe is many times taken for granted. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is essential in the workplace, and if air quality is poor, the health and productivity of your employees will most likely decrease.

A Harvard School of Public Health study in 2015 discovered that people who work in well-ventilated offices have significantly higher cognitive function scores when responding to a crisis or developing a strategy. Those working in “green” conditions, which included enhanced ventilation and conditions with increased levels of CO2 had, on average, double the cognitive function scores of those participants who worked in conventional environments.

Reduced cognitive functioning abilities aren’t the only issue when IAQ is poor. Poor air quality in the workplace also causes such symptoms as allergic reactions, physical fatigue, headaches and eye and throat irritation. These health problems are costly to a business as they often lead to higher levels of absenteeism.

The main sources of poor air quality in the workplace include the following:

Building location – if located close to a highway, on previous industrial sites or on an elevated water table can cause dust and soot particles, dampness and water leaks, as well as chemical pollutants

Hazardous materials – even though asbestos has been banned for several years, it is still present in many public buildings; it is estimated that 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace

Inadequate ventilation – IAQ is very dependent on an effective, well-maintained ventilation system that circulates and replaces used air with fresh air; if the system is not working correctly, it can lead to increased infiltration of pollution particles and humid air

Although OSHA does not have specific IAQ standards, it does have standards about ventilation and standards on some of the air contaminants that can be involved in IAQ issues. And the General Duty Clause of the Act itself requires employers to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury.

Even though there is no single test to find an IAQ issue, there are measures that can be taken, as well as inspections on the ventilation and HVAC systems and a building walk-through to check for odors and look for tell-tale signs of water damage and leaks. Workplace Safety & Health’s mission is to provide our clients with premier occupational safety and health services designed to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, which promotes client profitability. Give us a call at 317-253-9737.

 

Tagged in: IAQ Indoor Air Quality

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