Even though air pollution has been in the talks all over the world for decades, indoor air quality is still something that is not talked about or taken seriously enough. We tend to take the air we breathe for granted even though it is of grave importance and affects our day-to-day lives in a myriad of ways. Indoor air quality concerns are not something to be taken lightly. In addition, with the onset of covid-19 indoor air quality assessment has become even more important to ensure the safety of building occupants especially in the workplace as people spend a great amount of time at their work. In this article we delve into the importance of IAQ in the workplace and ways to improve air quality.
Indoor Air Quality in Workplace
Whether you have workers employed for a few hours or for a full day, it is important for them to be in a healthy environment. For some sensitive or immunocompromised people, working for a few minutes in a building with poor air quality can have serious effects. If the heating and cooling system in your workplace is outdated, then it is highly likely that you and your workers are breathing in years of pollutants or mold that has accumulated over time. It would definitely benefit you to get the air quality in your facility or building checked as indoor air quality does not only affect comfort of your workers but also the health and productivity of your staff, thus affecting your organization goal achievement.
How indoor air quality can affect your employees?
- Poor workplace indoor air quality can negatively impact upon the physical and mental health of your workers.
- If any of your workers suffer from asthma or allergies, poor air quality can worsen the symptoms.
- It can result in eye, nose, throat, lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue.
- In addition, medical problems from poor indoor air quality can include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, asthma, heart disease, flu and in extreme cases even cancer and others.
- It can also increase absenteeism of your employees from work due to health issues and reduce productivity.
- During covid-19, poor ventilation systems can increase spread and risk of transmission.
What causes poor indoor air quality in the workplace?
There are several factors that can contribute to poor indoor air quality in the workplace including:
- Inefficient, old, or improper functioning of the HVAC system.
- Error in building design, architecture, or construction flaws such as not adequate windows or openings.
- Tightly closed spaces with a high number of employees.
- Environmental pollutants such as dust, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke due to poor ventilation systems.
- Chemical pollutants such as formaldehyde from pressed-wood furniture, plywood wall paneling; asbestos from insulation ceiling tiles, etc; VOC from cleaners and disinfectants, air fresheners, dry-cleaned clothes, etc.
- Building renovation projects such as painting and cleaning work that release pollutants into the environment.
- Improper disposal of garbage or storage of food products.
- Presence of mold, especially if high humidity or unaddressed water damage issues exist in the building.
How can you improve indoor air quality in your workplace?
Indoor air quality in the workplace is equally important to both the employers and employees. As a result, both have to take steps to ensure that the workplace is free from air pollutants and harmful contaminants. This will improve the working environment for the employees, boost confidence and productivity of the staff and give better results for the organization as a whole.
Here are some steps to alleviate poor IAQ in workplace –
- Find the contaminant sources of harmful chemicals and take the necessary steps to replace, contain, or eliminate them from the workplace. For example, if there is renovation work in a part of your building, make sure they are contained only in part of the workplace and not affecting your workers.
- Educate your employees on the sources and effects of pollutants and motivate them to take action or notify the management in case of hazardous exposure or health issues.
- Ensure that workplace premises are regularly cleaned and disinfected to minimize sickness.
- Install efficient ventilation systems to ensure the uninterrupted flow of fresh air throughout your workplace.
- Employ air-cleaning devices such as dehumidifiers and air purifiers in the workplace.
- Make sure air ducts and filters are regularly cleaned and replaced when they become obsolete.
- Perform routine maintenance of the HVAC system to ensure that it is functioning correctly. Hire professionals to evaluate and address poor IAQ issues at your workplace.
- Use advanced building automation systems such as HVAC monitoring app to monitor the performance and health of your HVAC system.
- If you are an employee who faces health issues only in the workplace notify your manager or concerned authority.
As an employer or a business owner, listen to your workers when they complain of health issues and take the necessary steps. It will not only alleviate the problem but also boost employee morale which is ultimately beneficial for your company as well as result in energy savings. The best approach is to use a multiple strategy such as use of air purifiers, HEPA air filters, regular cleaning and disinfecting of premises, maintenance of HVAC, proper workplace set up to ensure clean and healthy work environment. A-TECH Engineering Ltd. – a leading energy company based in Toronto aims to ensure high indoor air quality through unique and diverse strategies. Connect with us to know more about our zero-upfront cost indoor air quality monitoring program to help you reopen safely.